A couple of weeks ago when our friend came to visit with her grand plan of traveling the world, I got excited and decided I would join her in the United Arab Emirates, where she would be spending two weeks. I booked my flight to Dubai and promptly headed to Ukraine, where I spent almost a week sharing an Airbnb with another friend from northern Italy just before hearing news of the coronavirus outbreak spreading in that region. Out of an abundance of caution, I contacted my doctor when I returned home, who suggested I self-isolate for 14 days in case I started exhibiting any symptoms even though my friend wasn’t sick.
I might have been tempted to ignore that advice and gone to the United Arab Emirates anyway when I saw the news that two luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi were under quarantine after some suspected cases of coronavirus had been discovered. So I decided to scrap my plans, and I sit here, out $400 for my flight and travel insurance (which, by the by, doesn’t cover contagious outbreaks). This is the United Arab Emirates vacation I would be on right now but instead paid $400 not to take.
United Arab Emirates Day 1
I would have arrived in Dubai at 7 am, before dropping off my bags at my friend’s fabulous hotel just inland from the Palm Jumeirah. Afterwards, we could have headed to the Dubai Miracle Garden, the world’s largest natural flower garden, where you can see unique creations like a flower castle, giant animals, Disney characters, floral clocks and a full-sized Emirates airplane.
When the morning warmed up, we could have gone to the public beach near the iconic sail-shaped Burj Al Arab, because it’s 80 degrees and sunny all week. I wouldn’t have a care in the world lying out on the soft white sand overlooking the Persian Gulf.
After washing off the beach, we might have gone out to grab a bite to eat at the Dubai Mall, perhaps even overlooking the Dubai Fountain. Around sunset, we would have gone up the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, to see what the city looks like before and after dark with all its glittering skyscrapers.
If we wanted to be really fancy, we could have taken the monorail to the Palm Jumeirah to have a drink at one of the pricey high-rise lounges. If we wanted to be trashy instead, we could have gone to the Barasti Beach Club for a beer and a nighttime pool party.
United Arab Emirates Day 2
On my second day in Dubai, we would have spent half the day at Global Village, which is like Epcot without alcohol. The park features more than two dozen pavilions that celebrate the culture and food of different parts of the world. We could have tried Turkish or Korean food and enjoyed the park’s iconic representations of Asia and Europe.
Then we could have had a drink on the Dubai marina (where alcohol is served) before hopping on the bus to Abu Dhabi on our way to a hopefully-not-quarantined luxury hotel. We could have had a relaxing evening strolling down Corniche Road, taking advantage of the warm breeze and enjoying dinner along the shore.
United Arab Emirates Day 3
On my third day in the United Arab Emirates, I would have spent the morning at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest in the country and one of the most beautiful mosques I’ve still only had the opportunity to see on Instagram. Best of all, visiting the stunning courtyard and its domed interior wouldn’t have cost me a cent because visitors are all welcome free of charge.
After the Grand Mosque, we would have gone to the Louvre, an international art museum – the largest in the Arabian Peninsula – which could be completely empty and it would still be worth a visit because the building is gorgeous. The museum is well-stocked, featuring works loaned by Paris’ Louvre and other museums in France.
United Arab Emirates Day 4
Before heading back to Dubai, we could have had breakfast at the Emirates Palace just for the opportunity to be surrounded by all gold and marble everything. There we could also check out the free exhibitions that are open to the public. The luxury Emirates Palace even has a gold vending machine, where you can literally buy grams of actual gold. I could have gotten the most expensive souvenir ever, though in all likelihood, I would have taken the bus back to Dubai to get my souvenirs at the spice or perfume souks there.
After a long day that started in Abu Dhabi and ended in Dubai, I could refresh with a shower at the Dubai International Airport, which I know to be equally fabulous as the rest of the country, before heading back home hopefully coronavirus-free.
That would have been my short, but exciting trip to the United Arab Emirates. Instead, I’m sitting in my apartment on a self-imposed quarantine instead of on this luxurious vacation. Maybe next year.