NOW is a great time to travel and continue to check those “dream” destinations off your travel bucket list. From an indoor ski slope to the world’s tallest building, Dubai has it all. Have you ever heard the phrase “where bigger is always better”? A true oasis in the middle of the Arabian Desert, Dubai exemplifies bigger and better! This is a must see for any world traveler.</p> <p>Our travel bucket trip started out as a crazy idea while we were drinking a beer in an Oceanside pool in Cancun, Mexico. Where could we fly non-stop on our bucket list and experience something completely different? Going over to the Middle East has always been something we wanted to do and visiting Dubai was top on our travel bucket list. Our only hurdle was to investigate if it was possible to pack in as much as we would with just 48 hours in the destination. With Labor Day Weekend on the horizon we realized that we could use the long holiday weekend to possibly accomplish our travel goal. We took off   Thursday evening from O’Hare, flew 15 hours direct to Dubai, spent two days touring the “must see” sights and flew another 15 hours back home to Chicago. Some might call us nuts-but honestly we wouldn’t have done it any other way!</p> <p>As travel agents we are used to being busy on trips to maximize our sightseeing time. This trip was no exception. The flight over to Dubai was actually very easy because it was direct. We mentally prepared ourselves for the long flight and took advantage of some downtime on the plane in order to rest up for our adventure. Landing late Friday night in Dubai meant the first day was actually spent traveling. We looked forward to Saturday and the day ahead of us.</p> <p>On Saturday we woke up early to take full advantage of the day. Our first stop was a traditional open-market known as a souk. Some of the most famous souks are in Dubai: Spice Souk, the Gold Souk and the Textile Souk. The souks feature local goods and imports from Sri Lanka, India and other Middle Eastern locales. Our purchases included fresh ground curry, saffron and middle eastern BBQ to mention just a few, sold by the ounce. After shopping outside in the 115 degree summer heat, we decided to take a route to a shopping area that we are more familiar with…a western style shopping mall. Dubai has many malls and the one we visited, the Dubai Mall is one of the largest in the world. If you get tired of shopping, don’t worry because you can take a break and visit the aquarium located inside the mall. Going to the mall seemed to be quite the thing to for the locals, especially at night which we found to be interesting.</p> <p>For our late afternoon and evening adventure we were picked up at our hotel for a desert safari evening. Right before our eyes we watched our jeep tires sink in the sand at the deflation point, then go off-road to ride the shifting, dynamic desert dunes. The twists and turns had us on the edge of our seats as we experienced a dune bashing trip of a lifetime. We stopped to meet some camels along the way, sand boarded and then watched the desert sunset. Our evening concluded with an enjoyable Emirate feast, henna painting and a fire show complete with a belly dancer!</p> <p>Our next day we were met at our hotel and taken just a quick one and a half hours to Abu Dhabi. After arriving in the capital city of United Arab Emirates we wanted to experience real five star luxury and royal service so we visited the Emirates Palace. The Emirates Palace is located on the shores of the Arabian Gulf and overlooks its own private natural bay. This is the Sheik’s palace marina and is filled to capacity with his own yacht collection. While visiting this iconic landmark we had the pleasure of treating ourselves to a cappuccino and ice cream decorated with 23 karat gold flakes.</p> <p>On the road again and we quickly found ourselves at the Grand Mosque. The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque is an architectural work of art and one of the world’s largest mosque. This is considered to be the key site for worship in the country. We wore a traditional robe (abaya) and our mouths dropped as we stepped inside. The mosque features 82 domes, over 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold guild chandeliers and the world’s largest hand knotted carpet. A note of caution if you are planning on taking any phots in the mosque. Pictures can be taken in certain areas and any physical contact is prohibited.</p> <p>On our final evening we had a great opportunity to eat dinner with a northwest suburban Chicago local and his wife whom have been living in Dubai for the past two years. The thirty something couple had been relocated with by the husband’s company and shared their experiences with us as they treated us to dinner and tea. The Al-Fomar Restaurant and Café that they took us to was located in the mall and we feasted on a traditional middle-eastern meal. During dinner we were treated right outside our window with an over the water fountain show in 3D where a story comes to life on nearby buildings. This three dimensional display of lights, water and sound was so amazing we didn’t know where to look next! Our visit to Dubai and Abu Dhabi wouldn’t have been complete without the last evening listening to a local couple share their personal experiences that they have had over the past two years where Westerners were living and working in the Middle Eastern culture.</p> <p>Our weekend trip to Dubai was a trip of a lifetime and it allowed us to come back home with a better understanding and appreciation of the middle- eastern culture. We will definitely return to the destination after we check off other destinations on our travel bucket list! Stay tuned for our next report from another exotic destination.</p> <p>Dana Prichard and Jessica Kruse</p> <p>Cary Travel Express</p>