Dubai is a Surprisingly Wonderful Place to Chill

I first met Stephen (pronounced with a “f”- he’d want me to clarify that here) in the summer of 2012 during my first visit to Las Vegas. My dear friends Sheldon and Sherwin connected me with their Vegas contacts, and that led to a long-distance friendship going strong 6 years later. Though, until my visit, it had been 4-5 years since we last saw one another in person. After finishing up my month in Nepal I needed to make my way back to the U.S., but I had 3 weeks to play with, so I decided to break up the flights and gradually head back West. As Dubai is less than a 5 hour flight from Kathmandu, and cheap, direct flights were available, it was an easy decision to pop over to Dubai to see Stephen. While it is important for me to keep an eye on my budget, I couldn’t pass up the $400 BUSINESS CLASS flight from Kathmandu to Dubai (on FlyDubai). Bonus: Kathmandu airport actually has a lounge for business/first class travelers, so I got to wait (very comfortably) for my flight! A word of advice to anyone (especially Americans): you’re still in Nepal. Please don’t forget that when the airport lounge isn’t quite a “fancy” as what you may be used to. And please don’t berate the poor staff because they don’t have olive oil for your salad. Hell, I was positively thrilled (1) there was a lounge, and (2) that it had so much free food. (And loads of free booze, but I wasn’t drinking so passed on that.) A quick snapshot of the lounge…

My first trip to Dubai was 5 years ago, also following my holiday in Nepal. During that visit I ran around the city like crazy (I highly recommend the “Hop On- Hop Off” Bus) and saw all the key tourist sites (Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, boat ride, etc.). But this time my sole purpose in visiting was to hang out with Stephen and CHILL. And as it turns out, if that’s what you want to do in Dubai, you definitely can. I had the most wonderful few days just relaxing in Stephen’s and Ian’s apartment (btw, Ian is Stephen’s roommate and bestie, and next to catching up with Stephen, my fave part of Dubai was getting to know him- I just love connecting with good people!), and enjoying amazing food at a couple great spots that I highly recommend (of course I’m going to provide specifics). The guys live in one of those super tall, modern, amazing buildings with loads of amenities. Including stunning views of the Burj Khalifa (below, shots from their pool deck and next door parking lot).

Stephen and I also spent the better part of a day strolling through the Souk and along the water. I laughed until I cried at the names the guys in the shops called out to get my attention. My favorites: Shakira and TAYLOR SWIFT. Yeah, you read that right. I guess all white (and non-Indigenous appearing Latina?) people do look alike. LOL.

Stephen isn’t just GM of one of the hottest restaurants in Dubai (Miss Lily’s), he’s also an incredibly talented photographer. During our stroll, he was kind enough to take these gorgeous shots of me; hello Dubai glamour shots! WOOT!

One side note: the photos above are from the only day I dressed conservatively in Dubai. Things seem to have gotten more relaxed since my prior visit; I like to be considerate of culture, norms, and attire when traveling, so I never felt comfortable wearing very tight, low-cut, or revealing clothing. But I could have, and I wouldn’t have been the only person. You see loads of people across Dubai in very Western clothing. I got comfortable enough to wear a short sleeve shirt and my ripped jeans (elevator photo from above).

Enough of advice about clothing. Now onto what you really want to know about: food! Always one of my most favorite subjects to talk/write about. I had one truly spectacular meal at Basta! (by David Myers, located in theĀ Renaissance Downtown Hotel. This is NOT a place to go on a budget (the food cost aren’t crazy expensive, but wines can get pricey), and I definitely spent more on that meal than I did in the last 1.5 months in India and Nepal, combined. But it was SO worth it. The restaurant was took dark to get good food photos, so sadly, you’ll have to take my word on it. Between the 3 of us (I love eating with food sharers!), I think we ordered at least 1/4 of the menu. Brilliant Italian food. Tomatoes so fresh I’m still dreaming about them. And WHAT a bottle of wine (Le Volte Dell’ Ornellaia, 2015)! Great way to “break” my 1.5 months of non-drinking (which I like to do from time to time). If you’re in Dubai and want Italian food that rivals the best of Italy (yes, I just said that) then go to Basta!

Other than Basta!, I spent a lot of time at Stephen and Ian’s fave neighborhood spot: Zahr El Rouman. This place has really yummy lebanese food, so I didn’t mind going there so often! (And if you like shisha, you can enjoy that and fresh watermelon to your heart’s delight.) Also, the guys liked to play a lot of Backgammon, a game wildly popular in my former home of Manhattan Beach. God bless both of them, Stephen and Dan were kind enough to teach me how to play one evening. And I even won against Dan! (Though only with his assistance too, so doesn’t really count).

Ian (left) & Stephen. They look so serious, but we actually spent most of the night laughing.
I just might fly all the way back to Dubai for another glass of that fresh pomegranate juice. MY GAWD it was tasty.
My backgammon teachers! You guys are the best. Dan (left) & Stephen.

I will admit that, apart from catching up with a friend, I wasn’t too excited about visiting Dubai. But as it turns out, it was the perfect place for R&R after Nepal. While the city has more than enough to keep you busy and entertained, you don’t have to do everything (or anything recommended on my blogs and in most tour books). You can actually decide to take it easy, take long strolls, and thoroughly enjoy all of the amazing cuisine. True story. As it turns out, that’s more my speed for Dubai; I also now understand why so many of my friends love(d) living and working in the city. Dubai is a comfortable, safe (solo female travelers will never have an issue), and relaxing destination. Dare I say it: I wouldn’t mind going back!

I’ll cap off my post about Dubai with my favorite part of Dubai airport (btw, it has EVERYTHING and I found EVERYTHING open when I arrived to the airport at 5:30am)… the drool-worthy food you can buy in Duty Free. Not just chips and chocolate my friend. I couldn’t help but treat myself to a little snack pre-flight. Worth it. And a great way to say goodbye to Dubai.

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