Dubai. The Burj Khalifa. Atlantis. Al Fahidi Fort. Mall of the Emirates. Desert Safaris. Just the thought of seeing all of these wonderful places that we’ve seen so many times on our computer screens sent my Dubai Trip Planning into overdrive. It’s one thing to say that as travellers we believe in slow travel and smelling the flowers and all of that. But when there’s so much of the world to see with only so many days of leave from work in a year, it’s entirely another thing when it comes to scheduling shorter trips.
I tend to suffer from a bit of FOMO, while Charles on the other hand is perfectly happy having seen whatever little, but completely and wholly. With just 4 days in this massive city, with so much to explore (and for me to rediscover, since I was visiting after 20 years) how were we going to do this? Steal one of those chrome plated sports cars in the lobby of the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City where we were staying and take off down the multi-lane highways? Navigating the metro and the local bus weren’t an option if we wanted to see as much as we had planned.
Big Bus, Dubai: Day 1
That’s where the Big Bus Dubai came in. One ticket. 48 hours. 3 bus routes. 80 stops. 2 dhow cruises. 10 museums. 5 walking tours. And several other add ons. We couldn’t have planned it better (and that’s saying a lot).
The first day, we hopped into a cab over to Wafi Mall where the Big Bus Kiosk handed us our tickets in exchange for the email printout. We hopped onto the waiting bus, grabbed a cold bottle of water from the chiller on board, plugged our earphones into the audioguide and set off. Given the harsh sunrise we’d seen, we expected a sweltering day. Surprisingly, on top of the double decker bus, it was a cool wind that played havoc with my hair. We set off down the red line which covers old Dubai – Bur Dubai and Deira, areas that sounded very familiar, but looked unrecognisable. Passing several sights, we hopped off at the Dubai Museum. As it was a Friday, the museum was due to open much later, but we wanted to grab some breakfast and then the Arabian Treasures walking tour.
Arabian Treasures Walking Tour
At 10:30 sharp, we found our way back to the spot opposite the Dubai Museum where our Bus had dropped us, to find our guide and a group of Italian women waiting to start the tour. We waited another few minutes for anybody else that might be running late, and then set off down the road. We passed the Grand Mosque and walked into the narrowest alleyway past the Hindu Temple that was abuzz with worshippers celebrating Holi. Walking into a narrow opening, we found a beautifully decorated Iranian mosque that could rival the blue decor tiles of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. Walking on through narrow alleyways, we looked at each other, all glad that we’d come on this walking tour and discovered paths we may have missed otherwise. Stepping into the old textile market that was shut for the day, we discovered several Indian names on the rows of symmetrical shops. Our guide pointed out a chimney that was typical of the area, with holes for ventilation, covered in wet cloth like rustic air conditioning.
We then passed the Old Souk, that seemed like a shell of its previous self, with tacky tourist shops, and several touts following us, whispering the names of Dubai’s biggest drugs – “Chanel, Louis Vuitton? I give you good price madame, I have many bags.” Ignoring them and walking on, we arrived at the Bur Dubai port from where we’d take an Abra (traditional water taxi) to cross over the creek to Deira. At Deira, we crossed over and entered the spice souk, stopping at the first shop we saw. The shop owner came out bearing chocolates called Dubai Rocks and they really did resemble painted pieces of rocks (the sort you put in a fish tank) so I tried one with trepidation. It was divine. Seeing the Italian tourists struggling with English, he switched to fluent Italian (which I could thankfully follow because of my fluent French). He told us about all the different spices (some of which were new to me too) and held out scoops of Frankincense, Myrrh and Pomegranate buds for us to sniff and taste. We stepped in to his shop, lured by the almond stuffed dates coated in white chocolate that he offered us.
A small haul later, we continued on our walking tour towards the Gold Souk which once again, on account of it being a Friday was mostly shut. We weren’t too surprised to discover several Indian jewellery brands here, after all, a lot of the gold being sold here came from India. After an unsuccessful hunt for some earrings my mother wanted, we returned to the Big Bus stop, and continued down the red line.
After taking a loop past the Riviera (where we saw the hotel where Micheal Palin stayed before boarding a dhow to India) we continued past a landmark I knew only too well from my childhood. The Deira City Centre Mall. Charles smiled at me as I grinned like an idiot. Getting back to Wafi, we grabbed lunch at the mall and rushed back for our Night in the Desert. We would have normally taken the free Desert Sunset Tour that comes with the 48 hour Big Bus ticket but our friends had something else planned for us in the desert.
Big Bus Dubai: Day 2
The next day started a little late as we had to return from the desert and shower. We zoomed in a cab to the Burj Khalifa because we had a 1:00 pm slot for our ticket. After lunch we were to continue down the green line, switching over to the blue line and on to Atlantis to redeem our free passes for the Lost City but got rather waylaid by Dubai Mall and then the Mall of the Emirates.
We will certainly need to return in order to fully explore the possibilities of the Big Bus Dubai. And I guess that’s the great thing about it, that you’ll never run out of things to do with it, only time. We didn’t even get a chance to use any of the shopping or dining vouchers in the booklet they gave us, or to explore any of the other walking tours. There’s always a next time, isn’t there? Have you been to Dubai? Did you manage to see as much?
This post was made possible by Big Bus Tours, Dubai; the opinions as always, are our own.