Dubai – my day as a tourist!

Dubai – my day as a tourist!

Last week I was in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to photograph a wedding (of which more later!) – but in between the wedding photo shoots I had a day to myself to do a bit of sightseeing and explore this amazing modern city.

I wish I’d had time to explore the older part of town, especially the souks in Deira – but there’s only so much you can do in a day – hopefully I’ll get to shoot another wedding in Dubai soon and can explore that part of the city.

Dubai is a city that has undergone huge growth in the last few years, with the construction of some amazing modern buildings, including the famous Palm Island and of course the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

My trip started at a suitably grey and drizzly Heathrow Airport, waiting to board the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380-800, operated by Emirates Airlines. It’s 40% bigger than a Boeing 747, and I must say I found it pretty comfortable despite the number of passengers on board.

Airbus A380-800 loading cargo Heathrow Airport
Loading baggage into the hold of the enormous Airbus A380-800 at Heathrow Airport before my flight to Dubai
Airbus A380-800 Emirates Airlines Heathrow
The Airbus A380-800 is the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft, with a capacity of up to 525 travellers.
A380 Airbus engine with airport workers
This shot gives a good idea of the sheer size of this plane – its huge jet engine dwarfs the airport workers!

Roughly seven hours later I landed at Dubai Airport and took a taxi to my hotel. Here’s the view that greeted me from my hotel window the next morning!

Dubai cityscape from Millennium Plaza Hotel 57th floor
The amazing view from my hotel room on the 57th floor of the Millennium Plaza Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Rd, Dubai
traffic on Sheikh Zayed Rd Dubai
Morning traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai
Dubai Metro elevated rail system
The Red Route of Dubai’s Metro system runs along Sheikh Zayed Road on an elevated trackbed. The system is fully automated.
Emirates Towers station Dubai Metro
The Emirates Towers station on the Dubai Metro System was directly opposite my hotel, which made it easy to get around.

The Dubai Metro system is brand-new and fully-automated, with driverless trains like London’s Docklands Light Railway. It runs the length of Sheikh Zayed Road and also to the airport. However, as it was Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, the Metro didn’t open until 2pm so I had to walk!!

Dubai's Millennium Plaza hotel
Here’s my hotel, the Millennium Plaza – it’s merely the 6th tallest hotel in the world – I’ll try to do better next time! ๐Ÿ™‚
modern architecture financial district Dubai
One thing Dubai is not short of is extraordinary modern architecture

As the Metro was not running, I decided to walk from my hotel to the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa. I could have taken a taxi but decided a stroll would be a good idea – the temperature was a comfortable 70F (21C). It took me about 45 minutes which was a bit longer than I expected, but part of that was trying to work out how to cross the numerous dual carriageways to get to the Mall!

And here is the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building at 829m (2,722 ft), which opened in January 2010. It’s really hard to convey the sheer size of this thing – it is absolutely huge. It’s twice the height of the Empire State Building in New York, for example, and nearly three times the height of the Eiffel Tower.

the world's tallest man-made structure, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Inside the Dubai Mall I found another remarkable tourist attraction – the Dubai Aquarium. And yes, we have another “world’s biggest” here –ย  the acrylic panel seen in my photos below, which has to hold back 10 million litres of water! World's biggest piece of acrylic at the Dubai Aquarium

Dubai Aquarium has many different species of fish on display

Sharks at Dubai Aquarium and shops reflected in the glass

Through the tunnel at Dubai Aquarium
Visitors can wander through an acrylic tube to get a closer view of the fish at Dubai Aquarium
Dubai Aquarium giant stingray
A giant stingray comes to take a closer look at the photographer at Dubai Aquarium
family photo in tunnel Dubai Aquarium
…time for a family snap with the fish!

Juvenile Lionfish
A juvenile Lionfish swims happily in its tank
The Lionfish is a common predator in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea and Pacific. They are clever hunters and will often follow divers on night dives, using the light from the diver’s torch to help them spot prey.
They have now also spread to the Caribbean, probably due to releases of aquarium fish, and have rapidly become a nuisance, since in that area they have no predators to keep their numbers under control. Still, a fascinating creature. Just stay clear of those venomous spines!
Dubai Aquarium - swimming penguin
Not what you might expect to see in the Arabian Gulf, but yes in the Aquarium they have penguins!

The Aquarium is located inside the Dubai Mall, which (you guessed it) is the world’s biggest by area, though some other malls have more actual shopping space. Amazingly, 65 million people visited it in 2012 – that’s more than visited New York City or Los Angeles! I didn’t explore more than a fraction of it, and I was glad to be able to stop and grab a coffee from time to time! It has more than 1,200 shops, including some British favourites such as Debenhams, Boots, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer!

World's largest shopping mall - Dubai Mall

Burj Khalifa from Dubai Mall
Another view of the Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall
Burj Khalifa with Dubai Mall in foreground
Dubai Mall exterior fountain pool
This pool outside the Dubai Mall has a fountain display – sadly not operating when I was there

Dubai mall fountain pool

If you like you can get your photo taken with the Burj Khalifa in the background and have it printed on to an iPhone cover! I wasn’t tempted. ๐Ÿ™‚

photographers at Dubai Mall

As you would expect, there’s a lot of construction still going on in Dubai – though I did notice that a lot of the office buildings were still “to let”.

construction site Dubai

And finally – the night-time view from my 57th floor hotel room, looking south-west down Sheikh Zayed Road in the direction of Abu Dhabi. You can see the Burj Khalifa all lit up in the background.

Dubai city at night Burj Khalifa Sheikh Zayed Road

Dubai city night time view Burj Khalifa Sheikh Zayed Road

It was great to have the opportunity to explore a small part of Dubai – I hope to be able to go back again to see more of this amazing city. And I look forward to showing you the wedding photos – with colourful ceremonies in the desert and at the Park Hyatt Hotel – stay tuned!