This is Part 6 of my Dubai Marathon Trip report. This part will cover – DUBAI!
Dubai (and the UAE as a whole) is known for having famous things. Some of those things are: Tallest Building (Burj Khalifa – 2700 feet tall), Largest Indoor Ski Resort (Mall of the Emirates), Biggest Mall (Dubai Mall – biggest area), Largest Mall (Mall of the Emirates – with the most stores), World’s Only 7-Star Hotel (Burj Al-Arab – over $2,000 a night), Tallest Residential Building (Rose Tower – 1,092 feet), Biggest Archipelago Ever Made (Palm Islands), and Largest Building (Dubai International Airport – in square footage). This is just in Dubai! So, there is a lot to see and do in the city!
I was only going to be in Dubai for 23 1/2 hours. I really wanted to make the most of it, but I knew I would need some sleep and also had the race in the morning. The marathon committee had just chosen a place for packet pickup two weeks before the marathon, so that wasn’t very convenient for people like me that had been waiting to see where it was going to be so I could try and arrange the pickup. As it turned out, the hotel they chose, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, was farther from the airport than I had imagined. I knew my flight arrived at 3:30PM (it turned out, it was more like 3:45) and I had to clear immigration and get to the Marriott by 5PM to pick-up my packet. I e-mailed the race official and asked what I should do, explaining what time I was getting in. They said if I didn’t make it, they could pull my packet and I could pick it up race morning. However, I was told I would have to be at the starting area before 5AM to get it. Because the race started at 7AM, I really did not want to get there that early. So, my plan was to get to the Marriott as fast as possible.
The first hang-up in my plan was passport control. They had multiple windows for the usual categories – citizens, foreigners, flight crews, families with small children and those needing assistance, and first class/business class passengers. I checked the length of the lines and decided I would go with the first class line (which I could because of my ticket – I would never cut a line like that). I did what I normally do with lines and picked out three people in the general lines that were right in front of where I would be had I went in those lines. This way I could torture myself with seeing which way was better. Turns out, I was in the wrong line – it took forever! It should be noted that it was called the fast track lane. The three people I picked out cleared their lines a good 25 minutes before I cleared. I was in line for 45 minutes – not good! Finally, I reached the front of the line and gave them my new passport. I was only there for one minute and then on my way.
I knew there were a couple of options to get to the Marriott. One of them was Dubai’s very efficient metro line. Another was a bus and yet another was a taxi. I never take taxis because of cost and really shy away from them on the whole. I prefer public transit, unless I am renting a car. As I walked into the arrival area, though, I saw a booth for Marriott hotels. I went up there was greeted pleasantly by a lady who gave me a cold bottle of water and welcomed me to Dubai. I asked her what the best way was to get to the JW Marriott Marquis (there are two JW Marriotts in Dubai) and she said it would be a cab. I told her I wasn’t staying there but just had to pick up my marathon packet. She told me she would take me to the cab line because the hotel was new enough that the driver might take me to the wrong place. She insisted I take the bottle of water even though I told her I wasn’t a guest at the hotel. She hurried me through the airport and up to a cab and explained where I was going. She had been so helpful that I tried to give her a tip which she refused to take.
The cab driver navigated the famously busy Sheikh Zayed road with ease. This highway has 8 lanes and is very busy! I was staying on the opposite side of the road from the marathon start and had just planned on walking across. I was told that would never happen and now I believed it as I saw the road and traffic! When we left the airport, I had 20 minutes to get to the hotel and the driver did it in 10 minutes. The cab fare (with my tip) was less $12 so I thought it was a great deal given the time I had.
The JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is the tallest hotel in the world (being in Dubai, I began to get use to the words biggest, tallest, longest, richest, etc). Fortunately, I only had to go to the second floor. The official I had e-mailed had been so proactive that she had already pulled my packet and I had to find her to get it back. Since the pickup point was closing, I didn’t really have anytime to look around. That was ok, though, because it did not appear to be an expo like we are used to. There were no vendors to be found.
From the hotel, I knew I had to go to the Dubai Mall for a couple of reasons (none of which are that I like to shop) – I wanted to see the area where the marathon would start the next and visit Marathon Village, I told my kids I would bring them a present, I had to get pictures of the indoor aquarium at the mall, and I had to get something to eat. Because I wanted to see as much of Dubai as I could, I headed out on foot thinking it couldn’t be that far. Tip: Never use the tallest building in the world as a landmark to discern how far away you are! Turns out it was a longer walk than I had thought! Also turns out that there is a lot of construction going on and the workers do not seem to mind a foreigner with a backpack walking through the area! 🙂
The Dubai Mall is a part of the Burj Khalifa and the whole complex is HUGE! It takes quite a long time to walk from the road to the mall. It was nice to see all the sights on the way down. I just wish I had had time to enjoy myself and check everything out. I have heard the view from the top of the Burj Khalifa is stunning but it would have taken too much time out of my night to do that.
One of the things that I missed being able to see was the Dubai Fountains. It takes place outside of the mall and is the largest dancing fountain show in the world (why not?!). During January, they were also running a special show at 8PM and 10PM that was supposed to be unbelievable. The crowd gathering for that was huge at 6PM! Again, had I had more time in the city, I would have definitely stayed around for this, but my body was starting to yell at me to get some food and I knew that food and sleep were going to be my best friends for the marathon the next morning (btw, I was still carrying my luggage, although it was just a backpack, because I had yet to find and check-in to my hotel).
I made my way through the huge crowd into the mall. I had seen someone eating some Tim Horton’s sandwich and asked them where I could find that. They said it was in the mall. Well, that is not the best direction for a place of that massive size! It was like a small town in there! Note: the Marathon did offer a dinner, but I didn’t want to pay the fee and use up my time at a sit-down pre-race dinner. I wanted to be able to see what I could quickly.
I made my way to the food court, hoping I could find some good, pre-race, fast food given the time. I found a Pizza Hut that had pasta dishes. Now, when I was thinking fast food, I thought I would get it in 5 minutes or less. I ordered the pasta dish with chicken and garlic bread (for a total of about $4) and the wait was 50 minutes! I have never waited that long for any meal anywhere, let alone at a fast food establishment. By the time I got it, I was sufficiently hungry so plowed through faster than what would be healthy (I think it took me like 3 minutes or something like that 🙂 ). It was now about 7:50, so I headed for the metro stop to get to my hotel. The walk over the pedestrian bridge to the metro area seemed like it was somewhere between 3/4 mile and a mile. I’m sure it was not that long, but it really seemed like a long walk. From there, the metro was just one quick stop (about $1) and I found my hotel. I have to say – the city was very clean and well-organized and did not at any point feel like a dangerous place (as far as crime goes). After I checked-in, I went down the street to grab some water and did not have a problem getting what I needed in the tiny market.
All in all, I found Dubai, in my short hours, to be a really nice city that I could have taken a couple of days to explore and enjoy. If you come here for the marathon (or for any other reason), make sure you plan some extra days around the race to be able to take it all in! To find some things to do, check out Time’s Top 10 Things to Do In Dubai.
Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.