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Dubai Trip Report

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Just returned from a quick 5 day trip to Dubai. Friendly Planet.com offered a $1500 hotel/flight to Dubai. We thought it was a deal and a great place to go.
Flew Emirates air direct from JFK. Flight ok not bad not great. Hotel was the Al Manzil. Nice hotel close to the Burj tower being built. Hotel was very nice with typical large buffet bfst. Weird thing about the room was that there was a large tub in the center of the room all glassed in. Odd, but nice for watching the big flat screen tv....Great friendly staff. Included was a 1/2 day city tour. Ok but not great. Enjoyed looking at gold souk and spice souk and the abra boat trip across the creek, however if you are well traveled, you'd like the spice markets in Istanbul and Cairo just as well. Spent the first night wandering around the hotel complex and the complex across the street at the Palace Hotel. Area will be fabulous in 6 months plus when everything is finished. Next day took a tour with Oasis tours (Friendly Planet's contact) to Al Ain. Interesting full day tour. Saw camel races, camel market and lots of other things too numerous to mention. Topography is very mountainous as you head further. We were feet from the Oman border. While the day tour was typical of that type of tours including buffet lunch at the Intercontinental (We don't like that type of thing) we felt it was a good way to spend the day since our time in Dubai was so limited. That night we went to the Madinet mall. had dinner at Zheng He chinese restaurant on the canal overlooking the Burj Arab hotel. Romantic and fabulous food. You must try the wasabi prawns. WOW! I must get that recipe. Madinet is interesting and a fun way to spend the evening. It was chilly though and we were still a little cold even with the heater near our table and we are wisconsinites
Next day booked our own guide through BelHasa tours at the concierge desk. went to Sharjah. Spent a really nice day in that area going to museums and just hanging out. Later in the afternoon we took the desert safari with desert safari dubai. Great fun. There were two other couples in our car, (older) who did not enjoy it. Be ready to be banged around and if you have a queasy stomach or don't like wild rides forgetaboutit. That ended with a typical desert dinner and belly dancing, buffet, arabic coffee etc. at an outdoor camp. It was really fun. If we had had more time another day my husband would have loved to take one of the driving courses they offer. (me too!)
Next day we had asked Oasis travel to provide us with our own guide to Fujairah which is the east coast and some fishing villages near Dibba. The Oasis rep dropped the ball and never scheduled it. So we spent the day at the pool and went to the emirates mall. In the evening we went to the Dhow dinner cruise up the creek. Totally not impressive. The only good reason to take it is it is something to do between 8pm and midnight since the plane back to JFK leaves at 2am. Bottom line: no matter where you stay you really need to take cabs. They are plentiful and reasonably priced. They only charge fare when they are moving. The Friendly Planet tour is a good deal from the standpoint of airfare and hotel. They have no rep and Oasis tours is pathetically disorganized. I do recommend their package, just book what you want to do through the concierge. You will have a great time. The 30 people in the group were all well traveled and though the only thing we did together was the first day city tour, we frequently met and compared notes and shared cabs and tours. Just don't expect that from friendly planet. But I don't believe you can do better with flight and hotels than their package. We enjoyed Dubai, the city of cranes, construction and massive traffic jams. Oh, many in our group paid $75. to either have a drink at the BurjArab hotel sky bar, or have tea there in the afternoon. Most were disappointed. But all agreed that the Tea was more fun, gave them a better look and was more enjoyable than the drink at the bar. We didn't do either so I am just relaying info.
I would have liked one more day, but it was a great way to see a fun city.

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