The Layover State
The city-state of Dubai is a place of contradictions. It’s decadent and luxuriously rich, yet tempered by a brand of moderate Islam the keeps the women veiled and the bars filled with chocolate instead of alcohol. It’s incredibly hot, but one of the malls has an indoor skiing pavilion and the landscaping is more Beverly Hills than Middle East. It’s a shoppers paradise for every budget – including those without limits.
I stayed in Jumeirah Bach, about a half hour from the airport, and apparently much closer to the sun because it is HOT. The kind hot that melts your deodorant and causes it to flow down your body in rivulets. I checked into my hotel and was greeted by a little person in a dishdash, offering me tea and a cool towel. After a fourteen and a half hour flight, this made what should have been a pretty normal experience feel a little surreal.
Jumeirah beach is a tourist destination and COULD be beautiful if it were not for two things. First, there are almost as many cigarette buds littering the beach as grains of sand. Two, construction is everywhere. Loud, noisy, dust-raising, view obscuring construction. Still though, there is wifi on the beach and most public areas, so there’s that. Dubai is all about the lavish and the luxury, and seeking to get an authentic experience, I booked not one but two high teas.
The first was at the Burj Al Arab, the sail-ship inspired hotel built just off the Dubai coast. The decor seems to be a cross between Arabian nights and Star Wars and it’s fantastic.
The tea is held in the top floor of the hotel, high up in the Skyview Lounge and make no mistake, it’s a meal. The snacks and treats are than enough for two people and gluttonous for just one. The food comes in seemingly endless waves and is replenished as you make your way through it until you finally leave, overly full (propriety would have you show some restraint, but this is Dubai and the only thing restrained here are women’s rights) and well caffeinated.
Afternoon tea at the Burj Khalifa serves what has to be the highest of the High Tea. The decor is posh, the service is first class, and the finger sandwiches just as good at the Burj Al Arab. If I had to pick between the two, I would recommend the Burj Khalifa as the one to make time for. The Burj Al Arab is incredibly nice, but you’re probably going to see the Burj Khalifa anyway, so why not save a few dollars (the observation deck fee is waived for people having High Tea) and enjoy one of the best views in the world with a hot cup of Earl Grey.
Dubai is a safe, interesting city, and if you are looking to buy cheap(er) gold or diamonds, it’s the place to be. I spent my time here doing what a good visiter should do, shopping and eating my way around the city. It’s a great place to break up a long trip to the Middle East, to recharge and do some shopping on the way home. It’s not a place filled with thousand-year-old ruins, and it certainly isn’t a climate one would want to escape to (maybe from), but it seems happy being what it is: a filthy rich layover city.
Where I Stayed: Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Dubai.