(Image courtesy of Jeffrey Chou)


Column: My experience visiting the United Arab Emirates before COVID-19

Before the quarantine limited all of our ability to travel, out of the many countries I’ve had the privilege to visit, the United Arab Emirates is one of my favorites. Built out of the sand fairly recently, this country features stunning architecture, many luxury activities and a playground for the rich. The seven days that…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/jeffreychou100405/" target="_self">Jeffrey Chou</a>

Jeffrey Chou

November 26, 2020

Before the quarantine limited all of our ability to travel, out of the many countries I’ve had the privilege to visit, the United Arab Emirates is one of my favorites. Built out of the sand fairly recently, this country features stunning architecture, many luxury activities and a playground for the rich. The seven days that I spent there were a very memorable experience and it is still deeply ingrained in my mind.

To get to the UAE, we chose to fly on Emirates. Emirates was founded in 1985 after other airlines in the region cut their services to the UAE, according to Flight Global. It was founded by the royal family of the UAE, and the first-ever flight was from Dubai to Karachi on a Boeing 737 leased from Pakistan International Airlines, which played a big role in helping Emirates get on its feet.

Today, Emirates is known as one of the best airlines in the world and is the largest operator of both the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 777, according to Michael Goldstein.

Many people know Emirates as an airline that is excellent in almost all categories, but my experience with the airline was just ok. I don’t know if it was because I encountered a particularly bad crew or if the airline was going downhill, but the experience was pretty average. I have flown on many good airlines before, so compared to those airlines, Emirates was not on par with them.

For instance, compared to airlines such as EVA Air, Emirates economy class was below average because their service was not great and the legroom was minimal. The two good things that can be said about my experience on Emirates was the good food and the large TV screen. 

Our first stop in the UAE was Dubai. The hotel we stayed at in Dubai was called the Palazzo Versace. The Palazzo Versace is a luxury hotel in Dubai. It is owned by Gianni Versace (the brand) and every aspect of the hotel has something to do with the brand, according to Lara Brunt.

There is not much history to this hotel as it was just built in 2016 but it represents the new and modern culture of Dubai. There are not many bad things that I can say about this hotel. Everything was very great from the food to the room to the service. I loved their breakfast the most. It was a huge buffet with lots of international options to choose from, and our friends that we were there with seemed to love it too. 

A trip to Dubai is not complete without a visit to the Dubai Mall.

The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world and attracts nearly 80 million visitors a year, according to the mall’s official website, taking up around 5,400,000 sq ft of space and has 1,200 stores and services.

The mall itself is so massive that it would take a very long time to shop through it all. It is also the most visited leisure and shopping destination in the world, according to the real estate company, Emaar.

The mall was so enormous that I only shopped through a small portion of it. I wasn’t going to buy much there anyways since the prices of clothes there are more expensive than in the U.S.

The mall itself was impressive and in terms of types of stores, it was very diverse. You could find all sorts of things from an aquarium and an indoor ski park to just normal clothing shops. I would really love to go back some day and explore the rest of the mall.

Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach is a white sand beach with the clearest blue water I have ever seen. It is one of the most well known beaches in Dubai and is frequently visited by many tourists and locals. Beyond that, it is a normal beach with everything that any other beach can offer.

However, camels can be seen walking around the beach at the right time, which is about the only thing that is unique at this beach. When I was there, the beach was too crowded for our liking so we just walked across it. I do not usually enjoy beaches so a person who likes going to the beach might have a better time and enjoy visiting this attraction.

Jumeirah is always filled with lots of tourists to the point where there aren’t any more spots to lie on the sand. The beaches in Dubai are also one of the rare occasions where the dress code does not apply. Being a Muslim country, the UAE implements a dress code for people, forcing them to dress moderately, but at the beach, this rule is overlooked, according to Elizabeth Smith of USA Today. Having heard of how special Dubai’s Global Village was, we took a taxi at night and visited it.

The Global Village is another tourist attraction that has risen up from the ground quite recently. It is basically a village-like night market with sections that represent many different countries. The countries appear and disappear by season so it is hard to give a pinpoint of how many there are, but there is definitely at least 60 or 70.

I personally liked the Global Village. It wasn’t very luxurious or super appealing in any way, but the concept of it was very unique and I had never seen anything like it before. It was exciting to walk around and see what I could find in each country’s dedicated section. I also found it hilarious that when I got to China’s section, they had a bunch of knockoff items to represent the country, which was very realistic. 

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is the home of Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE. Compared to Dubai, it is much bigger but also more toned down and peaceful. It is also more conservative than Dubai, with stronger laws on dress code and other forbidden objects and actions, according to Luka Trcek from travellinglifestyle.net.

There was much less action going on in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai, so the experience was less enjoyable for me. While a lot of older people might like its calm environment, I would rather live in a crazier city. However, there were also some good tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi, such as the Sheikh Zayed mosque and Ferrari World. I unfortunately didn’t get to visit the mosque but did go to Ferrari World.

Because Ferrari World was so well known and has the fastest roller coaster, according to Statista, we decided to give it a try.

Ferrari World is a theme park in Abu Dhabi designed specially for Ferrari themed attractions. It has lots of things, from Ferrari style roller coasters to an actual Ferrari test drive (if you’re willing to shell out an extra $400-$500). It is also home to the world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, according to Statista.

Ferrari World was not that impressive to me. I would much rather go to a place like Universal Studios than Ferrari World because there are many more things to do at Universal. The entrance was also super expensive at $100 a person, with most rides costing an extra premium. My opinion of Ferrari World, of course, may be harsher than most, because I do come from the birthplace of the world’s most popular amusement parts, Southern California.

The Formula Rossa ride, though, was quite unique. Opened to the public in 2010, Formula Rossa is the world’s fastest roller coaster, according to Statista. The max speed is around 149 mph, which doesn’t sound that fast on paper, but is when you experience it in person. The ride lasts only one minute and 32 seconds, but is worth the ride for any thrill seekers out there.

To be honest, I was not that nervous before getting on the ride since the ride didn’t look that bad. There were no flips on the track, and it was pretty straightforward. It wasn’t until the ride started that I realized how fast 140 mph on a roller coaster really was. The ride experience is scary, but it was over quick, and thank god it was.

Overall, I really enjoyed the UAE, and because I did not have the time to explore it all, I would love to go back in the future if I can. In the five nights that I spent there, I was exposed to a new culture of fully modern architecture and a sense of luxury.