One of the perks, major perks, of living in Bahrain is the travel opportunity. While some people choose to stay in the cozy land of sand, this girl and her family are committed to taking advantage of any little time-off Tad has to explore the surrounding countries…and continents. If you haven’t taken the time to look up where the Kingdom of Bahrain is located, here is a link: https://goo.gl/maps/KTqgmajsni42 Bahrain is so centrally located to so many countries within a 1-5 hour fly time, it makes the travel opportunities EPIC!
When we first started talking about traveling we decided we’d start close. After all, we did just fly across the globe with two toddlers. Not quite sure how flexible Trace and Izzy actually were to airports, layovers, airplanes, and sleeping in hotel rooms as a family, we chose Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as our first trip. Again, for those geographically challenged, this is where Dubai is located: https://goo.gl/maps/v7SmECooSmQ2 We figured this would be a good trial. If all went well, we’d take another trip, and another, and just keep the ball rolling. Fortunately, that is exactly what happened and ripping the proverbial band-aid off the idea of traveling with two toddlers was the best decision we’ve made so far…as parents. Hands down. Not joking.
In mid-August (just two weeks after moving into our new house, six weeks after moving to Bahrain) when Tad came home saying, “if we want to travel over Labor Day weekend I need to tell them tomorrow,” I initially panicked. Seriously? Tomorrow?! There’s nothing like a little external pressure to spend money on traveling to a new country in one day that makes me feel alive. My response to Tad, “Done.” Luckily that day I had Googled “Dubai aquarium” on a whim and discovered that Dubai has a beautiful, modern aquarium (in a mall of course). I had shown the kids at dinner. They were sold. I was sold. And when I showed Tad, he was sold too. That night after dinner I bought plane tickets to Dubai (a 45-minute flight from Bahrain) and booked our hotel room. We were off to Dubai for Labor Day weekend.
I’m not going to lie, the day we were supposed to leave for Dubai was a little chaotic and stressful given I was trying to pack as a minimalist, be a mom, get us to the airport on time, and learned our hotel reservation had not been confirmed. Yep, you read that correctly—no confirmed hotel the day of our flight. As it was getting closer to GO time (go pick-up Tad at work and head straight to the airport), I was less than put together as a mom or human being. Really, I was on the verge of, “I’m never doing this again.” Luckily, as I’m pulling out of the driveway to pick-up Tad, he texts me “Oh, I see that email about the hotel room. All I needed to do was click the link.” Aaaaaah. Exhale. I was praying that THAT was the extent of the travel hiccoughs…but as a recovering control-freak with very high expectations, I knew I was walking the line of high-strung-mommia. Note: the kids call me “mommia” a lot of the time. I love it.
Everything about this trip was new and a major adventure figuring out how travel in and out of Bahrain actually worked. Luckily, despite what the imagination can come up with, it’s very similar to traveling in the United States. There are well managed and well signed long-term parking lots that seemed “relatively” secure. Thank goodness we both have island beaters, so parking next to a Lexus SUV is the best theft prevention. The shuttle bus was a HUGE hit for Trace, as was every part of the trip that included seeing or being inside an airplane, construction vehicle, bus, or taxi. And despite the germaphobe in me totally freaking out as Trace drug his lovie across the Bahrain and Dubai airports, flying with the kids was really fun. We learned that traveling with two toddlers comes with its perks, especially if they are crying…extra free snacks on the plane and most importantly being shuttled to the front of almost any long line. Not that we can make our kids cry on demand (although we might need to start implementing a “travel only” cry command), but luckily Izzy cried at all the right times to be escorted to the front of very, very long immigration and customs lines. Thatta kid.
We hit Dubai hard knowing we only had two full days. The itinerary included: aquarium and Burj Khalifa (the tallest man-made building in the World). For those who don’t have a visual in your head of Dubai or haven’t checked Google images of Dubai just think of the Jetsons cartoon. You know the one with towering, space-ship like buildings, cars that fly, and everything state-of-the-art and robotic. That is Dubai. I didn’t see any flying cars (although I wasn’t going to be surprised if I saw one) but apparently, you can now request a “flying Uber” to pick you up. Totally the Jetsons.
Day one in Dubai was checking off the must-do’s. We went straight to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo located in the Dubai Mall. While Tad and I are not mall types, we definitely know a good thing when we see it and the Dubai Mall is ridiculous. I mean, there is a full aquarium and the World’s tallest man-made building in it. That should speak for itself.
The aquarium started with a beautiful underwater tunnel with fish and sharks the size of cars and it only got better. It was at the aquarium that we began to see the personality differences between Trace and Izzy. While Trace was fascinated he was also very, very cautious and a bit scared. Izzy, on the other hand, was our fearless, independent adventurer who had no troubles walking over glass bridges, feeding massive tuna, and walking up to the fish and crocodiles in the tanks. This difference was even more glaring at the top of the Burj Khalifa.
The Burj Khalifa is omnipresent in Dubai. You can see its needle-like spire towering from almost anywhere in the city and it is BEAUTIFUL! In a very luxurious middle eastern way the whole experience at the Burj Khalifa was over the top. One can choose to buy a ticket to the first observation deck at level 125 at 456 meters or visit At the Top, the world’s tallest observation deck on level 148 at 555 meters. There was no way we were coming to Dubai and NOT going to the top, so that’s what we did. It was worth every penny. If you’re going to be in Dubai, go big or go home. At the Top was breathtaking and truly an experience to remember. What seemed like a bustling huge city just moments below became a serene toy-like spectacle of a city plan, with no horns, no sounds, just the whisper of the breeze and classical Arabic music playing in the posh lounge. It was here that Izzy, like her mother, had no problems running straight up to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, while Trace needed to be carried until he warmed up to the idea that Izzy was not falling out of the building.
We did stop on the way down at the 125th level observation deck and yes, even that view was spectacular, but NOTHING like the top. Obviously, if you do not like heights the top is not for you. In fact, the 125th floor would be out of the question too. But for me, I love being so high. Insert giggles. I’m that girl who walks straight to the edge of the Grand Canyon and opens her arms wide to take it all in, maybe even throws myself on to my head for a glorious headstand or some random yoga pose to commemorate the view and vastness of it all.
Day one felt so complete and overwhelming all at the same time but we were so proud of the kids for hanging in, chugging along even when mommy and daddy were dragging them up to the top of the world during their nap time. We all celebrated the day with a fun swim in the hotel pool and a nice authentic German dinner at the only licensed Hofbrauhaus in the Middle East.
Day two, our last full day, turned out to be as amazing and adventurous as the first day. What began as a simple idea to go see the indoor ski slopes at the Emirates Mall turned into a whirlwind tour of old Dubai, the spice market, gold souk, and a sunset dhow (traditional wooden boat) ride. I have always scoffed at the tourist hop-on-hop-off buses because they seemed so obviously touristy, but that’s exactly what we decided to do. It proved to be a win-win for the kids who were melting in the 100+ degree sun and didn’t want to walk anymore but allowed us to see a lot of the city in an air-conditioned bus (even if we did decide to sit on the top level without AC). It was a blast and we got to see more of Dubai and old Dubai than we would have otherwise. Everyone was happy. Trace was ecstatic to be on a double-decker bus. Izzy got to nap on daddy. Tad and I got to learn a little history, take photos, and explore.
Needless to say, the kids crashed hard that night. Lights out. For Tad and I, our final evening of unexpected cultural surprises continued as we witnessed two wedding processions in our hotel. Talk about over-the-top. It was definitely fun to see another culture’s wedding reception. It made me really happy Tad and I did a small wedding celebration in Kauai. One last surprise for the day was spotting a Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay on the Marriott’s wine list. Woodinville wines represent!! I was so proud.
Overall, our trip to Dubai was truly amazing and worth the initial freak out session. Before we even departed Dubai, Tad and I were planning our next family vacation which would be approximately one month away. In good ‘ole plan a vacation in one day, because Tad needs 30 days to get clearance and approval, that’s what I ended up doing for our trip to Oman. Until next time, keep your eye out for the hashtag #DrakesinBahrain on your social media feeds.
And for those who didn’t get to see all our photos from Dubai on Facebook, here you go (I hope this works): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154191505733073&type=1&l=042b5c61c1
One last thing…Izzy is the best ice breaker and show stopper in the Middle East. #likeIzzy