Trip Report: Old Dubai, Ski Dubai, and At the Top

a building with a sign on the side
***This is part 5 of my “Camels, Bats, and Bloggers” trip report detailing a recent trip to Dubai and Seychelles, with a final stop in Las Vegas to attend the 2014 BAcon conference hosted by BoardingArea***

1. Introduction – Camels, Bats, and Bloggers
2. Emirates Lounge at SFO
3. Emirates First Class San Francisco to Dubai
4. Conrad Dubai
5. Old Dubai, Ski Dubai, and At the Top
6. Emirates Terminal B First Class Lounge at DXB
7. Emirates First Class Dubai to Mahe, Seychelles
8. Four Seasons Seychelles
9. Air Seychelles Economy Class Mahe to Praslin
10. Raffles Praslin Seychelles
11. Island Hopping – La Digue
12. Island Hopping – Praslin, Cousine, Curieuse, St. Pierre
13. Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa
14. Emirates Business Class Mahe, Seychelles to Dubai
15. 7-Star Luxury at the Burj Al Arab
16. British Airways Lounge at DXB
17. Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai to Los Angeles via Hong Kong
18. 2014 BAcon Conference in Las Vegas + Mandalay Bay Hotel
19. American Express Centurion Lounge at LAS

We’re slowing working our way up to a proper stay in Dubai. Last time we were just there for a long 12-hour layover where we basically camped out at the Dubai Mall, window shopped, and then watched Hunger Games 2. Not a bad place to kill a few hours, given that Dubai Mall is the largest in the world with plenty of things to see and do.

This time, we were in Dubai for a total of 36 hours across 2 nights, which felt like just the right amount of time. Actually, one more night would have been nice since I really wanted to do a desert safari but simply couldn’t find a way to squeeze it in. At least with a couple nights, it would allow us to explore more of the city and hopefully work in a splash of culture.

We started in the morning with the heritage walking tour at the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Leaning. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 10:30am there is a 90-minute walking tour around the Old Dubai area, which includes a visit to a nearby mosque. At the end, there is a group chat with the guide back at the center which also includes Arabic coffee and dates.

It was a good chance to briefly explore the Old Dubai area, and to learn about the culture from our guide. The outdoor portion is probably just 45 of the 90 minutes, which was about all we could take anyways, as the early morning temperatures were already nearing 100 degrees.

a building with a sign on the side
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in Old Dubai
a sign on a door
Delicious and worth trying once, but not worth the price
a white wall with carved designs
a building with a tower
a white building with red carpet and a podium
Walking around Old Dubai
a room with red pillows and a white column
a group of people sitting on a carpet
Arabic coffee and dates

Not sure there’s a better way to cool off from the desert heat than in the snow.

Afterwards we headed over to the Mall of the Emirates, and as we were walking by the Ski Dubai entrance we just couldn’t resist the temptation to try it out. I mean, where else in the world can you go skiing in a shopping mall?!

They do a nice job of packaging everything together so it’s certainly not something you need to plan for in advance – ski pants, jacket, and all equipment are included in the entrance fee. The only thing not included are gloves, which we purchased at the store for 20 AED per pair. We thought about going glove-less, but we’re glad that we didn’t since it was pretty darn cold inside.

When you head into the snow area, it’s a funny feeling since it essentially feels like you’re inside a very, very large walk-in freezer. There are a series of snow-related activities, including sledding, zip lining, and of course skiing or snowboarding. There’s really just one main slope which I’d rate as easy/medium difficulty, although there is one brief section where you can pick up some decent speed.

It wasn’t crowded at all and the snow was surprisingly soft, I was expecting it to be much icier given that it’s all man-made. Honestly, while it may seem gimmicky, it was a really fun and exciting way to spend a couple hours and was a perfect way to fight through the jet lag which was setting in right around this time.

a sign on a building
a large building with many escalators and people walking
a person walking in a mall
Walking around Mall of the Emirates
a sign above a store
a indoor ski resort with a large indoor area
a ski lift in a large indoor area
a woman sitting on the snow
Ski Dubai

Even though the Ski Dubai pass is good for 2 hours, we only lasted about an hour and a half before calling it a day. We had worked up an appetite and went searching for food around the Mall of the Emirates. The selections here were disappointing, so instead we jumped in a taxi and headed over toe Dubai Mall. The taxi ride took longer than expected due to the heavy afternoon traffic and if I remember correctly came out to around 30 AED. For the most part we took taxis around the city since I considered them to be a great deal compared to prices in other countries.

After we got to Dubai Mall, we circled around and were frankly a bit overwhelemed with the number of choices. There is literally every single chain from around the world represented here – everything from California Pizza Kitchen, Red Lobster, IHOP, Chili’s, and on. After much deliberation, we ultimately decided on Shake Shack and then finished that off with Laduree for dessert. Shake Shack really hit the spot, and there was even a special burger featured here with Veal Bacon.

a large glass aquarium with fish and corals
Aquarium at Dubai Mall
a sign on a window
a tray of food on a table
Shake Shack – hit the spot!
a display of colorful macaroons
Macaron heaven at Laduree
a plate of food on a table

It was now early afternoon, and between the jet lag and food coma I was really struggling to stay awake. I had to inhale several cups of coffee in order to make it to our 5:30pm reservation to At the Top at the Burj Khalifa. We tried our best to sneak in prior to our reservation time, but they only allow you to enter up to 15 minutes prior.

5:30pm and 6:00pm are the most popular times around this time of year since it means you’ll be up there for sunset, and in general I’d highly recommend booking your tickets online ahead of time, which can be done up to a month in advance.

After going through the main entrance, there’s a showroom where a model of the Burj Khalifa is featured, after which you go through a looooong walkway before reaching the elevator that takes you to the top.

I’ve been in some fast elevators, but this was an insanely fast ride which shoots you 124 floors up to the observation deck. Unfortunately, weather wasn’t on our side and therefore viability was really limited, which certainly took away from the overall experience.

Overall, while it was cool to be in the tallest building in the world, to be perfectly honest I’m not sure that I’d recommend it relative to the cost of ~$35 per person. If you want great views of  Dubai, just make sure to have a window seat on your flight.

a sign on a wall
At the Top, Burj Khalifa
a group of people in a building
124 floors up!
a city with many buildings and roads
View from the top


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