After incredibly informal polls on students and friends, regarding where people must go when they come to Dubai, I have my first contender.
Coming in at number 3, in the top 3 terrifically tourist things to do in Dubai, a must-see is Atlantis!
Atlantis is a choose your own adventure destination, with lots of lavish to cheap options. It’s on the man made island Palm Jumeirah, which in and of itself makes it a top attraction. You can splash out a fortune for rooms that look into the aquarium. Or just stop-by.
Aquaventure is a popular destination for families or people who like fun. Ride the lazy river, hit the slides or rent a cabana on the Aquaventure private beach, where you can kayak or ride the banana boat. Get lunch at one of the fast-food type joints then buy expensive shaved ice.
Less fun: the dolphin encounter, dolphin swim, dolphin royal swim or dolphin scuba dive, depending on the price you want to pay. Not only would this freak me out, it’s too sad.
A positive: Atlantis aquarium breeds and release seahorses. Seahorses are going extinct. Because they are taken from the ocean to be pets. Seahorses are awesome. The males give birth. At night. Mysterious little creatures seahorses. Let them be free!
The Atlantis aquarium design is based on the Atlantis myth. We took our students this year on a great field trip and the guide said things like “These are the pods where the Atlantans slept…this is an ancient ATM…see this is for the clam shaped money”. There is a fake ancient language carved on fake ruins, which the huge variety of fish swim around. We saw massive, creepy groupers, those going-extinct-teeny-tiny sea horses, bright jellyfish, sting rays and of course, sharks.
Divers are in the tank on a regular basis, cleaning, feeding, checking on fish. You can scuba dive or snorkel in the tank. I will not be doing this activity.
The groupers were eating the sharks and had to be separated. They are horrifying with their slow mouths and dead-eye stare. They are one of the reasons everyone should be scared of fish.
A less family-style day can be had at Nasimi beach club, for the young, beautiful, bold, and restless, showing off tans in trendy bikinis. Popular at night for DJ’s, you can also rent a day bed.
Saffron is a popular Friday Brunch. Brunch in Dubai is not the typical eggs benedict, waffles, and bacon that Americans are used to do. A better nickname is Drunch, because these are all-you-can-eat all-you-can-drink affairs. Emphasis on the drinking. A Friday brunch in Dubai, is an experience.
If you don’t want to go all day or spend on attractions, just go for dinner. Choose from a steakhouse or seafood, Italian, Japanese or French.
Lowest budget option: take the Palm monorail to Atlantis, walk in, wander around the interesting lobby sculptures and scope the place out. See a couple shops. Get a coffee and people watch. This will cost you less than $20. Again, part of the appeal is being on the palm, and you get a mini-palm tour just by going. Whenever I’m on the palm, it’s a bit surreal and though you may have seen pictures and views from above, when you’re there, it’s hard to believe. It’s one of those, pinch me, ‘I’m in Dubai!’ moments.
The following megastructures documentary gives you an idea of what an incredible engineering feat the Palm is. Atlantis, other hotels, homes and apartments, all that stuff is sitting on sand and rock. Dubai defied those who said it wasn’t possible.