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Dubai - More than just a Stopover

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Arriving into Dubai at 6am with the sun already rising, I knew it was going to be a hot day and very busy if I was to make the most of my 24 hours on the ground. 

Dubai Airport is very well sign-posted and it wasn’t long before I got through immigration and security and was in the arrivals hall. I'd ordered a transfer from Arabian Adventures (part of Emirates), and so on arriving I immediately turned left and saw their office. They ticked my name off and within 10 minutes I was on a shuttle to my hotel in the old part of town.

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Let's start with the hotel...

The Royal Ascot Hotel is in the centre of Old Dubai and is a good 4* property within walking distance of the souks and close to the Metro. Only 12kms from the airport, I easily arrived within 20 minutes. It was quite luxurious inside and the air-con was very welcome as even at 7am, the day was heating up. The great thing about this hotel is that it has a roof top swimming pool, which I now think is a necessity when visiting Dubai! I was very happy to stay here and would easily recommend it to families, couples or singles as the price is very reasonable. It really did feel like a little oasis with its quiet and calm interior (even at the main entrance!).

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And what about Emirates...

My first experience with Emirates and I was to fly to Dubai from Auckland in the A380 on a non-stop flight for around 17 hours!! Wondering how I'd cope with it at first, my time on the flight was actually more than enjoyable with loads of room in the large seats that the A380’s boasts. I loved being able to charge my phone/ipad - especially during such a long flight. The entertainment system is always winning tops awards and it didn’t disappoint. There were up to 4 meals during the flight (if you wanted them) but you could always ask for food and drink if you happened to be sleeping when it was served. The cabin crew were very efficient, relentlessly polite and obviously from many countries & speaking many languages. But don’t expect little chats or interesting conversations; they're there to do their job and didn't seem to have time to interact on a personal level but were only too willing to help at any other time if need be.

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My thoughts on the Old City...

I chose this part of town as I wanted to explore the area and knew it would ultimately save me money by NOT being too close to the shopping malls in the new city! The museum was a few minutes past the fabric, clothes, jewellery, shoe stores, restaurants of Meena Bazaar... which is also the place where Indians living in Dubai can buy anything from India. This old town was definitely authentic and very much a desert city. The mosque was here too and the bells and music took a little while to get used to, as was the number of men and lack of women walking around the area. Despite being on my own however, I felt very safe in Dubai.

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Sundowner Dune Dinner Safari...

This was probably the biggest surprise I experienced in Dubai. I had a wonderful driver, who picked me up at 4pm and took me on a bit of a sightseeing tour of both sides of the Burj Khalifa and showed me where the mall and aquarium were.The tour far exceeded my expectations as I was concerned there would be too many people, it wouldn’t feel very special. How wrong was I!!!! Our driver made all the difference and explained and showed us a lot things as we travelled into the desert, making it a really informative trip. Every part of it was fun! I initially thought that dune driving would be for the “boys”, but I had an absolute ball and laughed and screamed on more than one occasion. The highlight for me was just being in the desert for the first time (although the meal came a close 2nd and think I would pay the fee just to enjoy the fabulous tastes and flavours!). Delivered back safely to my hotel by 10pm, this is a real “must-do” if you are heading that way…

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Overall...

I loved every minute of Dubai, and despite the clichés and contrasts that it's known for, there's actually a lot beneath the surface that can be explored to discover the genuine and authentic parts of the city. I would recommend at least 2 nights there and next time I go, I'll stay in the desert for a night! And perhaps even wander the malls, visit the aquarium and watch the Lamborghinis drive past really slowly to make sure you see them!.... 

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