DUBAI, United Arab Emirates // Dubai is the 13th country of our trip and one of the most unique. Though the exchange rate is almost 4 to 1 in our favor, the prices were severely inflated. A glass of wine cost 70 dirham, which equates to $20 USD, which far exceeds even NYC rooftop prices. The price to go up to the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building of the world, was 500 dirham while going up to the 125th was only half the cost and buying online was only 125 dirham. What’s really ironic is that 148 isn’t even the top floor. There are 163 floors in the building. I'm not sure what the extra 23 floors did for the view but it couldn’t have been worth $140 USD. The view and ambience was awesome, but in all directions, all you can see is construction, sand, and ocean.
Dubai was a completely different experience for two main reasons. One, all the main attractions and walking spaces were in malls. The Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and Burj Khalifa are incorporated into the Dubai Mall and Ski Dubai is attached to the Emirates Mall. The ski area was totally worth the 260 dirham price tag and we played in the snow park on the bobsled, zipline, and tube rides, giant ball, and chair lift all day. We even ended the day at the top lodge for a mug of hot chocolate and nachos. The second reason Dubai is different from other places is that it is such a young city. Though people lived here in 3000 BCE, it wasn’t built into the modern vibrant city of skyscrapers you see today until oil was discovered here in 1966. They literally started building this city from scratch in the middle of the desert. What’s funny is that it is actually designed inefficiently. It's awkward to travel around. There are no sidewalks and constant traffic jams. Everyone takes taxis here. And if you want to “walk” around the city it must be done in a mall.
Dubai not only brought us a new country patch for our backpacks, it also brought us our dear friend from college, Danny, to celebrate his 30th birthday. He was visiting from the USA and we were coming from the Maldives, so it served as a perfect meeting place with a large international airport. Having him around was yet another reminder that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, but who you are with. We laughed so hard with him, playing everywhere we went and talking in silly accents. We are so grateful he made the trip around the world to come celebrate with us.