UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
With only an 8 hour layover in Dubai on our way to Africa, we had to decide if we wanted to spend our time roaming the duty free shops or if we wanted to get a little taste of the city. I'm so glad we opted for the latter!
From the airport, we took a local train to the mall, which is right in front of the Burj Khalifa. The walk from the train to the actual start of the mall is pretty long, so keep that in mind if you're carrying luggage. It was probably a good 20 minute walk.
We really wanted some authentic Middle Eastern food, so we scoured the mall. All the fancier restaurants were packed, but we happened to find one that had only 2 or 3 groups inside. I figured it probably wasn't one of the better restaurants, but boy was I totally wrong. I ordered a chicken shwarma plate, and it did not disappoint. OMG. It was so tasty and lemony, with still feeling light and healthy. The things I would do to have that meal again... After dinner, we headed outside the mall to a man-made fountain, where the show was about to begin. Being from Chicago, I had seen fountain shows numerous times at the Buckingham fountain, but this was unreal. Dubai really does do everything bigger and better. The show was a spectacle that got everyone's attention. Then it was time to head up the Burj Khalifa! I think we went at a perfect time, close to closing because there was maybe two other couples up there. We had plenty of time and space to take in the views and enjoy ourselves. Again in Chicago, I had been up to the top of the Sear's Tower and the John Hancock center, but this didn't compare at all. You definitely feel like you're at the top of the worlds tallest building. It would have been cool to go in the day time and really see the vastness of the landscape, but it was still very cool at night.
Bottom line, if you have the time to explore Dubai, even for a few hours, I would highly recommend it. The food alone was a reason enough for me, but the sights made it worthwhile for sure.