I have never been inside a mosque, so when I read in the guidebook that there are guided tours of the Jumeirah Mosque, we really wanted to visit. The guided tours are arranged by The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding every day except for Fridays at 10 a.m. You don’t need to reserve anything, but just show up 15 min before the start of the tour to pay the fee of 20 dirhams (5€). It is a plus if you have clothes that cover knees and arms, but you can borrow an abaya and a scarf from the mosque.
My friend gave us a ride to the mosque and because of the traffic we managed to get there maybe 3 minutes before the start of the tour, but we weren’t even the last ones. 😉 There were about 30-40 people gathered at the “reception”, but the visit guide has a microphone and we get the mosque just for ourselves for the visit, so you could hear and see really well.
First the guide explained how muslims do the ablutions before entering the mosque and 10 volunteers could follow her instructions.
After that we removed our shoes, took the head scarves and followed our guide into the mosque. We sat on the carpet and listened to the explanation about five pillars of Islam, cultural aspects of Islam and how Muslims pray. The tour lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes and was very interesting especially for a person like myself, who knows just the basic things about Islam. We also got to ask questions for the last 20 minutes, which was very interesting. I wish there were even more time for questions. It seemed that some of the visitors didn’t speak English very well, so they asked the questions, which were already explained by the guide.
After the tour we went to a Starbucks across the road to get some breakfast, because we didn’t have time to do it in the morning. Luckily there was wifi, so we could google what to do next as we have still not managed to come up with any travel plan. 🙂 We decided to go to the Bur Dubai area, which can be considered being Dubai old town. We managed to catch a taxi and asked to take us to Dubai Museum.
The Dubai Museum illustrates the history of Dubai and the area. It was a relatively interesting place, but nothing mind-blowing. Luckily the entrance fee was 3 dirhams (0,80€). Most of the exhibits were scenes from the past illustrated with mannequins.
I found these mummified bodies from Al Qusais Tombs to be the most interesting. The one skeleton was lying on its right side in a crouched position holding a small vessel in the right hand. The other one contained two skeletons lying on their sides facing each other in a crouched position. Their legs and hand were intertwined indicating that they were probably husband and wife, buried according to special religious rituals and social habits.
After the museum we wandered around Bur Dubai a bit. There was an old souk (=market), which looked interesting, but it turned out that there were guys every 5 meters offering fake designer bags. They also sold some pashminas, shoes, fabrics and some knick knacks. So yeah, a market atmosphere, but not really my thing.
When exiting the souk we decided to walk to the nearest metro station, but let me tell you that the Dubai old town isn’t that old and I very much prefer the new town. 😀 So this is mostly what we saw and also there were almost no women anywhere. Everywhere were fabric shops and even they were filled with men. Not that the situation was threatening or anything like that, but it’s just weird to see only men block after block.
We headed once again to Dubai Mall because we had actually managed to make some plans the day before and bought tickets to Burj Khalifa to visit the 125th and 124th floor viewing deck at 5:30 p.m. But before that we needed to grab some lunch, so we found a restaurant at Dubai Mall called Social House and had some salads there, which were quite good. The weird thing was when I had ordered a lemon ice tea, I got an ice tea with a lemon sorbet scoop on top of it! That was the first for me. 🙂
After lunch we had about 1,5 hours left before our time for Burj Khalifa, so we decided to look up the entrance to the building. And here where the lack of preparation bit us in the ass once again as we headed towards what we thought was Burj Khalifa entrance, which it actually turned out to be, but only for people living in the building. 😀 So us and one other couple were walking there trying to find the entrance and failing. Luckily there were some security staff whom we could ask. They laughed at us and told us to go back to the mall. 😀 But at least we got to see some nice scenery. 😉
Oh, the funny thing was when I tried to buy tickets from their website using my iPhone, I could only see the VIP tickets for the level 148, which cost 500 dirhams (128€), but when we switched to my friend’s laptop, we could buy the less expensive ones for 124/125th floor for 200 dirhams (51€). I’ve heard that the view isn’t much different and the difference in price is significant. In hindsight I would’ve booked fast track tickets if I’d known how huge the lines are. The immediate entry admission ticket cost 300 dirhams (77€), but it saves literally 2 hours of standing in different lines. First we had to stand in line to get tickets even though we have booked and paid them online. So it’s not that they would just read QR code from the cell phone screen. So that took something like 15 min.
We also booked the admission for 17:30 and you get to go and stand in line 15-20 minutes before your allocated slot. That takes again 15-20 minutes depending on how fast the security line goes and whether there will be fast trackers or guided groups in front of you. Then you stand in line for the elevator to go up, which is again 15-20 minutes. After that you get up on the elevator, which luckily takes only 77 seconds. 🙂
We figured that we would get up early enough to watch the sunset, but when we finally got up it was already after six despite that we were at the mall at five. So the first hour is spent just standing in various lines. The view from Burj Khalifa was very nice though even in the dark. Dubai often has a smoky/hazy background, which I’m not sure what it is. Maybe smog or maybe just the sand from the desert as the air seemed to be very much breathable. So there is glare from the light inside and some dust outside, so the view isn’t super clear.
The worst line was yet to come. And it’s the one to get down from the freaking building. I’m pretty sure that this line took at least one hour of waiting with some crying children and pushy elderly people, who had no idea how to stand in line. When we finally got down and out of the mall, we saw that Burj Khalifa is also illuminated from outside. Sometimes it just twinkles and sometimes actually changes color.
One more thing worth visiting at the Dubai Mall is the fountain, which was amazing! They have a couple of performances during the day, but between 6:00pm and 11:00pm they have a show every 30 minutes. Unfortunately every show lasts just for one song. So while the show is truly gorgeous, it doesn’t last long. We had the pleasure to listen to Adele’s James Bond theme song Skyfall and watch the fountains dance according to it. This was way cooler than Las Vegas fountains. 😉
After this we wanted to get something to eat and well, the mall was right there. 😀 We stumbled upon a dim sum restaurant called Ping Pong Dim Sum and they seemed to have a decent selection of vegan options, so we just decided to get in and didn’t regret it. The food was delicious! Also every place in Dubai seems to have a good selection of non-alcoholic cocktails, which are very good. Also all the good restaurants seem to be either in hotels or in malls, which feels kind of strange from my point of view, but it’s just we don’t have good food in malls in Finland. 😀 Hotels, maybe, but still the best places are independent restaurants.
Anyway, after dinner, we took a metro back to my friend’s place. Luckily her apartment is close to a metro stop. Taking a cab is of course an option, but evening traffic in Dubai is something crazy, so metro is much faster. We came home and spent several hours talking. I haven’t seen my friend in years, so it was great to catch up.