Popping bottles from Madrid to Dubai

 

1. Fatima pouring mint tea at Riad 49, Marrakech, Morocco

13906690_10154355144467442_5577120639758455622_n

2. Mojito at The Royal Ascot, Berkshire, England

13887086_10154355144822442_7924165462907661652_n

3. Marrakech Martini at Nikki Beach, Marbella, Spain

13882080_10154355143912442_7524736420953903241_n

4. Eclipse, W Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

13872837_10154355143887442_148213290945274599_n

5. Fresh grapefruit juice at El Jemma el Fna Square, Marrakech, Morocco

13872764_10154355144852442_1593296595849839297_n

6. Shots in chocolate dipped cones in Madrid, Spain

13669129_10154355144457442_4692403732277352432_n

7. PARK bar, Lisbon, Portugal

11745673_10153490808482442_5123918198960704033_n

8. Aperol Spritz at Hotel Grand Bretagne, Athens, Greece

11745383_10153472277357442_2376600763466430516_n

9. Gravity Bar at Guinness Factory, Dublin, Ireland

11221758_10153452868687442_6312216233483762173_n

10. Super Paradise Beach, Mykonos, Greece

11209435_10153474541632442_1605215294489584126_n

The Sahara Desert is undoubtably the most incredible sight I have ever seen. Riding a camel in the middle of the desert, with dunes as far as the eye can see is a memory i’ll remember for a lifetime. Our tour company was absolutely incredible, Morocco Excursions Company.

1 - dunes with camel

The hospitality was one of a kind and they shared a kindness I have never experienced before. One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to know the locals and hearing their stories.  It started with getting picked up from our Riad – and from there we were on our way to a three day desert excursion!

Over three days, we made our way cross country from Marrakech to Merzouga, we had some pit stops along the way at some view points, berber villages and Dades Gorge.

10 - driver

Berber Villages

6

In Oaurzazante We were given a tour by a local teen, who worked showing tourists around the village him and generations of family had lived. He spoke 7 languages to be able to give people from around the world tours.

3 - oaurz

2 - oaurzazante

5

4 - oaur

Dades Gorge

Considered one of the top 5 craziest roads in the world,  Dades Gorge Road, Morocco Located way up in the High Atlas Mountains at the edge.

8 - dades gorge road

12 - dades

A village hidden in the mountains

7 - viewpoint

9 - view

Hopped on our camels (not so gracefully) and off we went into the depths of the Sahara Desert. Our desert guru, Aziz, lead our four camels to the Nomad camp, our home for the night.

13873213_10154355562367442_7731791672335862601_n

He knew the path by memory (keep in mind with no signs and no monuments to know where to go). He safely lead us to our camp site for the night.
11257936_10153411707037442_4394118079764385424_n

(quite the selfie master)

11196230_10153411707402442_2106089777815561626_n

13894982_10154355562147442_6766098122955043537_n

13882198_10154355562032442_2805198717746915743_n

13876252_10154355562327442_3472431823826810158_n

(Sahara at sunset)

We had a wonderful Moroccon meal filled with laughs, a drum circle, tajine and mint tea. It was such an incredible experience talking to the owner, Hassan, and the staff of Morroco-Excursion.

13887048_10154355562012442_6584427977603944705_n

(On the menu: tajine, an African stew of spiced meat + vegetables prepared by slow cooking in a shallow  cooking dish with a tall, cone lid.)

They were all born and raised in Morrocco. Aziz was once a nomad, wandering the dessert with his family and tribe, with no exact knowledge of time, days or ages. He spent his days without a cell phone and the tribe spent their free time playing music and games. We asked him what he would do with a million dollars and he said he’d buy a camel and a house for his family in Merzouga, the town on the outskirts of the desert. Hassan, the founder of Morroco-Excurison said that the first time he even thought of his exact age was when he signed up for Facebook and it asked him for his birthday date. He was born in the desert and there was no documentation of the date of his birth. Very interesting to be immersed in such cultural differences.

Not pictured is the fantastic beaming stars. I’ve never seen the solar system so lit up.

We went to bed in our nomad tents, where we each had a twin bed/cot set up.

nomad camp

(to the left are the bathrooms, surprisingly there was a toilet! To the right is home sweet home).

Caught the sunset at 5am

13892125_10154355403002442_1144616543641860779_n

After the sun rose, we were off for the 90 minute camel ride back to Mergouza.

13879402_10154355403127442_8385410264221298975_n

Masalama Morocco, until next time!

11401104_10153411714857442_4698343397882181413_n

You may have heard some tourist horror stores from Dubai, but realistically you need to respect the culture just like any other foreign country you’d visit. Many people imagine that travel within Dubai is much more difficult than it is. Some key facts: you won’t be constantly harassed, you are not always in danger, and it is safe to travel alone.

After living in the Middle East for 8 months, here are some tips for my fellow American women travelers planning a trip to Dubai:

Consume alcohol responsibly – but seriously, you could get arrested for being beligerent in public. You can only drink in 5 star hotels, since those are the only places with alcohol permits.

Dress modestly – you don’t need to wear a burka(veil that covers entire face and body, you will see Arab women wearing this) by any means, but don’t strut your stuff in a crop top and high waisted shorts. More modest=less unwanted attention and more comfort.

From the airport you can take a “pink taxi” which is a women only taxi system, driven by women drivers. Otherwise, I always felt safe in Ubers (which are a majority all white Lexus’). Tip: always sit in the backseat.

Don’t bring attention to yourself (being obnoxious) or overly unfriendly – this could cause the wrong message to men. Overall, be aware of your surroundings just like you would anywhere else.

Best time to visit is end October-March. The weather is bearable and nice to be outside in. This is the peak time to visit, but if you’re looking to go in the summer be prepared for triple digit temperatures and high humidity.

A city where you can visit the desert, hit the beach and ski on the same trip.

1. Burj Khalifa

Dubai is known for ostentatious lifestyle include setting records for the worlds largest and tallest records. Burj Khalif is the worlds tallest building in the world, standing at 2,722 feet. To get to the top, you take the worlds fastest elevator. Access is from the Dubai Mall, and you visit the 134 floor for about $60, or 160th floor for about $100. Tip: Grab a drink at At.mosphere, an upscale restaurant on the 122nd floor. There is no admission and you can grab a drink.

13775372_272432303112417_6561837665500353161_n

12923280_10154092151403624_5086650429525678171_n

2. Dubai Mall

A shopping paradise where you can find LITERALLY every store you could ever imagine. Check out a show at the Dancing Fountains. They run every 30 minutes and best of all – it’s free! Tip: grab a bite to eat or a drink at a restaurant overlooking the fountain and Burj Khalifa. I love Mango Tree, incredible thai food with a terrace with front row views.

12246663_10153947559102442_8695943093702431328_n

3. Souk Al Bahar

Across from the Dubai Fountain and the Dubai mall. It’s an arabic style shopping mall with antique, carpet and other miscellaneous stores. I got my henna done in one of the stores for about $60.

4. Indoor Skiing at Ski Dubai

The word’s first indoor ski resort which is over 240,000 square feet inside the Mall of Emirates. There are 5 slopes with varying difficulty and its kept at a brisk 30 degrees. If you didn’t pack your ski gear, there are rentals of snow boots, jackets, pants and helmets are available. Snow passes start at $70.

12963791_10154097441893624_9115373266522906165_n

5. Zip Line through Downtown Dubai 

An adventurous way to catch breathtaking views of Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai. Buy you tickets ($165) in the Dubai Mall at the ticket counter, next to Social House.

12928308_10154109610258624_1178678074260246572_n

12524233_10154097423588624_4150208473548671152_n

6. Dubai Miracle Garden

Experience Dubai in full bloom at the world’s largest flower garden. Tip: Go during the coolest part of the day, I went in the middle of the day and it was very hot. There are also cafes and places to get water, juice and ice-cream. Admission is $8, and it’s about 15 minutes from Downtown Dubai.

1916943_10153947559347442_4961317103772062681_n

12705649_10153947559252442_3667374848199677941_n

7. Desert Safari

I highly recommend Platinum Heritage Tours to experience the depths of the Dubai Desert. There are plenty of companies who offer tours throughout the desert, but I’ve heard some horror stories on unprofessionalism and an overall low quality experience. Platinum Heritage Tours is extremely professional with the best local experience, it’s priced a bit higher than other companies, but trust me, it’s worth it.. Plenty of packages and services to choose from, from Camel Safari to Hot Air Balloons.

9609_10154098238303624_6270316732505572185_n

12936504_10154098238513624_3911504436921189262_n

8. Rooftop Bars

Drinks and a view, look no further. Head to Level 43 Sky Lounge, Uptown Bar, Story or Rooftop Dubai.

13754629_272432343112413_2137947857826256334_n

12801542_10154090353678624_7365472295621472898_n

9. Dubai Marina

A man-made canal city which is built along a 2 mile stretch of Persian Gulf shoreline. If you’re sick of shopping – hire a Byky bicycle from the automated stations and explore the entire perimeter of the Marina in a fraction of the time it would take you by foot.

10. Soak up the sun at Kite Beach

A beach with a vista of the Burj A la Rab (the world’s only 7-star hotel). Whether you agree or not, it is Dubai’s most photographed and iconic buildings. You can get the best picture of it on the beach. Tip: Grab a drink at the hotel opposite of Jumeirah Beach hotel and sit on the terrace for an A+ photo opp. Grab a bite to eat at La Ola Beach Restaurant or Operation Falafel.

1897725_10153950007437442_2121694275276808670_n

11. Party + sunbathe at a Beach Club 

Unlike any place you’ve ever experienced – Dive deeper into Dubai at Zero Gravity, Fairmont Palm or Westin Mina Siyah.

12933008_10154092130333624_120744907699694875_n

(Fairmont Palm)

13567280_1056181134418550_200560404035699202_n

(Barasti – Westin Mina Siyah)

12. Friday Brunch

Fridays are the start of the weekend in the Middle East. Brunching is expats favorite activity. Most brunches are buffets which are opulent affairs, with unlimited bubbly/liquor and tasty food. All of these brunches are in hotels or 5 star restaurants, the only places to legally hold liquor licenses. Some of the best in the city are at: China Grill, Bubbalicious and Nobu. For a budget option, head to the Hive at Warehouse in Le Meridien Dubai.

12749878_1645168955736567_667691821_n