Despite a serious lack of sleep over the past 48 hours (I couldn't sleep Sunday night due to excitement and then Monday night only caught a couple of hours kip on the flight), I just had to write about my first impressions of Dubai.
Firstly I have to give a shout out to Emirates airline - our flight was the most comfortable long haul flight to date largely because they seem to have a lot more leg room as standard and that just makes a huge difference. We flew on one of their A380 planes which was exciting in itself and the cabin crew were noticeably helpful and friendly. It helped a lot that the flight wasn't at full capacity so we ended up with a couple of spare seats near us which we could take turns to curl up on and sleep.
Just like last year's long haul flight to Canada, Miss T did best in terms of sleep but the 4 hours sleep she got on the plane was still far short of the 9 or 10 hours she usually gets.
We arrived to a welcome sign from Arabian Adventures who were there to meet and greet us. The lovely Eliska explained that apart from a government agency offering a similar service, Arabian Adventures are the only other company permitted to meet guests air side and guide them through passport control, customs and baggage reclaim.
She took us to our driver who brought us to Rove Downtown Dubai. This newly opened Rove hotel (the first of 3 currently planned for Dubai) actually looks like a swanky boutique hotel but their concept is actually quite simple. They want to be a budget hotel that provides the basics to enable us to be able to get out and 'rove'. When we met with Katie who is the Marketing & Communications manager at Rove, she explained how staff consider themselves to be 'rovesters' whose job it is to help customers (the 'rovers' ) to rove.
As tempting as it was to unpack and freshen up first, I knew the priority was to get some food and then get J to sleep as he had so far clocked up a grand total of zero hours sleep since leaving home.
We grabbed a quick buffet style breakfast from 'The Daily' which is the roves main restaurant with views of the Burj Kalifa and the Dubai skyline and then J got to bed whilst the rest of us had a tour of the hotel to find out more about it.
It was thoroughly fascinating to hear about how all the quirky objects found in the hotel actually held significance and linked with some aspect of the culture, history or various regions/parts/districts of Dubai. The art and wall art, some of it graffiti-style but done in a really sophisticated stylish way, is all by local artists and the hotel has a lot of links with the local community. I would love to know more and more about this. I found my interest piqued by the objects / stories that Katie told us about and found myself wanting to know the meaning behind every quirky object.
Here's an idea....Perhaps one day Rove may produce a booklet or even a fully published book showing the objects that can be found at the hotel and the stories behind them. I for one would really love to read it.
The decor and feel to the whole place definitely has a quirky cool feel to it appealing to young travellers looking for a great value hip and trendy place to stay.
A clever, unique marriage of styles seamlessly combining tradition, with modern and quirky design and a good dose of industrial decor thrown into the mix too. As strange as that sounds, somehow they pull it off perfectly.
Whatever the magic formula, Rove hotel is definitely doing something right as not only are they attracting these cool young travellers to stay, but are also appealing to business men and women. They even have meeting room spaces to hire out by the hour for business events and meetings which apparently is a new concept here in Dubai.
|Meeting room spaces at Rove Downtown Dubai|
One of the two rooms we are staying in is an 'accessible' one with a shower area that is fully accessible too along with emergency alarms in the room. The rooms were adjoining so once the door between the two rooms was unlocked it gave us the convenience of being all together seamlessly in the space.
After our hotel tour, we had a short space of time to enjoy the pool and sundeck. We'd love to have had longer but the midday sun was scorching and we had a busy afternoon schedule to stick to.
|The sundeck and pool never seemed to get overcrowded so it was a perfect place to relax|
|How cool is this lemonade stand! Free lemonade was given out at various points in the day|
Dainis, originally from Latvia but now having lived in Dubai for several years was our guide from Arabian Adventures for the day. We could not have asked for a nicer or more knowledgeable and passionate guide.
It was off to the famous Dubai mall, the fifth biggest in the world we were told, for lunch and an afternoon of activities.
We opted for the food court in order to please everyone and ended up with a mix of Mexican, Greek and fries from burger king (fries were for Miss T who was by now utterly shattered and ended up asleep in my arms).
The boys headed to Sega Republic for fun and games there whilst Miss T slept. Sega republic is difficult to describe as I'm not sure I've been anywhere quite like it before. It is a cross between a theme park with proper rides to go on and an amusement park with those games stalls where you can shoot things or throw things into hoops etc. Simulator type rides are available too as well gaming type experiences. The boys had a whale of a time!
I think Miss T falling asleep turned out to be a blessing because most of the rides were more suited to J and D's ages and by the time she woke up they had done most of what they wanted to.
It was time for the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo next. We'd been advised to allow an hour but my kids love aquariums so we may have stayed a bit longer and ended up running late for our dinner reservation.
The massive tank just stretched up and up and the huge rays and sharks in it were just mesmerising. It has been so tricky to capture the scale of it on camera but the tank basically seemed to stretch floor to ceiling of the mall. The rays were the biggest we have ever seen.
King Croc was just epic and a real must see. We even got a bit of video footage of him on the move which was very exciting so keep an eye out on our You Tube channel for that!
|King croc's teeth - He really was HUGE!|
A walk through the beautifully opulent Souk Al bahar ('bahar' in Persian means spring and I wonder if it means the same in Arabic?) lead us towards Thiptara restaurant situated in The Palace Downtown Dubai.
Arriving at the Palace Downtown, our jaws were pretty much hitting the ground. Such ornate buildings made to look historical and yet are relatively recently built. Dainis explained how Dubai as we know it now really only began when the building work commenced in 2003 with the mall and surrounding area being finished in 2008. The pace of development is just astounding.
Our meal was at Thai restaurant 'Thiptara' which apparently means 'Magic on the Water' in native Thai. And magical it truly was!
It overlooks the world famous Dubai fountains which are choreographed to music. They 'dance' every 30 minutes throughout the evening and we were free to step in and out as we pleased to watch them from the terrace of the restaurant. The Burj Kalifa also forms part of the breathtaking view.
The ambience of the place was warm, friendly, relaxed and magical too! Dress code is smart/casual but it is in such a stunning location and amazing building that my advice would be to err on the side of smart.
By this point we were all soooo exhausted - the kids were even going through phases of drifting to sleep because we had so many hours awake by this point without sleep. And yet the magical ambience that surrounded us together with the exquisite food meant that we didn't feel grumpy as one normally does with extreme tiredness. I just felt like I was in a dream floating through the evening, almost needing to pinch myself to know I'm in Dubai and in this stunning place with these incredible views.
The lovely chef came out to speak to us which I know was special to D with his future cooking ambitions. She explained that she was actually Vietnamese herself. She took such a pride in cooking the food and using wonderful ingredients. They were able to actually adjust the heat/spice of the meal to our precise taste which was brilliant.
From today's experiences for me, any one of the following; the Rove Downtown Dubai hotel, Thiptara at The Palace Downtown, and the Dubai fountain would be enough of a pull to bring me back to Dubai again.
Most of all, however, the one thing that has consistently made the strongest impression on me has been the people we have met. The warmth and genuine welcome from both locals and those that have chosen to make Dubai their home really makes our stiff British culture look positively frosty.
|D with chef Thani|
We won this amazing experience which was truly a holiday of a lifetime via Visit Dubai and Tots100 (special thanks to Extraordinary Chaos blog too as it was via Richard's comment on Sarah's blog that won!)
The really good news is that Visit Dubai are offering another chance to win a holiday! You can read more over at A Mummy Too, The Ana Mum diary and Mummy, Daddy, Me. There's lots happening in conjunction with Tots100 so keep an eye out for the #DubaiTomorrow twitter party on September 6th 2016 for more chances to win prizes.