How we spent 36 hours in the UAE

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is best known for the larger than life skyscrapers that litter the skyline in every direction. It’s also known for being luxurious and expensive, two words that are a backpacker's worst nightmare. In order to keep our budget in check we downed some coffee, put on our running shoes and set out to see the UAE in 36 hours. Enjoy the journey!

Hours 1-5

Our overnight flight landed in Dubai at 5:00am. As with most overnight flights we did not get any sleep. We made it through customs and into the taxi line to make our way to the hotel to drop off our bags and see if we could check-in to our room early for some shut eye. It turns out it was going to cost us $100 USD to do that, not in our budget.

We figured out the public transit system and boarded a bus to Jumeirah Beach to feast our eyes on the Burj Al Arab. It was the perfect place to kill some time and even take a nap until 10am (the time where we could check in at no charge).

The Burj Al Arab is the only 7-star hotel in the world. This luxury hotel is uniquely shaped like a sail and is built on the ocean at the edge of Jumeirah Beach, a white sand beach with crystal clear water. Talk about picture perfect!

Hours 5-8 

Finally, we could check-in to our hotel room. We hopped on a bus and slowly made our way up to the hotel room like zombies. We showered off the overnight travel and took a 4-hour power nap!

Hours 8-10

Feeling like normal human beings now, we made a spontaneous decision to hop on a 2-hour bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi which only cost about $7USD each way. There is not much to see out of the window between the two major metropolis cities besides desert, so we buckled up, put on some music and got a few extra hours to recharge.

Hours 10-15

After arriving at the Abu Dhabi bus station, we hailed a cab, surprisingly inexpensive in the UAE, and headed to the Grand Mosque. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world, topped with 82 white marble domes, so you can imagine how awe inspiring it was from the moment we arrived. A bonus was it's free to get in and see!

As we explored around the Grad Mosque grounds appreciating the level of design and detail put into it, we noticed there was an upcoming free cultural tour. We thought, “What the heck” and joined in. The tour was the best thing we could have done. The guide took us around the Mosque explaining more about Islam, the design of the building and the meaning behind the elements incorporated into the Mosque.

One of the coolest things was when the man took us into parts of the Mosque only accessible when with a guide. We even got the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s largest carpet!

After a few hours exploring, it was time to say goodbye to the Grand Mosque and catch the bus back to Dubai. The two-hour journey back flew by quickly. We were still on a high from seeing such a beautiful site.

Hours 15-24

We made it back to the hotel and crashed. Overnight flights always take a toll on us and we needed some proper sleep to fully recharge for the next day’s full adventure. Fortunately, we had had a hotel points left over from when we were working and had a good hotel pillow to rest our head on.

Hours 24–28 

Waking up feeling refreshed it was time to head out and explore Dubai! Our first stop, of course, was the Burj Khalifa! We booked our tickets a few days in advance because they sell out fast on the day of. Our time to head to the top was 1pm! Can you tell we are excited. The price for the tickets were around $34 USD per person, well worth the experience. 

The main observation deck is on the 124th floor. It is on of the highest outdoor observation deck in the world with some of the most breathtaking views.

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, standing at 829.8 m (2,722 ft), which means it towers over all of the other skyscrapers around Dubai. As we stepped up the the edge we looked out onto the modern city of Dubai our excitement elevated. 

All of the buildings looked like something out of Sim City when we looked out of the slits in the observation deck. This give you a great view of Dubai. It is hard to believe that most of the modern dar Dubai was built within the last 15-20 years. 

For an extra $34 per person you can buy a ticket that will get you to the 148th floor observation lounge, however, we didn't think it would be worth it for us, our heads were already in the clouds from deck 124. 

Looking straight down when you are 124 stories up on an outdoor observation deck can put a knot in your stomach. It's almost hard to make out the cars, let alone people, from up here. There is also a lounge on the 125th floor you can go up to and get a souvenir. 

Hours 28–29

After spending a few hours At the Top of the world drinking in the magnificent views, we headed back down in the super fast elevator and headed into the Dubai Mall for a cup of coffee and a view of the Burj Khalifa from the outside. 

The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world and is just as fancy as you would think. One of our favorite features in the mall was the 7-story waterfall with life-sized sculptures of men swan diving over the water. 

Hours 29–31

As the sun went down, all the pretty city lights started to illuminate the modern skyscrapers so, naturally, our next stop was do go and see the city at night.

The financial district of Dubai has some of the most unique architectural skyscrapers all highly concentrated. Taking the opportunity to practice our long exposure photography we enjoyed a few hours of picture taking and sight seeing. 

Hours 31–32

It is very easy to visit Dubai and just look at the modern skyscrapers and hang out on the beach (what we have done to this point)... so we decided to take the train to Dubai Creek where the Souks (traditional markets) are located. We didn't have enough time to walk through them at night or take a Dhow (wooden water taxi) across the creek, but we were able to appreciate the views of the traditional Dubai.

Hours 32–34

Short on time, we headed back to the Burj Khalifa to see the fountain show from The Dubai Fountain. The show rivaled that of the fountain show at the Belagio in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

To us, the most impressive part of the fountain show was before and after when the Burj Khalifa, in all of it's 2,722 ft, lit up in a spectacular show of lights. It's indescribable the feeling we got when staring up a the tallest manmade structure and seeing the entire thing light up in every color of the spectrum. 

Hours 34–36

After the show we headed back to get our bags from the hotel and head to the airport, but not before one last view from the top looking back at the edge of the modern city. Who knows what buildings will be built here in the next 15-20 years. 

We are two en route for more fast and fun city explorations