I should probably mention that our first stop was to the newly opened Cheesecake Factory for a cheeseburger. My first year abroad, I rolled my eyes at Americans who went to McDonalds for a cheeseburger fix. Since I couldn’t really remember the last time I had a cheeseburger, let alone beef, we both thought it was necessary. It was glorious. I couldn’t even eat half of it, but was ecstatic to have it boxed up for a snack later. And then the new waitress only brought out my dipping sauces to go instead of the half cheeseburger and nearly full order of fries I hadn’t touched! I cringed at the possibility that she misunderstood and threw so much food away. She did. And then looked completely incredulous when we asked where my food was. I avoided eye-contact thinking about how much money I had just spent on a cheeseburger and half of it was thrown out. Kate was in my corner. She was firm and insistent. “Is there anything you can do?” She asked. The new waitress disappeared and came back with her trainer, who reassured me they would make another meal for me to take home. I sighed in relief. Kate explained to both waitresses how we don’t get to eat American food very often. Then Kate explained to us how wasteful Emirates are. I guess it’s a rich thing… But when you’ve been eating $2.00 Southeast Asian noodles or Indian curries for the past four months and spend 10x that to eat a cheeseburger… you have a whole new appreciation for food and how much you’re spending on it.
After the mall, and a view at Ski Dubai (an indoor skiing arena in the middle of the desert. crazy.) we went to ride the abras to the souks on the other side of town. Abras are traditional boats made of wood that are used to get to the souks, or markets in Dubai. It was a quick ride across the canal, but felt like a fun traditional thing to do in Dubai. There isn’t much by way of traditional in the UAE. It’s a pretty closed off society. Emirates keep to themselves, and their tradition, as we learned later is oral. It’s not like you can stroll the streets of Dubai and learn about the desert culture. Andrew and I felt like we were tourists for the first time, instead of travelers, which was odd because there weren’t even many “touristy” things to do, aside from shop in the malls around town!
Walking through the gold souk was super fun. We took turns picking out our favorites. (Andrew will not acknowledge he participated, but I assure you, he did.) I wonder who even wears this much bling at one time! Can you imagine walking into a party, taking off your coat, and revealing one of these?
“So, which side was Tom Cruise on?” I asked Kate when we were standing outside the Burj Khalifa. She fell out of the running to be the best tour guide ever when she admitted to not having watched the latest Mission Impossible movie. (Just kidding, Kate!) We watched a beautiful fountain show outside of the mall and the Burj Khalifa, took some photos, and then headed back to RAK. I might have dropped my camera one too many times, because my lens has started acting up, and I wasn’t able to get the most amazing pictures in such low light. Even if I was able to take the perfect picture, it wouldn’t give it justice. The Burj when standing even 50 meters away looks like it’s going to topple over on top of you because it’s just so. ridiculously. tall.
Fun fact: The Burj Khalifa was supposed to be named The Burj Dubai. (Burj = building) But then Dubai nearly went bankrupt building it and had to borrow money from Abu Dhabi (the capital emirate). Abu Dhabi complied, but with the stipulation that it had to be named after Sheikh Khalifa. This was a bit of a burn because the two emirates have a little bit of a rivalry going on.
Not so fun fact: It costs 100 AED ($27.23) if you book your visit – down to the exact date and time- in advance. It costs 400 AED ($108.90) if you want immediate entry. Obviously, we didn’t plan a visit “to the top” in advance and it wasn’t worth over two days of our budget to take in the night view of Dubai. If you’re interested though, you can go here for more booking information.