At the time of booking our one way trip to Düsseldorf, it seemed like a good option to have a stop on the way in Dubai. However, after checking in 8 bags at Tullamarine, and only about 30kg overweight we were having our doubts about hauling all this stuff off the plane, and into a hotel for a few days. All things considered, it couldn't have been easier as we had airport transfers included, and we'd packed the bags such that we didn't need to open them all up, but with all that stuff, and having not considered the impacts of Ramadan, it wasn't really a relaxing 3 days in the desert!
So firstly, it was 45 degrees. That's hot. That's the kind of hot, that you go outside from the air conditioning and your glasses fog up immediately, or your camera. We arrived just after midnight Dubai time, and after schlepping all our carry on and tired kidlets along the terminal (which is not small) we suddenly realised that one of our carry-ons was missing… so Mike hotfooted back to the gate and asked the ground crew, and fortunately they retrieved bag and we were not already one down! This hold up however, meant we were definitely the last off our plane through customs, and into the baggage retrieval… fortunately all bags were rotating on the carousel and aside from needing 2 trolleys and making the tired kids walk and walk and walk, we finally found the guide holding our names to take us to our hotel.
We got to the hotel and crashed into bed. Our apartment was huge… more than we needed for 3 days, including a full kitchen, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because what we didn't know on arrival was that Ramadan here is actually law, and even foreigners needed to abide by the strict rules of no eating or drinking in public places until after sunset each day. Now, I originally thought that no drinking meant no alcohol, but it means no liquid passing your lips. Children are allowed to drink water. Adults are not supposed to.
So on our first morning, after our breakfast, in a curtained off area in the hotel, where they were serving breakfast until 10am, we headed out to The Dubai Mall, in the foyer was an enormous fish tank - 3 storeys high, and about as wide. In the foyer as well there was an elaborate Da Vinci exhibition, which fascinated the kids. What we couldn’t get over though, in a mall, was that all, and I mean every single one, the food shops were closed. They were all closed up, dark and with no signs of life at all. Fortunately I had some muesli bars, chocolate and sultanas on hand, and a bottle of water, and by the afternoon when we really hadn’t had enough food to keep the kids sane, I started surreptitiously sneaking sultanas into their mouths, just to give them a mini-energy boost. We went up the impressive Burj Khalifa, which is currently the tallest building in the world, to the viewing platform. We were lucky that we had a fairly clear day to enjoy the view out to the desert and out to sea, however were suddenly surprised, and a little disappointed to find that the viewing platform is actually 22m lower than that of the Shanghai World Financial Centre, despite the actual building being almost twice as tall.
After we finished there, we wondered what activities we could do on empty, weak bellies in the searing heat, and this mall had everything - ice skating rinks, other galleries and displays, loads of shops and an aquarium, and popular consensus (which actually meant everyone except me) decided that we would go to the movies, to see Pixar’s latest movie, Monsters University in 3D. It was actually pretty good, and the kids loved it. When it was over, sundown was finally coming close… and the restaurants were all showing signs of life, we wandered around looking for one where we could have dinner. As soon as the sun set. We rejected Carluccios, Brunettis and a Chinese restaurant on the basis that we were in the Middle East, and wanted to eat accordingly. We found an appropriate place, which had a bargain ramadan dinner set menu, and we thought that would be perfect. We also ordered some breads and mild meatballs for the kids, but then the set menu came, starting with a fancy aperitif. The drawback of having not eaten all day, was that actually we were full after a few bites of bread dipped in hommous with some fried cheese. We watched the water and light show under the Burj Khalifa from the restaurant which was pretty spectacular, and then asked to take the rest of our dinner home with us.
The next day we were off on an organised part of our trip, but we hadn’t really done very much research before we left, and although we thought we were going on a tour, we actually went to a waterslide park… again no substantial food all day!! But they did sell drinks, frozen yoghurt and fresh fruit… the kids went non-stop for several hours on the slides, and we tried to keep up with them!! We had the previous night’s leftovers as dinner, and then went to bed early to be ready for our final flight for this trip… to our new home in Düsseldorf.