Sunday, February 15, 2015

Other Things I Did In Dubai

Good morning! I have been up all night and am seriously jet lagged, so I figured it was a great time to compose a blog post! :--)

Actually, it is since the house is still quiet and I have the time, but keep in mind my previous sentence if I happen to get off on some tangent or blather on about something. My mind isn't quite all there. It's kind of weird, because my trip to Italy 16 months ago went pretty seamlessly in terms of getting back on the Central Time Zone schedule, but I guess that is the difference to traveling somewhere that is 10 hours ahead instead of seven. Fortunately my work is closed on Monday so I have an extra day to pull myself together.

Anyway, I'd spent a lot of time and used a lot of blog space this week talking about my running exploits in Dubai, but I didn't touch all that much on the other fun things we did. While I only spent about an hour a day running, the rest of the time was full of activities and sightseeing. Most days I put more than 20,000 steps on my Fitbit, and last Sunday -- my first day in town -- I had more than 35,000! Needless to say, I slept pretty well too!

So here's a little gallery of some of the things I did while not running. I have a lot more pictures on my Facebook page, which is set to public (I believe). Or check them out on Pinterest.

Ready? Let's go!

*We had Lebanese food...twice! My wife Darcy works for a company that manufactures restaurant equipment, and over the last couple of years they have made a big move into the Middle East. So the show in Dubai, called Gulfood, was a big one for them. Which meant a couple of dinners, and since we were in the Middle East, it meant eating at Lebanese restaurants, which are really popular in Dubai.

The first night we went to dinner at a restaurant in the Dubai Mall, and the next night it was at a place along Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd., one of the main streets of the city. The dinner at the Dubai Mall was in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, the largest building in the world, and we also had a view of a pool that had a water show similar to that at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

The second night we were just down the way from there, and sat outside on a nice patio that was close to the street. It was a nice place to sit and lent to the opportunity to see a lot of supercars, like Porches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Since I'm kind of a car guy (more on that later), I loved it!

 The food, well, that was sort of a different story. I'm not saying I hated it, but it's an acquired taste for sure. Although I am proud of the fact that I tried some new dishes (I ate quail for the first time) and actually liked the seafood.

Although this seafood was really, REALLY good. They served Sea Bass cooked in this big salt shell, when it was brought to the table the servers actually set it on fire to soften the shell, then cut it open and cleaned and deboned the fish right next to our table. It was pretty cool. That was after they gave us some grilled jumbo shrimp, which I must admit was fabulous. Both had been caught in the Persian Gulf the day before!

As you can see by the table, the food was served family style and our table of eight had at least five servers that took care of everything. One thing I noticed the liked to do is if a dish hadn't been touched all that much or you hadn't eaten anything in a while, they would come over and just spoon something onto your plate as a suggestion to give it a try. Some was good, some wasn't, but overall it was a fantastic experience.

*I also went karting at the Dubai Autodrome. I've been an auto racing fan for over 35 years, since my dad took me to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1979. Since then I have seen the Indy 500 more than a dozen times and have attended several other races in the IndyCar series, as well as the Daytona 500. What can I say, I just love to watch things go fast!

The Autodrome is home to several races a year, and I know they hope to draw a Formula 1 race there someday. We made the trip over to the track because they offered several "experiences" -- the opportunity to do some driving in various types of cars. I went over hoping to drive in the single seater experience, but they were all booked up for the day.

Still, they were nice enough to let me sit in the Formula car they use for the experience, as well as an Audi R8. Let me not something really quickly...nice is a word I could use a lot to describe the people of Dubai. Everyone was so kind and so helpful and had no problem doing a little bit extra for people. It was quite refreshing.

Instead I went across the street to the Kartdrome and did a couple sessions of karting. Now, just for explanation, this isn't one of those go-kart places you go to at an amusement part or wherever, this was high-level stuff. They do a lot of elite kart racing there, so the facility was spectacular.

For the first time, I got to wear a firesuit, helmet, and other gear, which was pretty cool. The kart probably topped out at around 45 mph, which looks pretty fast since you sit so low to the ground. I ran two 15-minute sessions, and by the end of the second session I had improved my lap time by seven seconds and was actually keeping up with the other drivers.

Darcy took some video of one of my laps, which I'll put at the bottom of this post if you'd like to watch it. Overall it was such a great experience. There is a similar kart track about an hour from where I live and I think I am going to go down there this summer.

If you want to read more about it, check out my post on my IndyCar blog

*We went to the Burj Khalifa. I'm also fascinated by tall buildings. I remember seeing the Sears (I'll never call it Willis) Tower for the first time just after it opened, and I was just captured by it's awesome beauty. So if I go somewhere and there is a tall building, I try to go up in it.

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, at just over 2,700 feet, and the observation deck is the highest in the world at 124 floors, or 1,470 feet. Like many things in Dubai, it's something you have to see in person to believe.

It didn't disappoint, in fact it was even better than I had imagined. Before getting on the elevator there were several models and photos that showed the building in its various stages of construction.

Looking at all of those displays was really pretty inspiring. The entire Dubai skyline is a testament to what happens when you dream big and combine imagination and engineering. While all of that is easier to do when the money for such projects is literally flowing out of the ground, it's still awesome to see all of the people involved pushing each other to do great things.

The ride to the 124th floor took just one minute, and then we were outside on the observation deck. The
observation area takes up the entire floor, but only the part of the building that looks south is outside. I normally don't fear heights, but I admit it took a couple of minutes for my nerves to settle.

We were up there for about an hour and I took close to 75 pictures. This one is kind of son Matt ran cross country and track at Aurora Central Catholic High School (and my younger son Kevin will do the same next year), and their team name is the Chargers. So I took a Charger XC shirt up with me to put on for a couple of photos. I sent them to the coach and he was really excited to see
that I was taking Charger Nation (his name for the program) to international heights! :--)

One of the other things about the view from the building is that from the top you can see probably three to four dozen other buildings in one stage of construction or another. It is amazing the see the pace at which the city is growing. I spoke with some people that had been coming to Dubai for 10, 15 or even 20 years, and they too are amazed by its growth. One guy even said he remembers a time when camels walked down a two-lane road that today is a 12-lane (six lanes in each direction) superhighway!

*We went to the Persian Gulf. After having a really bad experience in Cancun three years ago, I am not a big fan of open water. Still, I enjoy wading into the surf and collecting date I have shells from the Atlantic Ocean (Pawley's Island, SC; Daytona Beach, Fla.; Cocoa Beach, Fla.), Pacific Ocean (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico), the Gulf of Mexico (Cancun) and now the Persian Gulf.

We went to a beach that is near the Jumeirah Beach Residences, a collection of hotels and condos near the Dubai Marina. It is a really nice place with shops and restaurants along the beach, and is pretty popular since most of the beach is public.

The water was nice and warm, and there were a lot of people there that day. We met a couple there from Rochester, NY, who were stopping at the beach as one of the last things they did before their flight home. It was also the only time I saw camels on the trip. Not something you see here every day!

If we ever go back, I want to spend more time at the beach. They had some boat trips stuff like paddleboarding at jet skiing that I wouldn't mind doing. Let me clarify, I guess, I don't mind being on open water, just not in it!

I could go on all day, but I hope this gave you a little more sense of the flavor of Dubai outside of their running scene. But before I go, I want to add a couple more pictures. Just a few blocks from our hotel was the Mall of the Emirates, which is a huge, beautiful place that we frequented many times. One of the things that makes the mall unique is it has an indoor ski hill inside the mall! Here is the view from both outside and inside. It was pretty crazy!

Thank you so much for coming with me on this journey. It was an amazing trip that I never in my life thought I would make, but now hope that I get to do again someday! I hope you enjoyed my writings and my pictures as to what makes the UAE a neat place. 


  1. Wow, Mike those are amazing pictures! Looks like you and your wife had a wonderful adventure together :)

    1. We did! Can't think of anyone else I would've wanted to have this experience with! :--)