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Dubai Mall Aquarium glass

UAE 2010: Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Underwater Zoo & Gold Souk) – Part 1

Date: 7th April, 2010

After a tiring walk around Bur Dubai the previous day, I had to give my feet some rest.

But I was just too damn excited about today. And so, as Azhad headed off to work early in the morning, I too got ready to set out early for the Downtown Dubai site.

I took the metro (from Union Station) to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall (of course they were going to get their own stop). As soon as I stepped out…

Burj Khalifa from Metro Station
… there it was!

It really is a beauty, unlike the last building that earned the title “tallest building in the world”.

There’s a bit of a walk to be had to get to Dubai Mall (there’s a bus service too but I chose to walk just to see the surroundings)

Burj Khalifa Emaar site offices Downtown Dubai
EMAAR is the company behind the Downtown Dubai
Burj Khalifa surrounding office buildings
Offices, (empty) offices, and more (empty) offices everywhere…
Burj Khalifa construction worker Dubai
Thousands of people like him build that

Dubai Mall man suit palm treesSignal outside Dubai Mall workersI got into Dubai Mall through the parking lot — because I couldn’t find any other entrance that side.

Dubai Mall architecture

Dubai Mall parking space lot
Parking capacity: 14,000 cars

I had gotten to Dubai Mall quite early. Most stores hadn’t opened or were just waiting for the first customer to walk in. I was going to check out the mall of course, but first things first. I wanted to buy tickets for the observation deck on Burj Khalifa. The observation deck was closed just a few weeks after it had opened due to some technical snags. It had re-opened only a week before, so I knew there was going to be a mad rush for the tickets.

But finding the ticket counter for At The Top proved a bit difficult (at first). Since there wasn’t anyone at the information desks, I simply followed the signs out to the Burj Khalifa thinking, well, that the counter would be at the ground floor of the Burj Khalifa itself.

Burj Khalifa Dubai steel morning
What US$1.5 billion gets you
Downtown Dubai The Address old town
The Address hotel on the left
Dubai Mall The Address panorama
A panorama comprised of 5 photos

Problem is, when I tried to get to the entrance of the Burj Khalifa, that didn’t seem possible either. Everything was cordoned off due to construction work still going on or was restricted access. I asked around but ended up back inside Dubai Mall.

Once inside, I finally found a security guard and asked him how I could get to the At the Top counter.

Dubai Mall Ermenegildo Zegna
I followed his directions and took the lift near the Ermenegildo Zegna store

I was instructed to go to the food court at the ground floor.

Dubai Mall Caribou Coffee At the Top ticket counter

The ticket counter only opens at 10am but at 9:45am, a few had already started a queue. I asked if tickets were available for the morning but they said only ‘Immediate Entry’ tickets were available.

You see, they have two types of tickets. The regular admission ticket costs Dhs 100 (Rs. 1200/US$27/€21) but needs to be booked a few hours/days in advance. But if you need to see it “immediately” or (truth be told) just show up at the ticket counter, you have to pay Dhs 400 (Rs. 5,100/US$108/€86) if you wish to go in then itself.

I ended up buying tickets for the 4:00pm slot (they let people in every 30 minutes) and also three tickets for a later date.

And now that I had plenty of time to kill until then, I began checking out the empty mall.

Dubai Mall basement storesBut as I got up to the first floor, I got distracted by the Dubai Aquarium. So I bought the Dhs 50 (Rs. 630/US$13/€10) ticket to see the largest (& probably the only) indoor aquarium in the Middle East. (The Dhs 50 ticket is the aquarium plus the Underwater Zoo. The standalone ticket for the Aquarium is Dhs 25)

Dubai Mall Aquarium glass
This holds the Guinness Record for the ‘World’s Largest Acrylic Panel’
Dubai Mall Aquarium glass reflection
There’s over 30,000 species of fish in this tank (or so they claim)

And then you enter the tunnel.

Dubai Mall Aquarium insideDubai Mall Aquarium dome sharks

Dubai Mall Aquarium baby sharks
They have a lot of sharks…

Dubai Mall Aquarium Sting rays

Dubai Mall Aquarium Stingray
… and a few stingrays

Dubai Mall Aquarium glass domeYou can check out the HD video I took here:

Once you step out the tunnel, the path takes you past souvenirs and a themed restaurant.

Dubai Mall jungle theme restaurant… before leading out to the escalator that takes you up to the first floor.

There, you find the entrance to the Underwater Zoo.

Dubai Mall Aquarium Underwater zoo

Dubai Aquarium underwater zoo otter
Dubai Mall Aquarium underwater zoo water rat
Water rats

Dubai Mall Aquarium Underwater zoo water rats

Dubai Mall Aquarium Lionfish raysDubai Mall Aquarium goldfish

Dubai Mall aquarium Dory Marlin
Dory and Marlin are still friends^, awwwww…

Dubai Mall Aquarium clown fish volcanoDubai Mall Aquarium fish eye

Dubai Mall Aquarium rainforest facts

Dubai Mall Aquarium school tour
The operations at the back

The aquarium was obviously very popular for school kids.

Dubai Mall Aquarium underwater penguins workerDubai Mall Aquarium underwater penguins swimmingDubai Mall Aquarium underwater penguin staring

Dubai Mall Aquarium underwater zoo jellyfish
Dubai Mall Aquarium eels

Dubai Mall Aquarium underwater zoo garden eels

Dubai Mall underwater zoo coming attractions
There’s more coming

Here’s a video I took:

Dubai Mall Aquarium from top
From outside the Underwater Zoo

Dubai Mall Aquarium touristsAfter that, I checked out the rest of the mall.

Dubai Mall floors Versace storeDubai Mall Joseph Joes cafeDubai Mall interiors ceilingDubai Mall Bloomingdales store

Dubai Mall Pucci store
Pucci: Poor man’s Gucci*

*not really

Dubai Mall Harman House showroomDubai Mall Sony showroomDubai Mall ceiling sunlightDubai Mall waterfallDubai Mall souk Harley DavidsonDubai Mall KidzaniaDubai Mall Exoto Tifosi Circle8 shopDubai Mall Sega RepublicDubai Mall Crocs Asics

Dubai Mall Wooden floor lobby
If there ever was a material used in construction, you’ll find it used for Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall chandelier domeDubai Mall Sephora JumboDubai Mall botique runway digital screenDubai Mall ground floor ceilingDubai Mall UAE flag lobby entrance

Dubai Mall sofa rest stops
It took advantage of these everywhere around the mall

After nearly an hour of window shopping, I decided to have lunch at the food court at the basement, near the At The Top counter.

Dubai Mall Fatburger beef
Lunch was at Fatburger, which I never tried before

The burger was okay, nothing exceptional. Of course, I only had the regular beef burger. (Not really ‘Fat’, just regular)

After lunch, it was back to roaming around a bit more. This time I explored the Gold Souk.

Dubai Mall Gold SoukAs the name suggests, this is the section of the mall dedicated to just gold stores and other pricey items.

Dubai Mall Gold souk ceiling chandlier

Dubai Mall Gold souk tree open spaceDubai Mall gold souk treeIt was also the quietest part of the mall.

Dubai Mall gold souk shopsGiven the high price of gold now and the fact that there wasn’t a whole lot of folks shopping anyway, it wasn’t surprising to see very few customers walk through these corridors.

Dubai Mall Gold souk chandelierDubai Mall Gold souk lit up domeDubai Mall gold souk shoppers

And with that, I was out.

Dubai Mall chairs fountain waterfallDubai Mall Element Roadster DinerI also walked past the only Olympic-sized Ice Rink in the Middle East.

Dubai Mall ice skating rink OlympicDubai Mall ice skating rink Olympic Reel CinemasIt was 3:30pm by this time, so I decided to make my way back to the lower basement.

Dubai Mall lower basement escalatorsI waited near the At The Top counter for my turn to get in

Dubai Mall At The Top gift store
The At The Top gift shop

(This is just part 1 of what I saw today, part 2 is when I went up to the Burj Khalifa observation desk)

[^ ‘Finding Nemo‘ reference]

Next posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Burj Khalifa, At the Top (and Wafi Mall) – Part 2

UAE 2010: Mall of Emirates and Times Square Center

UAE 2010: Driving around Dubai (Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Atlantis & The Palm Islands) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, The Walk and David Guetta concert – Part 2

UAE 2010: Showing my parents the sights of Dubai; inside Ibn Battuta Mall

UAE 2010: From the desert sands of Abu Dhabi to the corniche

UAE 2010: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit

Previous posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Heading back to the Gulf after 7 years

UAE 2010: Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (& back)

UAE 2010: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

UAE 2010: Heading to Dubai by bus; checking out Bur Dubai

Dubai creek abra Bur Dubai dock

UAE 2010: Heading to Dubai by bus; checking out Bur Dubai

Date: 6th April, 2010

After visiting Sheikh Zayed mosque, it’s not that I was done with Abu Dhabi or anything. I was going to come back to be with family, spend some time around the creek and visit the Yas Marina circuit.

But today, I was off to Dubai! Mostly to meet friends and to see the ‘heights of insanity’ Dubai’s reached in the past few years. I was going to visit all the famous buildings (because let’s face it, what else is there to see in Dubai?) and I was also looking forward to the David Guetta concert!

So yeah, a lot planned — and I was excited!

Post lunch, my uncle dropped me at the Abu Dhabi bus station from where I boarded the bus to Dubai (Dhs 15 = Rs. 180/US$4/€3)

The bus was, well…

Bus ride Abu dhabi to Dubai
... very nice!

Those monitors display the pristine condition UAE’s roads are in… if that’s your thing. No other in-bus entertainment, unlike Thailand.

The journey was expected to take around 1 and 1/2 hours.

Sheikh Zayed bridge construction Abu Dhabi
The long overdue Sheikh Zayed bridge in construction

As I was leaving the city, I got glimpses of what to expect to see at Yas Island.

Al Raha mall Abu Dhabi
Al Raha Mall
Al Raha mall The HQ Yas Island Abu Dhabi
The landmark office building simply called 'The HQ'
Yas Island apartments Abu Dhabi to Dubai
Apartments facing the Yas Marina circuit
Yas Island Ferrari world
The insanely massive Ferrari World in the distance

The bus was hardly full and though you are assigned a specific seat with your ticket, I took advantage of the empty seats behind me and rested comfortably.

An hour later, we were in Dubai, on Sheikh Zayed road, just about to enter the city.

Then it began…

Entering Dubai Marina Sheikh Zayed roadDubai Marina buildings Sheikh Zayed roadDubai Marina mall Sheikh Zayed roadDubai Marina Jumeirah Lake towersDubai Marina buildingsDubai Marina metro stationDubai Marina buildingsDubai Marina buildings

… aaaand that was Dubai Marina.

Building after building after building. Five years ago, this was all sand. They carved out the land to their desire, a lot of dredging and sand dumping later, they went from this…

Dubai Marina early construction
(images from Google)

… to this…

Dubai Marina from helicopter
(image from Google)

… and the work still isn’t done.

There are still more buildings yet to be completed.

In the Middle East, Dubai was always a land of opportunities. From the many expatriates who made their riches here to those who have now even made it their home. Despite the recession, there are still hundreds of job seekers from all parts of the globe here in Dubai in search of work.

In fact, I sat next to a fellow Indian (from Tamil Nadu), who was returning from a job interview from Abu Dhabi.

Tamilian Dubai bus

Past the Dubai Marina, lies Dubai Internet City.

Dubai internet city companies
Some of the IT majors at Dubai Internet City

But hard as they may try, remnants of the current economic reality are all over Dubai.

Dubai Arenco building to-letDubai offices to rentWant office space? Dubai has plenty to offer.

As we drove up Sheikh Zayed road, to my right was the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Dubai bus ride Burj Khalifa
I didn't get a great view -- but you can't help but stare at it

Half-an-hour later, I was at Bur Dubai bus stand where my friend Azhad was waiting for my arrival. He got me a Nol Card, the smart card Dubai’s RTA (Roads & Transportation Authority)  introduced to be used in the newly launched metro service and Dubai’s public buses. Your Nol Card costs Dhs 20 (Rs. 240/$5/€4) — of which Dhs 6 is deducted as the cost of the card — and the balance is your usable credit. The credit can be “topped up” at various stations and select stores all across Dubai.

We walked around a bit, chatted about old times and made our way to a bus stop. We had to make it across the creek to Deira, where Azhad stayed (& where I would be staying too).

After freshening up, Azhad didn’t waste any time in showing me around.

Dubai Deira fish roundabout
Azhad lives around here... y'know, in case you want to stalk him
Deira Syrian shawarma Azhad
Azhad stops for a snack at a Syrian joint
Dubai Union Station metro evening
Union Station, the metro stop in Deira...
Dubai Al Ghurair City Centre traffic
... if you want to go to Al Ghurair City Centre
Dubai Deira road traffic
The Burj Khalifa in the distance
Deira Emirates NBD building Sheraton

Azhad took me to the creek.

Deira Dubai creek boat eveningDubai Deira creek park

Dubai municipality office building
Dubai Municipality office building

Dubai Deira Radisson hotelDubai Deira Rolex twin towerDubai creek signs boatsDubai creek restaurant

Dubai creek cafe prayer hall
You can stop by here for evening prayers

Dubai Deira LIC HSBC building

Dubai creek lit up boatAfter an hour or so of walking, Azhad said we were now going across the creek to Bur Dubai on an abra.

Basically, small passenger boats that ferry people across the creek. The cost: Dh 1 (Rs. 12)

Dubai creek abra dockDubai creek abra Rolex towersDubai creek abra small boatDubai creek abra boat peopleDubai creek yacht mosqueDubai creek mosque minaret dockDubai creek abra Bur Dubai dockDubai creek abra souk station

The ride takes less than 2 minutes, but taking a ride on the creek is pretty much a ‘must do’ for any visitor to Dubai.

Dubai creek lights lampOnce on the other side, it was more walking to see what the souk had to offer.

Bur Dubai soukTraders from India (mostly Sindhis, Gujaratis and Keralites) have been in Bur Dubai for years. So much so, the souk is also called Meena Bazaar by the local Indian community.

Given the Indian population in the area, it was no surprise to know the Hindu temple was also located here. Though, you’ll need some help in find it the first time.

Dubai hindu temple
You have to take a left from a small alley lane to enter the temple
Dubai hindu temple narrow hallway
And it only gets narrower once inside

Dubai hindu temple flower shopDubai south indian hindu temple stairsDubai temple more shops

Inside you’ll find stores selling all your religious and devotional ‘merchandise’.

Once out, it was straight to the Dubai Museum.

Lane outside temple Bur Dubai

Dubai museum Bur Dubai Regal
The first thing you see as you enter Dubai museum

Dubai museum Bur Dubai casketDubai museum projectionDubai museum Bur Dubai riflesDubai museum Bur Dubai handgunsDubai museum statues

Dubai museum old traditional room
An old traditional room. You're not allowed to sit on the bed.
Dubai museum old traditional room Azhad
So Azhad sat on it

Dubai museum old traditional room

Dubai museum old coir mats
Ponchos* worn by Arabs in the old days (*not really)

Dubai museum armour knivesDubai museum spears display

Dubai museum Dubai 1822
Dubai in 1822, way before they discovered tall buildings

Dubai museum fort

Dubai museum birds
Giant man-eating birds* of yore (*not really)
Dubai museum through the years
Downstairs was a hall with a Dubai 'through the years' demo room

Dubai museum demo

Dubai museum plaster statues

Dubai museum carpenters shop
That's a holographic video playing in the background

Dubai museum spices shop

Dubai museum food shop
Selling items decades past their expiry date
Dubai museum study Azhad
Azhad listens in, locals ignore him

Dubai museum lady abaya

Dubai museum stone hologram
This was a really cool hologram

Dubai museum star constellationDubai museum dhow construction

Dubai museum under water
This section was to showcase marine history in Dubai -- thus the guy's legs sticking out of the ceiling

Dubai museum Makhtoum hallDubai museum Makhtoum hall insideAnd with that, we made our way out of the museum.

Dubai museum dhow boat Bur DubaiDubai Museum isn’t as big as say, Bahrain museum, but it’s still recommendable considering the entry fee is just Dhs 3 (Rs. 36/$0.80/€0.60).

We then roamed around Bur Dubai some more…

Bur Dubai abundant trading strange
Left: Grand Aboundant must be well-stocked; Right: ..............

… went through the souk again…

Bur Dubai souk traders pushcartsDubai souk Bur Dubai clothes… and then back to the creek.

Dubai creek Bur Dubai abra dock

Dubai museum creek sheeshaDubai creek lit up buildingWe just kept walking along the bend.

Dubai Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's old house
Passed by Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's old residence
Al Siraaj the Guiding Light hall panorama
Dropped by Obaid bin Thani's house which houses the exhibition Al Siraaj
Al Siraaj the Guiding Light lamps
Al Siraaj - The Guiding Light seeks to educate the public on the Qur'an's take on science, creation of the universe, etc.

Al Siraaj the Guiding Light from topAfter that, it was one last glance at the creek…

Dubai creek couple

Dubai creek Bank of Baroda
Seeing the Bank of Baroda sign, one can't help but assume this part of Dubai feels like a 'mini-Mumbai'

… before heading back.

Dubai Sheikh Saeed house AzhadBy now my legs were aching and so, we decided to take a cab back to Deira.

Dubai meter taxi insideFor dinner, it was back to a Syrian restaurant in Deira.

Deira roast chicken dinner
The challenge: Finish an entire chicken* between the 2 of us

I was really knackered by the time we got back to the room. Legs were aching and I just felt like sleeping. I saw quite a bit today and I was all the more excited about where I was going tomorrow — the tallest building in the world and the biggest mall in the region!

*P.S: Me & Azhad did our best… but we couldn’t finish the entire chicken.

Next posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Underwater Zoo & Gold Souk) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Burj Khalifa, At the Top (and Wafi Mall) – Part 2

UAE 2010: Mall of Emirates and Times Square Center

UAE 2010: Driving around Dubai (Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Atlantis & The Palm Islands) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, The Walk and David Guetta concert – Part 2

UAE 2010: Showing my parents the sights of Dubai; inside Ibn Battuta Mall

UAE 2010: From the desert sands of Abu Dhabi to the corniche

UAE 2010: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit

Previous posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Heading back to the Gulf after 7 years

UAE 2010: Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (& back)

UAE 2010: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi to Al Ain highway distance sign

UAE 2010: Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (& back)

Date: 4th April, 2010

On my second day in Abu Dhabi, I really didn’t have any plans besides checking out some stores nearby. But I ended up not doing so when my mother told me we had to go pick up my grandmother from our relative’s place in Dubai. And I thought: “Great, road trip!”

So post-lunch, we set off from Musaffah via Emirates Road for Dubai.

Driving from Abu Dhabi to DubaiDriving from Abu Dhabi to DubaiWe stopped at the gas station for fueling up and to grab some coffee, and while there, it was good to note the locals still love their SUVs.

Abu Dhabi Dubai ENOC station SUV
Fill 'er up! Even after the price hike, a litre still only costs Rs. 16 out here

There really wasn’t a whole lot to see on the journey besides dry land on either side and heavy vehicles…

Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai trucks… but my mother did ask me to notice just how long this green and white compound wall would stretch for.

Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai compound wall
I didn't see it end until after 60kms or so!

45 minutes into our journey, as we entered the emirate of Dubai, things started to get a lot more interesting.

Abu Dhabi to Dubai Emirates roadThe number of heavy-duty trucks all lined up, heading in and out of Jebel Ali was staggering.

Abu Dhabi to Dubai trucks highwaysThen, slowly but surely, came the construction projects. Besides factories, all the newer office buildings and the massive ambitions of Dubai.

Dubai motor city board sign

Dubai Autodrome Emirates road Motor city
Dubai Autodrome: The FIA certified racetrack in Motor City

If you want to know what heck is Motor City, check out their official website.

Driving past the Dubai Cricket stadium on Emirates roadDriving past the Dubai Cricket stadium sign on Emirates road The 25,000-seater stadium is part of the US$4 billion Dubai Sports City project. If you want to… actually, just click here (.pdf document).

(FYI, most Arabs don’t give a shit about cricket. The UAE national squad is mostly comprised of Pakistanis and Indians. Despite that, ICC’s international headquarters will now be in Sports City.)

Dubai Global village Emirates RoadThe Dubai Global Village mostly comes alive during the world-famous Dubai Shopping Festival.

But the sad reality behind the facade and the large signs that advertise these massive projects are that… well, they are either on hold or are lying empty. Some bits are done, but there are still many phases yet to be started/completed due to the financial crisis of last year that put an end to Dubai’s extravagant dreams.

An empty office on Emirates roadDubai Emirates road building constructionIn fact, the Motor City, Sports City and Global Village are all part of the massive (you’ll see me use this word a lot) Dubailand — what they described at launch would be the largest theme park in the world. But all I saw was a statue of a dinosaur near Dubailand’s hoarding. Sigh.

Abu Dhabi to Dubai power grids
Saw a lot of this on the way too. They'll need it.

Dubai Emirates road airplane

By evening, we were in Jebel Ali heading to a residential complex called LuLu Village where my relatives were staying.

Dubai Emirates Road to Jebel AliAn hour later, coffee and chit-chat over — and with grandmother in tow — we set off once again.

The sights weren’t obviously that different on the way back. More construction…

Dubai Emirates road twin towers
ENOC = Emirates National Oil Company

… completed apartments …

Dubai Emirates road apartments

… and Dubai’s new skyscrapers.

Dubai Emirates road Marina distance
Dubai Marina in the distance -- and where the mistreated labour that built them live in the fore

All of which now have disappointing occupancy rates.

Regardless, I was still looking forward to my time in Dubai.

Dubai Burj Khalifa shadow
You can't really hide the tallest building in the world now can you?

Dubai exudes excitement. It is the party capital of the Middle East. I was looking forward to meeting my friends and going around the city.

It’s not for everyone of course, especially the uneducated poor, for whom it can be one of the harshest places to be in.

Dubai Emirates trucks highway
There were a lot more trucks on our way back

Dubai to Abu Dhabi Emirates road sunsetDubai to Abu Dhabi Emirates road lamp postsAbu Dhabi lamp posts flyover

Abu Dhabi Yas Island Aldar distance
The impressive Yas Marina Circuit in the distance. (Yes, even this was on my itinerary)

Abu Dhabi underpass art

By nightfall we were back home in Abu Dhabi. The plan for the next day was a visit to Shaikh Zayed Mosque — and as with a lot of things I had planned, I was really looking forward to it.

Also read: Heading back to the Gulf after 7 years (First post in this series)

Next posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

UAE 2010: Heading to Dubai by bus; checking out Bur Dubai

UAE 2010: Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Underwater Zoo & Gold Souk) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Burj Khalifa, At the Top (and Wafi Mall) – Part 2

UAE 2010: Mall of Emirates and Times Square Center

UAE 2010: Driving around Dubai (Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Atlantis & The Palm Islands) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, The Walk and David Guetta concert – Part 2

UAE 2010: Showing my parents the sights of Dubai; inside Ibn Battuta Mall

UAE 2010: From the desert sands of Abu Dhabi to the corniche

UAE 2010: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit

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