I admit the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country governed by sheikhs compared to Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, isn’t my favorite Gulf country and there is definitely a level of decadence and superficialness about the UAE that doesn’t appeal to me. For years I couldn’t really look passed these characteristics but recently I have learned to appreciate the country for what it is and I have come to accept that it is unique and has its merits. 

Location of United Arab Emirates

There are definitely a lot of activities and qualities about the UAE that separate it from other countries. Aside from this, it has incredible amenities for a very affordable price, and this was something I really appreciated after a recent 10-day trip in Afghanistan. Dubai is also a major transportation hub that I have used as a convenient base for travel and I have used it for this purpose for decades to launch into the rest of Asia and Africa. As a result, I have been to Dubai on numerous occasions, so I will only post about a few extraordinary places that I have visited in the United Arab Emirates.

Best Infinity Pool

On my most recent trip to Dubai in 8/2022, I booked a room at the SLS Dubai 5-star hotel with an infinity pool on its top on the 75th floor with sweeping 360-degree views of the Dubai skyline and of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. I am a sucker for infinity pools and when I first saw the view of this pool overlooking the city of Dubai, I knew this would be the perfect place to recover from a long trip in Afghanistan. I basically booked the hotel just for the pool. The downside is staff wouldn’t let me take photos with my DSLR. Evidently a permit is required and only cell phone photos are allowed.

Me Swimming in the Infinity Pool on Top of the SLS Dubai Hotel

1st Alcoholic Drinks in Weeks After Afghanistan and Pakistan

Me Swimming laps in with a View

Surfing in a Wave Generating Pool in the Desert City of Al Ain

On this trip on 11/2012, a friend, who lived in Dubai as an Emirates pilot, and I did a road trip across the UAE and into Oman. One of our favorite stops was in the desert oasis city of Al Ain. As two surfers, a newly opened wave pool-Wadi Adventures that generates waves big enough to surf was a mandatory stop for us. The pool was capable of generating head high waves and we booked the pool for 3 hours for ourselves for a very affordable price. Surf boards were rented with the package and before we could start surfing, we had to have a mandatory lesson with a young Filipina girl who just learned to surf. Then we were released to grab as many waves as physically possible for 2 hours. Since each wave was created to be identical with each other and the timing of the sets, and because we had no competition, we each caught dozens of waves each and by the end of our surf session we were exhausted. It was a lot more fun than I ever imagined considering these weren’t ocean waves. We even were able to surf at night for a little while with the backdrop of the desert mountains visible behind us. The only unfortunate thing was that I ended up getting water in my eft ear that I couldn’t get out for weeks and my ear became infected. An ear infection is not a fun thing to have during a two-week trip across East Africa.

Surfing the Wave Pool

View of the Wave Pool from the Distance

Al Ain is also an interesting place to visit, when not surfing waves.  it sits on the edge of a massive desert and there are some good opportunities to visit local attractions to see the real people of the UAE. These are a few photos from a nearby market in Al Ain where the local people in their traditional clothing go to buy food. It is one of the few places in the UAE, where I managed to see native UAE citizens in public.

View Over Al Ain from the Tallest peak in the Area

Beduin Women with the Traditional Beak on her Hijab to Disguise the Shape of Her Face

Market Place-Souq

Skiing Indoors in a Shopping Mall

Only because the UAE is rich with fossil fuels and is able to produce so much cheap energy, can you find a ski hill inside a shopping mall that generates snow when it is 110 degrees outside. This is the case in Ski Dubai in the Emirates Mall. The hill is big enough to have its own ski lift and the run is a lot longer than I expected. it is a great way to spend a few hours. The skis and jackets can all be rented since I imagine few people will be traveling to Dubai with their winter gear. It is funny to be skiing or snowboarding with dozens of others in the same rental uniforms.

Me Skiing in Ski Dubai on My First Trip to Dubai-11/2007

View of Ski Hill from Outside the Mall of Emirates

My friends Dan and Tim on a different trip at ski Dubai-3/2017

Some local girls I met in the Mall of Emirates during one ski trip

Manmade Palm Tree Shaped Islands and the 6 Star Burj Al Arab Hotel

11/2012: My Emirates pilot friend Evan had a place on the manmade palm tree shaped island- Palm Jumeirah when he lived in Dubai. When I visited him on our Oman and UAE road trip, I stayed with him in this place for a few days. From his place he had a great view of the 6 Star Hotel, the world famous Burj Al Arab hotel which is shaped like a sailboat.

View from my friend’s place on the manmade Palm Jumeirah-palm tree shaped island

Palm Tree Shaped Island Where My Friend Evan Lived

Burj Al Arab Hotel-too expensive for me

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