Life in Dubai: Our first visitors
Where has the year gone? I can't believe we've been in Dubai for seven months. We're fairly settled and have found a good group of friends. We've got our routine down pat and have started hosting visitors! The man's granddad and partner recently spent a week in Dubai on their way home to Australia from Switzerland. We finally did all the touristy things we've been holding off for months.
We took a quick trip to The Dubai Mall to have a look at the waterfall and indoor aquarium. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the fountains (they usually start at 6pm but occasionally run tests in the afternoon) but it was quiet the afternoon we were there. Regardless, the view from Madeleine Cafe overlooking the fountains, Souk Al Bahar and Burj Khalifa is amazing. I highly recommend grabbing a table on the terrace to watch the fountains in the evenings (they don't take reservations, so show up early).
The next day, we organized a morning at the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. We opted for the Heritage Tour and Cultural Brunch.
- The Heritage Tour is held every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday whereas the Walking Tour runs daily.
- The Cultural Brunch is only available on Saturdays but there are other cultural meals (breakfast - Mon, Wed; lunch - Sun, Tues; dinner - Tues) throughout the week.
As this was granddad and Marianna's first time in the UAE, we thought a morning at the Center would be a good way for them to learn more about the culture here. It was definitely an eye opener for them, and undoubtedly one of the highlights of their trip.
During our Heritage Tour, we walked through parts of the grounds of the Bastakiya, which houses the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, art galleries, restaurants, a mosque, a guesthouse and the Dubai Museum. As part of our tour, we visited a mosque where we had a short q&a session with our guides and got to admire the beautiful place of worship.
After our Heritage Tour, we headed back to the Center for our Cultural Brunch with a different group of tourists. We were welcomed with a small cup of local coffee (enhanced with spices, predominantly cardamom and saffron) and dates. The brunch is held in the majlis, the sitting room, or at the Center, the courtyard. Traditionally the hosts do not enjoy the meal with the guests, and only have their meals after the guests are done (as informed by our guides).
The tour is very informative and I highly recommend it. It's so important to understand a new culture and this tour definitely helps dispel a lot of misconceptions about Arab culture and practice.
The next few days we tried to strike a balance between relaxation and play. We spent mornings sitting outside enjoying the breeze and afternoons touring.
I've been wanting to check out The Farm at Al Barari for the longest time, and decided to try their afternoon tea. Major disappointment. While the grounds are pretty, the cafe and service were an absolute mess! Despite making a reservation for afternoon tea, it took them half an hour to seat us (only after we made a fuss about waiting so long). After we were seated, we were then told by the waiter that he wasn't sure if afternoon tea was being served as the kitchen was busy. We asked to speak to the manager to clarify, but he/she refused to meet us so we left promptly and made our way to Al Qasr Hotel at Madinat Jumeirah, where service and food exceeded our expectations. Blessing in disguise.
(I have to say, it was our first time at The Farm and perhaps we caught them on a wrong day. Regardless, any cafe/restaurant should be prepared for a full house and I think the service staff would benefit from more training. I wouldn't mind giving the place another go, but first impressions were definitely not up to par).
We had such a wonderful week playing hosts! There are so many more places to visit and things to do in Dubai. We've expecting quite a few visitors over the next three months, so do keep checking in for more tidbits of our life in Dubai!