Yeah, so visit the Grand Mosque: It’s not just for Muslims! That’s not exactly their tagline but it’s true. If you cover yourself up nicely and take off your shoes, they’ll let you in for a look around.
It’s stunningly beautiful and one of the few things in life that is completely free. I could tell you all about it but it’s one of those things you just have to see for yourself.
(Doesn’t it look like Aladdin’s Palace?)
As for your questions on this series, I’ve answered them all as best I could (apologies if I frustrated you by not dealing with the practicalities earlier…).
When is the best time to visit?
October – (early) May. If you have any kind of aversion to the heat, don’t come in the Summer when temperatures soar high into the 40s. Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, is best avoided at all costs. There are countless disruptions to normal everyday goings-on and it is illegal to eat or drink anything in public (even bottled water) during daylight (fasting) hours.
Do I need to cover up?
I get asked this so much. The short answer is no, you don’t, but allow me to expand.
To me, Dubai feels like any other International city regarding what I would and would not wear. I have never once thought, I’d like to wear this but I better not. However, I am not inclined to wear anything that could double as swimwear in any city. If you are that way inclined, you should think about making a few adaptions for the culture (maybe you should think about making a few adaptions anyway… just sayin’…)
Abu Dhabi is marginally more conservative. When in doubt, cover your shoulders and stick to a knee-length for skirts/ shorts. You’ll probably feel more comfortable.
Bear in mind that you might get a few lingering glances anyway.
Does everyone speak English?
How close is Abu Dhabi to Dubai?
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are about an hour’s drive apart, on a very straight, boring road. Have some caffeine in your system if you’re the driver!
Is it like the Sex and the City 2 movie?
It is exactly nothing like the Sex and the City 2 movie.
The hotels you recommended are fully booked. Where should I stay?
I’m not the most qualified person to be answering this question. I am fortunate enough to have some very welcoming and lovely relations in Dubai who make their place seem more like home to me than where I reside the rest of the time!
Having said that, the standard of hotels in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is very good and I don’t think you’ll go too far wrong if you read the reviews on TripAdvisor and Booking.com (that’s all I did). In Dubai, look at the Asiana, Pearl Marina, Suite Novotel or Le Meridien Fairway (a good choice beside the airport). Any of the Premier Inns are an excellent budget option. They tend to be located a little outside the city, but there are free shuttles provided daily. In Abu Dhabi, try the Grand Millennium Al Wahda, the Mercure or Centro by Rotana. The Aloft is also a fantastic choice- the rooms are huge and you can fit a football team in the shower. Not that I’ve tried. Every room has two queen sized beds (good if you’re travelling in a group and don’t mind bunking in together).
Is everything very expensive?
No, but I’m comparing things with Ireland. If you are travelling from the States, you’ll think the price of everything is outrageous. Hotels, taxis and eating out are significantly cheaper than at home. Alcoholic drinks are slightly more expensive. The malls are a blend of designer stores (I have no idea how prices compare) and popular American and European high-street chains (prices seem to be, on average, the same as home). Car rentals are very reasonable and you’ll pay next to nothing on petrol. It can be cheaper, per litre, than water in some places!
Let me know if you have any more questions- I really really love hearing from you- or read the whole guide by clicking here!