Dubai is the reason I began my journey of international solo travel. It all started on a warm Louisiana Christmas Day in 2014, when something known in history books as Christmasgate occurred. Etihad Airlines, one of the “big three” gulf carriers along with Emirates and Qatar Airways, had an unheard of “glitch fare.” They were pricing flights from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi for less than $200, and I wanted to be in that number when the saints went marching in. It can be difficult to get to the next state for $200, so that was mind-blowing for me. Adding to that, there were no blackout dates. Typically expensive travel holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years were available!
I wasn’t a member of any travel groups back then, so I don’t even remember how I found out about it. I sent a message out to all my friends to see who was coming. No one took the bait. A few responses were positive, but no one actually booked. I got pissed because I knew this was a once in a lifetime airfare. I considered going solo but I had not yet developed comfort with the idea of solo travel. The fare lasted for several hours before it ended, and I regrettably did not book.
It was at that point that I realized I couldn’t sit around waiting for someone to travel with me. The world would go by and I’d still be sitting at home waiting for a travel partner to make up her mind. Never was I going to allow someone else to decide my travel fate. Exploring the world didn’t require another person, and I wasn’t going to miss out on another journey because I didn’t have a travel partner. It was then that I began my journey to solo travel. It took me a while, but I traveled solo to the country of Panama for the first time eight months later. I didn’t even take the time to ask those same friends if they’d like to join because I knew I would have been disappointed. Years later I still get upset when I reflect on that missed opportunity to travel to the Emirates. How could I have allowed my travel life to be dictated by others?
There has been lowered pricing since then, but nothing as good as the Christmasgate pricing. Every damn person that was interested in travel and interested in UAE took their trips while I sat at home twiddling my fingers.
My interest in the country waned after seeing so many people post pics of their visits. Plus, my travel tastes had changed over time and I didn’t think I would enjoy a place like Dubai with all of its glitz and assumed pretentiousness.
When I began planning my annual birthday trip, I decided I wanted to go to Egypt, and was considering another country to add to the trip. I narrowed it down to UAE. I wasn’t even excited about it, and tried to fit in Jordan instead before I decided on the Emirates.
And I went.
My verdict on the city is that it met my expectations. I wasn’t awed by the skylines and the tall buildings, nor did I expect to be. I didn’t discover the type of nightlife experience that suited me, but I’m certain it exists there. Dubai seemed to be an okay destination on a long list of places I wanted to visit. I doubt I would travel 30 hours roundtrip again just to vacation there, but it was a pleasure to experience my first visit. What I loved the most was being amongst such a large variety of ethnicities, cultures, and foods since the UAE has such a diverse set of expatriates.
Oxtail at Tribes Carnivore located inside the Dubai Mall was my favorite meal. They also have the best views of the fountain show at the Burj Kalifah. Dinner at Tribes was one of those spontaneous events that I stumbled upon, and I was glad I did. I still think about those oxtails today. The fountain show was one of those touristy activities that I would have never cared to partake in, but I really enjoyed the witnessing the beauty of downtown Dubai at night.
The experience on the desert safari was the highlight of the trip, but not a tour I would want to do again. It was quite pleasurable, but one of those “one and done” types of activities. There are a plethora of tour companies that offer desert safaris, but I used Platinum Heritage tours. It was one of the more expensive tour companies, but I enjoyed the experience and would recommend them. They focused on tradition and authenticity, whereas some of the other tours failed to do so. For example, many of the other tour companies offered bellydancing shows as a part of the tours, but that isn’t authentic to Dubai and Bedouin life.
I had a spa day at the Talise Ottoman Spa at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray. This was a birthday gift to myself because I never go to spas, but I decided I needed a mature and sophisticated day since I was turning 30. Prior to then, the idea of a massage did not make sense to me because I have always been ticklish and very uncomfortable with others touching me. However, it was a pleasurable experience, and I never knew how much my body needed a massage. The included lunch was good as well. The beach wasn’t the best I’ve experienced due to the construction equipment blocking the possibility of a beautiful skyline, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
That entire day had been so relaxing that I easily fell asleep on the beach. By the time I woke up, the beach was mostly empty, the employees were picking up leftover beach towels and chairs, and the sun was starting to set. That massage was so good that it knocked me out for a few good hours.
Many people say that Dubai isn’t authentic and doesn’t have any culture. I didn’t find that to be true. The glitzy buildings and high-end shopping are authentic. The story behind the entire country’s economic growth is authentic. The diversity is wonderful, and there is something for everyone to enjoy.