I am fresh off the plane from 2 weeks in Dubai and my mind is still reeling. It is not often that I visit a place only to have every expectation of mine blown out of the water. Everything I though I knew about this sprawling metropolis in the Middle East was wrong and I learned more than one lesson of not to judge a book by its cover.
It seems to me that the theme of Dubai itself is that anything is possible. How can such a place exist and have been imagined into reality?
To say Dubai is beautiful is a massive understatement. It has its own complex beauty that, to be fair, took the nature photographer in me a few days to truly begin to appreciate.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what I was going to think of Dubai. I am not *really* a city girl but I have always tried to keep an open mind while traveling. Luckily, it didn’t take long to wow me into submission. Fangirl over here.
I was privileged enough to explore Dubai with 9 other inspirational Instagrammers which was a huge opportunity for me to learn and grow as a photographer.
You guys know I love the ‘gram, so I couldn’t resist putting together my first Dubai post of my favorite shots of mine from the trip and also from the guys who joined me there (be sure to give them a follow for more epic travel imagery). If you follow me on Snapchat (YoungAdventures) or on Instagram, you will already have seen some of this travel goodness, otherwise you can check out my friend Matt’s daily vlog here from the trip, in which you might catch a glimpse of my face, as hard as I tried to avoid it.
Are you ready for a visual overload? You’ve been warned. Here are 25 photos that will make you want to head to Dubai STAT.
The Burj Khalifa
I feel like you can’t begin a post about Dubai without mentioning the most iconic building in the city – the Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest building, the Burj, dominates the Dubai skyline, and I mean dominates. I couldn’t believe how far back I had to lean back to see to the top when I was by the mall.
I caught my first glimpse of the Burj during the drive from the airport to my hotel in the desert in the sunrise, and I could just see the top of it blinking above the predawn haze, like a rocketship about to be launched. It was so astonishing, I popped quickly up from my 36 hour travel lethargy to say “oh shit” and scare the crap out of the driver who thought I was sleeping.
Did I mention it’s impressive?
The view from the Burj Khalifa
If a view of the Burj itself doesn’t tickle your fancy enough to hop on the next 14 hour flight to Dubai, the view from the 124th floor will. If you only do one activity in Dubai, let this be the one. And my oh my did we get lucky when it was our turn to step into those elevators.
Very rarely, usually between seasons, the weather shifts enough to blanket Dubai in cloud and fog, that eventually burns off with the heat of the day. And sure enough when we stepped outside on the viewing platform, the fog began to roll in and cover the skyscrapers in cloud, making for the most epic photos you could ever wish for. Thank you weather!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen photographers so giddy!
For me, the most valuable and important thing I learned in Dubai was about the culture and the people. More on this coming soon, but I can safely say every stereotype I had imagined for the UAE was utterly and completely wrong.
The people there are just incredible.
The Al Hajar Mountains
I almost don’t want to spill this secret, but I trust you guys are cool. Did you know that Dubai has mountains? Nope, me neither. I’m not going to lie, my image of Dubai before this trip was sand and skyscrapers.
So when my alarm beeped at the ungodly hour of 3:30 in the morning to head out of the city to the nearby Al Hajar Mountains for sunrise (this is what happens when you travel with photographers) I knew I was going to see something special and unexpected, which is pretty much the only thing besides coffee to get me up that early.
As the sky began to change from purple to gold, the surrounding mountains began to emerge from the darkness transporting us to what felt like the moon. Dubai, you’re full of surprises.
The luxurious hotels
If there is one place in this world to treat yourself and splurge, it’s Dubai.
I’ve never seen so many 5 star hotels in one place before, and many of them are the same price as a regular hotel here in New Zealand. So save your pennies and check yourself in somewhere fancy next time you are in the big city. In Dubai even luxury can be affordable.
And oh my giddy god do the hotels have the absolute best breakfasts ever?! Thankfully I packed my leggings and stretch pants.
There are many traditions in the United Arab Emirates, but none so protected or respected as falconry.
You guys know I am a #BirdNerd, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to hold a beautiful falcon in Dubai. I have a photo of my mom when she was young holding a hawk in Virginia where she volunteered rescuing birds and releasing them back into the wild.
The world’s biggest falcon hospital is in Abu Dhabi, and falcons in the Emirates all have passports and fly business class cage-free on Emirates. What do I have to do to get that kind of treatment?
Dubai by night
I don’t think I have ever said a place is more beautiful at night, but it’s DEFINITELY true for Dubai. The city comes alive as soon as the sun goes down and the temperatures drop, and all the buildings become on beautiful colorful show.
Whoever imagined the lighting of Dubai deserves an award because it’s spectacular.
Whether you are watching the fountain shows in front of the Burj or talk your way up to a private presidential suite of a fancy skyscraper or just hang out with your friends at one of the many high rise hotel bars with a view, do not sleep through Dubai after dark. Trust me on this one.
Self-explanatory. Opinions on flavor were divided. I didn’t hate it.
The Souks around Old Dubai
Guys, you know I love old stuff, so I jumped at the chance to visit the souks, markets and winding narrow streets of old Dubai. This was more of the Middle East I imagined and was familiar with.
Bright colors, smells of spices, more pashminas or hookahs than I ever need; this was my favorite part of town.
I’m American guys, bear with me. I know this will be the most controversial thing I say in this post, but Shake Shack are the best fast food burgers in America and OMG the are everywhere in Dubai!
I haven’t sunk my teeth into one since I was in NYC in the spring of 2013 (yes I remember that), so obviously I went three times when I was in Dubai and I wholeheartedly suggest you do too.
I have to finish with the most iconic imagery of Dubai and the UAE – the desert.
This city was built from nothing into one of the most beautiful skylines in the world in a place people thought impossible. I could watch the red sand blow around the dunes for days and never get bored. What a site!
I will always be a nature girl at heart so this is one of my favorite memories of Dubai. Can I go back now? Just maybe when it’s a little less hot.
Have you been to Dubai? Are you curious about the Middle East? Have I convinced you to visit yet?