Keep in mind that the prices in Dubai can be daunting. While browsing in the Escada shop at the Wafi Mall, my wife came upon a small jacket that she really liked. She lost interest when I converted the price tag for her - it was exactly $10,000 U.S. Not on the free shuttle route but on the Big Bus tour is the Madinat Shopping Center, which is built in a traditional Arab style and is surrounded by picturesque plazas and canals that connect to an adjacent hotel. It also provides fine views of the nearby Burj al Arab, the world's only (self-appointed) seven star hotel, with prices to match. For those who cannot afford an overnight, afternoon tea at the Burj al Arab costs a little over $100 per person, is served from 3-5 pm in the view restaurant, and requires advance reservations).
Also on the Big Bus tour is the Mall of the Emirates. This is a must-see for its incredible indoor ski hill and toboggan run. It has hundreds of stores and provides excellent people watching in air-conditioned comfort. Another favorite mall, which we did not visit, is the Ibn Battuta Mall, which is the farthest west and requires a taxi to reach. It is named after an historic Arabian traveler and features architecture and décor from all over the Arabic traders' world, from Spain to China. Within the next few years several even larger and more exotic malls are scheduled to open. I highly recommend spending at least half a day visiting Dubai's malls, even if one is not a shopper. Shopping malls are museums of our times, and these malls provide the most amazing displays of consumer culture (and sometimes the lack of it) in the world.
FUJAIRAH (UAE) - Fujairah is probably the least wealthy and least developed of the emirates, and offers little of interest near the port. In fact, your cruise ship may stop here mainly to refuel since it is one of the most active refueling ports in the world. The area is best known for the beach resorts and diving opportunities that lie some distance north of the main city, and for the low Hajar mountains and hiking opportunities that lie some distance to the west. A taxi ride from the port (too far to walk) is a picturesque old fort (currently undergoing restoration) and nearby is a modest museum of local history and culture. In the modern town are a few shopping centers (such as the Lulu mall) with very reasonable prices for essentials that one may have forgotten to pack, but the luxurious malls of Dubai are absent.
ABU DHABI (UAE)- Abu Dhabi is the largest and one of the wealthiest of the emirates. While Dubai is known for its nightlife and glitz, Abu Dhabi seems proud to be more cultured and sedate. Enormous sums have been spent to turn Abu Dhabi city into a lush green urban oasis with parks and playgrounds next to futuristic skyscrapers. Walking along the corniche (waterfront) and through the many gardens can be an enjoyable way to spend a warm winter day (walking in the summer in any of the emirates is virtually impossible due to the heat). The port is a few miles east of the city center, and it is necessary to take a taxi or ship shuttle bus into town.
In the center of town a few blocks from the corniche is a fine Cultural Foundation, which provides major exhibits and concerts by international stars. When we were there, we saw a very nice exhibit of treasures from Sudan, similar to those from ancient Egypt. Upstairs is a café and an adjacent handicraft center (the larger and more active Women's Handicraft Center is several miles south).
From there we took a taxi to the Emirates Palace Hotel on the western edge of the city. In contrast to Dubai's Burj al Arab Hotel, the Emirates Palace Hotel seems to welcome tourists who are interested in seeing its extravagant lobby or having tea in its café. In the far distant corner as one enters the hotel is an exhibition area (the hotel is so massive that one of the employees will be happy to walk you there). When we were there it featured an Arabic calligraphy show, but only my wife got to see it since that afternoon was reserved for women only (as are some beaches and some taxis in the emirates).
Instead, I spent an hour in an adjacent exhibition on the various new architectural projects planned for the city, including maquettes by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and other architectural superstars. It becomes quite obvious from the enormous public building projects that Abu Dhabi, like the other emirates, is working hard to convert its massive dollar reserves into hard assets.
From the Emirates Palace Hotel it is a pleasant walk to the Marina Mall (exit the lobby front, walk down through the gardens past the water features, exit the main gate, and then turn left outside the garden wall turning north past the VIP gate). There will be beautiful views across the gulf to the back of the hotel, which is far more massive than it appears from the front. The Marina Mall is very similar to the modern upscale malls of Dubai. A viewing tower in the mall was not open when we were there. From the mall it is a taxi or shuttle ride back across the city to the port. The taxi stand is well organized. Fares should be metered (in UAE dirhams), but are reasonable even if negotiated.
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