Having a 5 day break to enjoy due to the local celebration of Eid al Adha, the decision was made to stay at home in Dubai, and take advantage of some of the numerous touristic opportunities that the Emirates has to offer.
Day 1 – Retail Therapy
With day time temperatures still in the 40s, outdoor activities are not so attractive, therefore the break started with a visit to The Dubai Mall.
The Mall’s website claims that it is ‘the world’s largest and most-visited retail and entertainment destination‘, and who am I to argue? There are 1200 ‘retail outlets’ (thats shops to you and me), 200 places to eat and drink, plus an enormous aquarium, cinema and an ice skating rink thrown in for good measure. Also, as if that wasn’t enough, a very large extension is currently being built – how to make the biggest, even bigger!
We arrived courtesy of a 30 minute trip on the Dubai Metro, and after a delicious Red Lobster lunch, we wandered over to our first retail outlet, ‘Pottery Barn’ – to be honest, I can’t see that store without thinking about the ‘Friends’ episode in which it features strongly. However, as we didn’t have a Phoebe type character with us, we had no qualms about being there. We were quite impressed with the range of items they stocked, and we managed to find some really nice glasses; given the prices of many of the items in the store, I think I got away quite lightly!
The immediate areas around the Dubai Mall are quite spectacular, so despite the hot conditions, we decided to take a short walk outside and visit the nearby Souk Al Bahar, which also offered us a chance to give our new camera a bit of a test.
The souk is a great place to explore, lots of small, more traditional types of shops, and a very pleasant temperature, but after a short time the major stores were calling, so we returned to the cool of the mall, or more specifically, the chic of Jimmy Choo. Here, after some happy browsing, my dear wife found ‘just what she was looking for’, so we left the store with a very happy Melanie, and a very stylish carrier bag!
Following Jimmy, we made some half hearted visits to a few more stores, including one of my favourites, ‘Tumi’, but by this time, we felt the need to head back home, so we jumped into a taxi happily clutching the glasses and shoes, ready for an evening slumped in front of Netflix – oh the joys of a staycation.
Day 2 – Local Culture
Wanting to do something ‘a little different’, I scoured the web, and local maps, from where i found the potential for an interesting day out – a visit to Hatta Heritage Village. The village is a restored site, that enables visitors to see and experience rural life in this mountainous region, as it would have been in previous times, long before Dubai found its wealth and popularity.
Hatta lies some 160 kms to the east of the City of Dubai, very near the Omani boarder, and roads are great here, so although the route would take in plenty of desert, and even mountainous areas, Google Maps assured me the journey time from our apartment would be around an hour and 45 minutes. I also learnt that entry and car parking at the village was free – music to my ears!
In the end, the journey took some 45 minutes longer, caused primarily by an enforced detour, advised to us by a very polite solider; but the drive was really enjoyable – the colours of the dunes were stunning, and the climb through Dubai’s mountainous region, really wonderful.
Hatta is quite a small town, and the Heritage Village entrance is fairly low key, so much so that its easy to miss, which in fact is what we did! After a quick go round, we managed to locate the right spot and park really easily. Despite it being Eid Al Adha, and therefore a major holiday weekend, there were very few people around, but no doubt the high 30’s temperatures had a lot to do with that.
A few guys in a small entrance building waved us through, and so began our journey to the past.
The village is well laid out and easy to navigate – it is made up of a number of buildings, some residential whilst others are more community focused. Most buildings and rooms were air conditioned, which was very welcome, and featured displays depicting various aspects of life in the village. Disappointingly, there were TV’s in many of the rooms that it appeared were meant to show films, but they didn’t seem to work; however, the curators have done a good job in giving an understanding of village life, although some interactive displays would add considerable value to the overall experience.
The focal point of the village is the restored Hatta Fort, which dates back to the late 1700’s, complete with large courtyard, well, and turrets.
The most interesting buildings from my perspective, were the small houses that were dotted around the site, very basic constructions which are a far cry from the palatial residences that can be found in Dubai these days!
The village’s website mentions that on special days, such as UAE National Day, hosted events take place, where many of the activities that are described throughout the static displays, come to life, so these would clearly be the best days to visit. Overall, we spent about an hour wandering around the village, although we avoided the obligatory (and rather unusual) gift shop.
It was certainly an interesting visit, but with some interactive displays, and a few guides around the site, the experience could have been more educational and participative.
The drive back to Dubai was again subject to a detour (we should have learnt from earlier in the day!), but was very absorbing, the contrast in scenery is quite stark – from mountains, to flat barren land, and then giant sand dunes.
After a stop en-route for a pizza dinner, and feeling rather tired from some 5 hours of driving, we spent a second evening in front of Netflix, such party animals we are!