When you are Greek there is usually only one holiday destination on offer to you: GREECE. Or if you are Greek-Cypriot: CYPRUS. Why on earth would you want to go anywhere else?
My parents honeymooned on the Greek island of Spetses – a mere hour away from the in-laws.
So you can imagine my surprise when my Greek man suggested a completely new place to go for our honeymoon: Dubai. (Obviously this was after suggesting yet another visit to his homeland and/or a trip around the Greek islands – stopping off to see relatives along the way of course – to which I replied firmly in the negative).
At first I was wary.
Would the in-laws be joining us?
Was some Great Aunt or Uncle secretly living in the United Arab Emirates?
Was he intending to sell me in exchange for a herd of camels?
So it was with some trepidation, (but mainly excitement) that last week we jetted off for a romantic week in the non-Mediterranean sun and landed at Dubai International Airport.
Several overly-enthusiastic friends had warned us not to show any physical affection in public (and definitely NOT in the back of a taxi) and to make sure that we wore appropriate attire at all times.
So upon arrival, I was careful to walk a few paces behind my husband, avoiding all eye contact and sweating heavily in my jeans, scarf and polo-neck jumper.
After managing to get past the fiercely strict security checks, we were relieved to see that showing some flesh was allowed, as was hand holding – although we continued to panic whenever we accidentally bumped into each other.
Our stay at the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach Hotel was very comfortable – made even more enjoyable by the bountiful breakfast, of which we had more than our fair share. We were pleased to see that Greeks were well catered for with an endless choice of meats, dips, bread, sweets, cakes and hummous – although Mr I-Will-Stuff-My-Face-On-Holiday was convinced that everything contained camel.
Split into two parts by a man-made creek, Dubai has so much to see, and there is a stark contast between the modern tourist attractions of Bur Dubai and and the older more cultural side of Deira. Whereas the newer side boasts splendid hotels, shopping malls and residential areas, the older side hides the treasures of the various souks (open-air marketplace).
The impressive Seven Star sail-shaped hotel Burj Al Arab offers magnificent views of most of the island while the equally impressive Atlantis Resort is described as “happiness personified”.
Personally I enjoyed simply viewing the hotels from afar while exploring other attractions such as the Dubai Fountain. Set on the 30 acre Burj Khalifa lake, the fountain shoots water jets as high as 500ft all accompanied to thrilling award-winning songs. Next to the fountains is the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping and entertainment destination. Aside from the beautiful aquarium, this felt much like a more upmarket Westfield, and was so big that you needed a week to see it all.
Dubai was once called “The City of Gold” and you can see why when you visit the Deira covered Souk and the Gold Souk. Shop keepers try to catch your attention on the street and then lead you off down winding alleyways into derelict backstreet offices which secretly store hoards of fake designer goods – some even real. While bartering isn’t recommended in the upmarket malls, we haggled for our lives in the Souk and came away with items at half price. The less interest you show the better, and a minor Greek-tantrum walk-out on my part, led to one seller literally chasing us down the street yelling out that he would sell us an item at a 60% reduced price! Although this all may sound very dodgy, Dubai has an extremely low crime rate and it is illegal to sell fake goods in the proper shops.
By far one of the best parts of our non-Greek holiday was the desert jeep safari where you are taken on a white-knuckle 4×4 drive through the sand dunes followed by a barbecue dinner and entertainment by traditional Arabian dance. I’m sure a Greek driver could give you the same experience in the Troodos Mountains – minus the belly dancing of course.
After all the haggling, eating, safari-ing, camel-riding and more eating, I came away with a full belly and my eyes wide open. However, although Dubai is a fascinating place to visit, at the end of the day, as my father would say, “You just can’t beat Greece“.
- Top 5 budget things you got to do in Dubai (akirastory.com)