United Arab Emirates is a small middle eastern country on the south eastern edge of Saudi Arabia. Many people fly through Dubai if they are traveling because it is the hub for Emirates airlines. If you have a layover in Dubai long enough to see the sites, 48 hour tourist visas on-site are free to Americans and it is incredibly easy to see Dubai or even head to Abu Dhabi. SO what is there to do exactly?
Dubai is a very new city, it honestly reminds me of a middle eastern Vegas. Buildings are shiny, architecture is modern, and everything LOOKS rich and fancy. Thats just it…. to me, it really seemed like a ficade. The whole town seemed fake. Dubai honestly was not interesting to me, I drove right past it to get to where I really wanted to go. But irregardless, there are some minor attractions that still attract people.
The tallest building in the world stands at 2,717′. You can go to the top, but you must buy tickets in advance. The best time to go is around sunset. Lines can be long to get up as well so make sure you go early. A friend of mine was able to get tickets for 5:30, see the town in daylight and wait up top for sunset, and watch the fountain show from up above and loved it.
The second largest mall in the world, includes the only indoor ski resort in the world. Shops include some of the most popular and expensive brand names around, so if you want to actually do some shopping, be prepared to spend money.
The Atlantis resort is on the Palm Islands of Dubai. The rooms may be pricey but it would be a blast to stay at overnight and take advantage of the water park if you have an overnight layover!
Abu Dhabi is The capital of UAE about an hour and a half drive from Dubai but is seriously worth it if you have the time to spare. You can find more cultural sites in this town which is what was more personally interesting to me than Dubai when I visited.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
THIS. This is what you NEED to see! The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the country and is absolutely gorgeous. It was my favorite site in UAE and one I 110% recommend. They provide tours pretty much all day. It is a Muslim mosque and women need to make sure they are completely covered, from head to wrists, to ankles. They do provide free Abayas to cover up if you do not have anything but you have to leave collateral and can lengthen the amount of time it takes to visit the Mosque. It is incredibly hot (especially May-Sept) so if you can, go as early as possible to avoid the heat and bring an umbrella for shade. Take your time if you can. Always walk the mosque clockwise and be quiet and respectful in the prayer room. Pictures are allowed on most of the grounds but be respectful and only take photos in the designated areas. There are signs everywhere that say where it is ok and not ok to take pictures. Don’t walk on the grass as it is not allowed, even if you see others do the same. Set an example of respect.
Important things to know if traveling to UAE:
- Whatever you plan to do in UAE, plan accordingly and give yourself a minimum of 2 1/2 hours back at the airport before your flight.
- Women really should not wear shorts and tanks unless at the beach or swimming, it is still a predominantly muslim country despite how liberal Dubai may seem. Keep shoulders covered and wear capri legnth or longer. Don’t wear leggings unless your top is long enough to cover your butt unless you want to get looked at or cat called by Hindi and Persian men.
- FEMALE ONLY TAXIS! This is a great option if you are a woman traveling alone. Dubai is actually considered a safe city but these are an option and are great. The Dubai taxis have pink roofs and drivers wear pink scarves.
It is definitely worth it to take advantage of your layover in UAE not matter what sites interest you. It is a small country and Dubai is a small town, you honestly won’t need more than a day to see the major tourist sites; but it is definitely one to see at least once if you are traveling through!