Unexpected Dubai – Day 1

In October, I travelled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates as a guest of Emirates and the Government of Dubai, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. This is the second post in my blog series on that trip.

Jumeirah Creekside Hotel

Our driver from Arabian Adventures drove us from the airport to Jumeirah Creekside Hotel. Unfortunately, we had arrived much earlier than standard check-in time and our rooms weren’t quite ready for us. We waited in hotel’s club lounge where we snacked on cookies, mini stroopwafels, and tea or coffee.

Club lounge

Biscuits, stroopwafels and a cup of strong coffee

Biscuits, stroopwafels and a cup of strong coffee.

After checking in, a few of us wandered back downstairs to the hotel’s Nomad Restaurant to hit the breakfast buffet. I expected if there was bacon at the buffet it would be beef bacon – but was surprised to see a dedicated pork station, clearly marked and set apart in a corner, where bacon, ham and pork sausages were available.

My buffet breakfast, round one.

Lobby lounge

The pool

Lots of places to relax by the pool.

I was excited to be here at last but after a quick walk around, I returned to my room for a rest. It’s funny how exhausting travelling can be, even though you don’t do much during a flight. After checking email via the complimentary wireless internet in my room, I closed the curtains (remote-controlled), turned up the air-con, switched off the lights, kicked off my shoes and relaxed on the soft bed for a while.

My room

My room.

Jumeirah Creekside Hotel
Road Al Garhoud Deira
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Telephone: +61 1800 269 388

My first real look at Dubai.

Arz Lebanon

Lunch was at Arz Lebanon where our chaperon Lara ordered up a feast for us. All the ‘green’ items arrived first – bowls of briny olives and crisp, unexpectedly spicy pickles, and tabbouleh, the classic Middle Eastern salad made with bulgur, tomato, finely chopped parsley (the dominant ingredient of tabbouleh), mint, onion and garlic. It’s usually seasoned/dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

Next, a crusty bread pillow filled with molten cheese, and flatbread slathered with labneh, a soft creamy cheese made from yoghurt.

More flatbreads, topped with melted cheese, sprinkled with za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend with herbs including thyme, sumac and sesame seeds) and lamb mince.

We ordered mango juice and lemon and mint drinks.

Meals like this are an excellent ice-breaker, especially when it becomes deliciously obvious around the table that we share a great joy and delight in eating.

We had the top floor of the restaurant practically to ourselves.

Al Arz Lebanon Restaurant
VIP Street, Jumeirah Beach Road
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Phone +971 4 3947736
There are other Arz Lebanon restaurants across Dubai – for more info, visit the Arz Lebanon website

Madinat Jumeirah Beach

After lunch, we enjoyed a lazy afternoon on the beach. As guests of the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, we had access to the private beach at the Madinat Jumeirah resort.

Beachwear in Dubai
Topless sunbathing for women and nudity are not permitted, but bikinis, Speedos, board shorts and regular swimwear/beachwear are all perfectly acceptable at the beach. Make sure you slip slop slap.

There are change rooms and toilets at the Madinat Jumeirah Beach. Any unclaimed sun lounge/umbrella is yours to enjoy. ‘Beach butlers’ supply clean towels and take/deliver drink orders, poured and mixed at an outdoor bar right there on the beach. Other refreshing items are available, including orange wedges, ice lollies, fruit skewers and cucumber slices.

The beach has a spectacular view of the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel. As I stood barefoot in the soft fine sand, it felt surreal to be here looking at this sparkling building out on the turquoise Arabian Sea against a brilliantly blue cloudless sky – it was like a scene right out of a movie, certainly not my ordinary life!

A lifeguard kept watch over the swimmers between the flags.

As the sun began to set, I began to think about food. Lunch seemed so long ago.

A walk through Satwa and dinner at Al Mallah

That evening, we went to the Satwa district and enjoyed a short walk through the streets on our way to Al Mallah restaurant. We passed a blingy little cobbler’s alcove tucked between a couple of shops, where two mates were drinking coffee and chatting. They were happy to have their photo taken and were interested to learn that we were from Australia.

A tiny alcove in a street in Satwa

A tiny alcove in a street in Satwa

Bakery window in Satwa

Bakery window in Satwa

In this city where summer temperatures are regularly much higher than 40C (104F), the bus shelters are air-conditioned. I can’t imagine what the power bill for 900 bus shelters across Dubai must look like – and over the course of my stay I couldn’t help but think about what must be an enormous carbon footprint – but I can imagine how unbearable it would be to wait for a bus, exposed to the scorching summer heat during daytime.

Air-conditioned bus stop in Dubai

Air-conditioned bus stop in Dubai.

It’s hot in Dubai
Dubai has a tropical desert climate and most days are sunny and dry. The hottest months are June to September when the temperature regularly hits mid to high 40s (Celsius). The coolest months are December to February when the temperatures hit the mid to high 20s (Celsius). While we were in Dubai (late October/early November) we definitely felt the heat out on the beach and whenever we stepped out of our air-conditioned vehicle into the desert. Otherwise, most of the time we were very comfortable in air-conditioned surroundings, whether in the hotel or travelling in our Arabian Adventures mini bus. Another way to keep cool is to engage in a favourite past-time of Dubai locals – going shopping at one of the air-conditioned malls. You can escape the heat even further – ice-skating at the Dubai Mall or indoor snow skiing at the Mall of the Emirates.

Outside Al Mallah restaurant, a breathtaking sight – skewered plump, juicy chickens glistening with fat melting and dripping, tickled by roaring flames.

Barbecue chickens at Al Mallah, Dubai

Barbecue chickens close up. I couldn’t help it – I came back for another look just before we left the restaurant.

We sat at a table outside. Table service was brisk but not unfriendly. The food arrived quickly – plates of pickles, baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), garlic dip, tabbouleh, plain flatbread, a selection of fresh herbs and vegetables and lemon wedges, a mixed grill plate with grilled chicken pieces, shish tawook (skewered grilled chicken cubes), arayes (grilled flatbread stuffed with spiced lamb mince), marinated mutton chops and fries, and particularly splendid falafels, crunchy flavour-balls fresh out of the fryer and not at all greasy.

And endless feast. My watermelon juice among it.

Some of our group ordered mango drinks which resembled old fashioned root beer floats, but made with mango juice rather than root beer.

We also ordered shawarmas, an Arabic fast food favourite and must-try at Al Mallah. Here, they’re like a mini kebab – snack-size rolled pita bread sandwiches filled with falafel (AED5) or grilled marinated meat – chicken (AED6), lamb (described on the menu as “meat”, AED6), or “mix” (meat + chicken, AED7), all with pickles, hummus and a thick smear of pungent garlic sauce. Unlike the Turkish kebabs we eat all the time back home in Perth, there was no salad in the shawarma, but we were free to fill them from the selection of fresh vegetables and herbs on the table.

Shawarma – like a snack-sized kebab.

The unit of currency in Dubai is the United Arab Emirate dirham (AED – sometimes written as Dhs or DH). 100 fils make one dirham. One Australian dollar is equal to around 3.8 dirhams.

Al Mallah

Al Mallah
Al Diyafah Street, Satwa
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Tel: 04 398 4723

When I got back to my room, a surprise was waiting for me. Sushi. What? How long had it been sitting there like that? Upon closer inspection, I smiled as I realised it wasn’t sushi – it was dessert disguised as sushi. There was rice beneath the jelly ‘sashimi’, all fruity flavours: raspberry, coconut, orange and strawberry. I wasn’t so keen on the rice, but the jellies were a lovely sweet end to the day’s eating.

Dessert disguised as sushi, Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, Dubai

There’s more to come in this series. In the next instalment: Dubai fruit and vegetable market, the largest shopping mall in the world and the sundowner Desert Safari. And for those who follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook, or subscribe to my e-newsletter, yes, later in this series I will share the full story about the phone I lost in Dubai.

TFP travelled to Dubai as a guest of Emirates and the Government of Dubai, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. All images, words and opinions are my own.

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