So you’re thinking of visiting the Middle East? I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia and Dubai recently and I thought it would be useful to explain what I did, where I went and why you should go too! So relax and read on – hopefully you’ll learn a thing or two and that you can get some guidance with what to do in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
I had been to Saudi Arabia before and I have to say, it isn’t my idea of a holiday destination but I’ve very grateful to say I’ve had the chance to see the country which otherwise I may never have visited. I went back last week and undertook a hectic work schedule over 5 days there including trips to Jeddah, Riyadh and Khobar City (Dammam) with another 5 days being spent over the border in the UAE.
I was excited to take my GoPro with me as I’d yet to travel abroad with it and was hoping to take some nice photos and videos but also to actually take a decent photo of myself as I was traveling alone! I ended up having to buy a new one out there as I brought all of my mounts and clips, only to leave the actual camera at home!
My journey started with a flight from London to Jeddah on Saudi’s East coast. I woke up to one of the most warming and mesmerising sunrises I think I had ever seen from a plane window.
Having landed, I collapsed onto my hotel bed and lost many hours ensconced in my bed sheets.
Later that evening, I met up with our contacts in Saudi and was taken to a fantastic Lebanese restaurant to sample the culinary delights of this West Asian country. We had everything from tabbouleh, fattoush, hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves, Mutabbel and of course, marinated meats of all kinds. It was a filling feast and one which I ate heartily. As is customary, we followed up our big meal with shisha – an opportunity for us to relax, talk, joke and enjoy the warm evening after a tiring and busy day/night.
The rest of the Saudi trip was pretty smothered by work and I can’t say I was overly upset about that as there wasn’t a huge amount to see anyway. It was a long few days though – very early mornings to catch flights from Jeddah, to Riyadh, to Khobar (Dammam) and finally to Dubai. I did think it was worth showing the “weather” report from Riyadh actually as I am used to such weather as sun, rain, cloudy, foggy, icy etc. Only in Riyadh have I ever seen the weather reported as “dust”.
From Saudi Arabia to Dubai
A 1 hour and 25 minute flight from King Fahd International Airport, Dammam and I ended up in Dubai – a million miles away in terms of infrastructure, culture and architecture. I had transited through Abu Dhabi many times on my way to the Far East but this was the first time I had actually gotten up close and personal with the booming city. My expectations were broadly deemed to be accurate – a whole lot of glitz, glamour and brash displays of wealth but with just a 30 second walk in another direction, you end up in the middle of nowhere – or a building site. I was expecting it to be quite a shallow city and I didn’t really know what to do in Dubai at first, however, once I had started to look around, the city really grew on me.
I thought I would go for a walk in the evening to take some photos – it was after walking for an hour and a half (and soaking wet with sweat) that I realised why nobody in Dubai walks anywhere. I was aiming for Business Bay and despite walking in its’ vague direction by eye, (and even using Google Maps to guide me) I never managed to get there! The paths would just stop abruptly leaving me either walking a tightrope next to a busy road or having to turn back altogether.
If you remember one thing from this article – it may seem lazy but trust me, walking in Dubai is not an option – take a taxi.
I was lucky enough to stay in the Conrad Hotel – which was really beautiful. I was pretty tired after a busy 4 days of working and flying and I think the lady on reception picked up on this and she smiled and informed that she had upgraded me to the Gulf Suite which came as a nice surprise to me and something I was very grateful for. I’m a huge fan of a big window and the moment I walked into the room I was taken back by the stunning view looking out into the sea.
I spent a few hours resting by the pool (after a very messy first Middle Eastern style “brunch” with an old school friend and his girlfriend and took the opportunity to enjoy the incredibly-comfy double beds on offer and the sweltering midday heat.
Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Mall
It would have been crazy if I didn’t visit the famous Dubai malls. I have to say, I never expected to but I put in my headphones and lost myself there – as well as around 6 hours! The mall had everything – designer stores, a huge aquarium, ski slopes, cheesecake factory (I love a good cheesecake), a massive waterfall and just outside, the largest water and lights show on Earth as well as the tallest man-made structure in the Burj Khalifa.
I waited until the last day to take the elevator up – that was my final treat. One of the best days was on the Friday when I was taken to my first Middle Eastern “brunch”. Essentially, all you can eat and drink for around £50. I caught up with an old school friend and his girlfriend and it was as if we only saw each other yesterday despite having been around 5 years.
We started with some food and a polite drink and catch up but soon fell into playing Ring of Fire. For a taster of how it went, we all got drunk and the dare card (which only my friend’s girlfriend got) was to stand up and shout “Hello Madam” and then sprint out of the restaurant only returning once more beers had been collected. We pretended that his girlfriend was celebrating her birthday too which lead to a rapturous rendition of THE SONG – please see video (it’s right at the end).
Having eaten our fill, we made our way under the restaurant to continue the party in the bar. We carried on drinking and the live band that came on were really good. I even started Golddigga (“She take my money…”) which the band then completed much to my enjoyment. We finished the night around 4am and headed back to my friend’s place. The food or the drink didn’t seem to sit well with me and my night was interrupted every hour with a round of drink and food returning from where it came. All in all though, a fantastic night and a great catch up with an old friend.
The rest of my time in Dubai was taken up with a quick trip to see the Burj al Arab followed by my much anticipated scaling of the Burj Khalifa. The elevator rips you from the ground to the 124th floor in under one minute – prepare for ear popping. The ride is exciting and the views from the top are incredible.
I have completed a video which shows some more of the trip. I hope you really enjoy this as much as I did making it – please feel free to comment and share as you wish! It’s unlikely I’ll ever go back to Saudi but it has been a fantastic experience and being able to visit twice is something I would likely not have been able to do without needing to work there. Dubai is a different world and if you want to see how the other side live, then I’d definitely recommend it – having said that, 5 days was more than enough for me. If nothing else though, I hope this has helped you work out what to do in Dubai and Saudi if you have a few days there.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy the video!