Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Last year in August, my family and I visited my dad in Saudi Arabia and then traveled to Dubai. The preparation was a little chaotic because we had to get visas and I needed to renew my passport. I also had no idea how to pack seeing as I knew it would be hot, but I didn't know the extent of how covered up we had to be. After doing some research I packed my outfits, various shoes, and other necessities.
We had the longest flights ever, and a 7 hour layover in Germany. We finally arrive and it's just like a hot desert. We stayed on Embassy grounds and had a driver, which was nice, and we could pretty much dress how we wanted until we were outside of the gates. Women are covered from head to toe and men could basically wear what they wanted with few restrictions. So for the 3 days we were there we wore something called an 'abaya'. This loose garment covers everything from the chest to wrists and to the ankles. And even if you are not Muslim or from out of the country, you have to wear it or you could face serious repercussions. Things I learned while being in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; women are not allowed to drive, women are not allowed to speak to men (unless spoken to), women and men are separated, unless together as a family, in restaurants and other various establishments. If you are a woman, you basically cannot go anywhere or almost do anything without a man present. There are also no clubs, no movie theaters, and no alcohol. The only modernized source of entertainment outside of outdoor activities were the malls. The mall was where women were able to shop alone and men were the ones who were not allowed in some of the stores. There were also no dressing rooms to try anything on.
I think my favorite part was the market where you could find anything from little trinkets, to tailors to the gold souk. Of course I couldn't leave without buying some arm candy! Out there they are not allowed to sell gold under 18 karats, and its cheaper to buy it there. There were so many little stores, it took forever for me to find something I wanted to buy. I ended up with 22 karat gold bracelet and a ring, well worth it!
My dad also took us to eat brunch at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh which was pretty awesome, and another night we had a traditional meal with a whole spread on the floor. If you ever find yourself there and you like to drink hot tea, they literally have the best tea and you don't need honey or lemon or anything added; and its Lipton! Overall, the culture was very interesting, the food was amazing; everything from the falafel to the lamb stew!
Then we went to the UAE and let me tell you, Dubai is everything you imagined it to be! We stayed in an airbnb on the Dubai marina and had the most amazing view. There is so much to do, that the four days we spent there were just not enough. We had so much fun riding ATV's in the sand dunes, and taking a camel ride through the desert. We also took a very adventurous ride over the sand dunes in a van that was more like a rollercoaster than anything, but it led us to an amazing view over the desert and ended the day at a traditional gathering. The gathering was complete with more camel rides, a lady doing beautiful henna tattoos, to a traditional buffet style meal and an entertaining show.
In Dubai we were able to wear what we wanted, and I was finally able to pull out my crop top. They actually had more places to go. My sister and I found a club to go to, and most clubs are inside of the hotels along with them being some of the few places where you can buy alcohol. The club had a strict dress code and did not tolerate any funny business. They played music we listen to, so we had a good time.
The next day we went up about 60 floors at the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world. Again, an amazing view. This is a landmark you must to visit. Another great place to go is the Grand Mosque.
Walking up to the mosque was breathtaking. It was an elegant structure with beautiful interior and design. I have never seen anything like it before. No matter what religion you are, I encourage you to visit just for the experience. There was so much to do and see, we had a full schedule every day and still weren't able to do everything we planned. Among a few other adventures we were able to go to a 5 star hotel which had one of the grandest entrances ever, and our last day there we rented a GoPro and spent the day at the waterpark at Atlantis The Palm Dubai and rode the 27.5m Leap of Faith waterslide. I almost had a heart attack, but I would do it again in a heartbeat!
My experience in the Middle East was eye opening and very well worth it. I could go on all day about what I did experience out there, but there isn't enough room on the page to describe everything. I am just thankful I was able to have this unforgettable adventure! I hope you enjoy the photos! (i had plenty more,but lost most of them due to me having to reset my phone shortly after i returned to the states).
If you have any questions for me as to how and where I renewed my passport, and visa, or any questions about my trip you are welcome to email me and I will respond! Thanks for reading!