Editors note: this article was written in May 2015.
The story: After completing my first year of law school, I celebrated by flying to the United Arab Emirates and spent four nights in Abu Dhabi and five nights in Dubai.
The History: The UAE has a fascinating history with larger than life figures. Dubai went from a desert port city to an international playground for those with expendable income and a taste for drama! In an impressively short amount of time, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al-Maktoum literally and metaphorically "made the desert bloom". Check out Kerry McQueeney's article on the history of Dubai in photos.
The UAE is a federation of seven emirates(Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Sharjah, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Quwain). The UAE is ruled by an absolute monarch and has the seventh largest oil reserves in the world.
The Digs: In Abu Dhabi, we stayed at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. WOW. I've been to over 12 countries and I have never stayed at a nicer hotel. Everything was perfect about Jumeirah. I remember sitting in the lobby one afternoon after having tea and saying out loud, "Oh no, my phone is going to die" and a handsome man walks over with a tray and says, "Ms. Green, may I take your phone to charge?" I happily gave him my phone and he returns a few minutes later and says, "Ms. Green, a Laura has sent you a message, would you like to respond?" Lmfao when i say, "LUXURY". I could have stayed there forever.
The hotel was clean and bright. Natural light poured in from every direction further illuminating rooms already well lit from the bright smiles of the staff. The food was delicious and the drinks were freshly crafted cocktails full of sprigs of fresh herbs and freshly squeezed juice. Jumeriah changed my standard; today when i think of luxury I think of Jumeirah. Our hotel in Dubai was not even worth mentioning.
Worth Mentioning: I got super sick in Dubai. Some of the worst pain I've ever been in - and I am positive that my sickness tainted my overall perception and experience. I had a blast in Abu Dhabi, I was sick and simultaneously over and underwhelmed for the majority of my time in Dubai.
Abu Dhabi Tourism: I've been to my fair share of churches, mosques, temples, and religious spaces but oh my GAWD, the Sheikh Zayed Mosqueis unbelievable. The natural light, the pools, the gold inlay, the geometry - it is an oasis. I highly recommend going and taking your time as you walk around the mosque to take it all in. I also remind you to be respectful because as much as it is likely one of the best photo opportunities you'll get in UAE, it is also a local religious space for the devoted.
Dubai Tourism: Dubai is known for its malls. SO. MANY. MALLS. You could literally shop until you drop and still not get through the largest mall. We of course went to The Dubai Mall where we visited the highest observation deck in the world, which is in the tallest building in the world. I remember being at the top of the Burj Khalifa and thinking to myself, "what has the tallest building in the world ever done for humanity... ?" Anyway, don't forget your selfie stick. Try to go to a brunch or to have tea in the Burj al-Arab OR just go out dancing at a club where the Burj is your backdrop. And of course do a dessert tour, go sand duning, get some henna, ride a camel!
The United Arab Emirates are so interesting to me. Perhaps because of my personal affinity for the Middle East (and the beautiful men) or maybe because I love a good story of human will and capacity. My final recommendation is to really spend time understanding the customs and laws before you visit, ESPECIALLY as it pertains to social status of foreigners, gendered spaces, respect, and intoxication. Alcohol is illegal in most places, as is extramarital sex, lewdness, drugs...etc. Please don't get arrested guys.