How can there be snow in the desert?

The night we flew into Dubai, it was still 35 degrees Celsius at a couple of minutes to midnight. We were jet lagged as hell and got a mini bus to the Jumierah district and the driver said your hotel is just up there. That was true but it was still a 15 minute walk with our heavy backpacks in the ridiculous heat.

Throughout our time in Dubai the only time we were ever cool was in our hotel, at the shops or at Ski Dubai. Who would have guessed there would be snow in the middle of the desert. And penguins.

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Of all the places I visited during my two visits to Dubai, Ski Dubai was my favourite and of course that was largely because we got to kiss and cuddle real penguins. We met gentoo penguins and king penguins. They are incredible creatures and the king penguin I got to kiss, funnily had a ‘thing for blondes’ so it was a little bit of a risk going in for a peck on the cheek, I hoped it wouldn’t be literally. Lion had never seen snow. And even though it was man-made it was pretty realistic.
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Dubai is no doubt the decadence capital of the world. But with this comes tight rules and regulations, which sometimes catch foreigners out. However, it was never clearer than it was the day I touched down in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, that people fear what they do not understand or know. For years, I operated under the misconception that for a young, single, white female, Dubai was not safe. I don’t know who started the rumour that led to such a massive blunder but in all honesty, I felt safer walking around this Arabic city than I do walking around any city in Australia.

The tight rules and regulations can be daunting for any traveller, but at the end of the day you just need to be mindful of the cultural and religious differences and respect them – and don’t break the law. The only change I made was to cover up a little more than usual, and quite frankly in 36 degree-plus heat it was a blessing (I didn’t get sunburnt at all).

Most of my time in the sandy city was spent in the air-conditioned comfort of my hotel, the mall, restaurants or on the tour bus. But on the occasions I did step out into the sun, the heat was bearable.

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During the day, it is a dry heat and by night it is humid, but the weather does guarantee you will have beautiful blue skies on your vacation. The two times I have visited Dubai, has unfortunately been in the middle of Ramadan. Which is only slightly inconvenient, when you are out in the boiling heat, unable to drink water or have food. But you manage.

My trip with lion had so many highlights but the one that stands out was my visit to Ski Dubai and the desert. But on my first trip three years earlier my highlights were a little different. I took a short boat ride on an abra, a traditional wooden boat, across Dubai Creek. The body of water which was more a harbour than a creek links the old and new town and made for fantastic photo opportunities.

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It is incredible to think that in just over three decades, Dubai has gone from a humble fishing village to a modern bustling metropolis.

The old town was unlike anything I had ever seen before – a bustling market filled with locals and tourists, all out to get the best bargain. I have to admit I was not a very savvy shopper. My tour guide said I should barter with the merchants but it all seemed like a bit too much trouble. The prices were reasonable and I had no intention of ripping off someone who was just trying to feed his family. So I paid full price but it was cheaper than shopping at home.I bought herbs and spices, jewellery, pashmina and lots of souvenirs for my friends and family.

I think the only time I felt a little uncomfortable in this city was in the market place. A few too many eyes were on me, but in no way did I feel unsafe.
Another highlight I had in Dubai was in the new town, and it involved a trip to the 124th level of the world tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa.
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If you are scared of heights, I suggest you don’t go out to the outdoor observation section of the level, but if you are fine with it, then there is no better view in Dubai. Looking down on the strip of what I now call low-rises is amazing, but looking up to the sun is one of the most incredible feelings.

I have never been that close to the sun in a stationary position. The experience is well worth the cost of admission, and when it comes to souvenirs of this architectural masterpiece you can’t go past a Lego model. Although the model was a little pricey, it was well worth it.

You can tack the Burj Khalifa on to your trip to the Dubai Mall – the entry to the building is located on the ground level. I have to admit the mall is the most incredible shopping centre I have ever seen. Not only does it have more than 1200 stores, it also has an indoor aquarium, 160 food outlets and an ice rink. Other options for shopping are the Ibn Battuta Mall, Deira Gold Souk or The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence. But I didn’t have enough time to visit them too. Actually, it was more the money I was lacking than anything. And when the money was gone and I was exhausted from gallivanting around the city, I lazed by the pool soaking up the rays and being served delicious drinks.

What a life …
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THINGS TO DO

Desert Safari
Shop ’til you drop at one of the malls
Old and new town tour
Dine at a traditional Arabic restaurant
Take a boat ride on Dubai Creek
Visit Dubai Museum
Hot air balloon flight
Laze by the pool
Hit the ski slope in the Mall of Emirates
The Observatory at Burj Khalifa
Afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab
Helicopter ride or skydiving
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