A Girl's Guide to the UAE
pHOTOS & wORDS
november 21, 2018
The Middle East… equally elusive and enticing, I pounced on the opportunity to venture this hot region when a modeling gig presented itself in the glitzy UAE. With 4 nights split between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I managed to squeeze in as much culture and luxurious treats as I could between modeling “work”. Flying into Dubai, I found the city dripping in excessivity as sweat dripped down my spine, dotting the back of my conservative, linen button up on a 90 degree day. Fall in the UAE is still sweltering for non-locals, but the residents continuously praised the temperatures having dipped below the 100 degree mark. With the respite from sun, my first evening was especially pleasant, after a refreshing plate of sushi and sparkling wine at Zuma. I then ventured over to House Party for ladies night - I couldn’t pass up the 90s tracks and complementary Clueless themed drinks in this bar modeled after a typical American home, complete with a bathtub table and giant jenga in the “backyard”. Next I graduated to big city life, admiring Dubai’s intricate skyscrapers from the rooftop bar Level 43 Sky Lounge at the Four Points Sheraton.
The next morning I woke to a cloudless Arabian sky shining through the floor to ceiling windows at Zabeel House Mini, a new eco-friendly hotel in Dubai Creek. With one full day in the Dubai, before desert trekking to Abu Dhabi, I maximized my time starting with a zip through the Old City. Amongst the centuries old walls, I stumbled into XVA Art Hotel, a boutique hotel featuring a hip-cafe and modern art gallery. After necessary nourishment and visually stimulating tableaus, I ventured farther into town, making my way to the traditional textile souk. I meandered the market, but quickly found the merchants to be only a shade too aggressive. One attempted to lasso me into his shop using a lime green pashmina, which I narrowly escaped with a quick duck over to the stall housing what I came for: those beautiful, curvy Jasmine-esque slippers.
Weighed down with my purchases, two pairs of delicate flats, I made my way to the Palm Jumeirah for some sun and sand. Taking advantage of the plethora of “ladies” specials in Dubai, I spent a few hours at FIVE Hotel, which offered a two course lunch, unlimited drinks, and beach/pool access for about $40usd. As the sun sank between the buildings in the skyline, I took a taxi over to the Burj Khalifa. With 160 floors, the Burj is the tallest building in the world and a must-see for any visitor to Dubai. Savoring the view, I enjoyed cocktails and small bites at sunset in the At.mosphere Lounge before heading back to my hotel for an early night’s sleep in prep for what would surely be another long day ahead.
I rose early with hopes to enjoy a quick stroll in the Dubai Miracle Garden, but unfortunately, I drove 30 minutes only to find it closed for seasonal refurbishment. No matter - a good excuse to come back to the UAE! I then had breakfast at my hotel before my photographer, friend, and chauffeur (half-kidding on the last one), Octavio came to fetch me as we made our way to Abu Dhabi for an extravagant day yachting the Arabian Sea from Yas Marina. With 40 people on board (8:1 girl to guy ratio) I easily made friends with some other foreigners. We drank Coronas, picked up seashells, and barbequed on a cute little island, before turning the music up at sunset for a bit of dancing as we returned to the marina. After a quick bite and nod to our American roots at Stars N Bars, our now thoroughly bonded group of 5 spent the wee hours shaking our booties to a rocking 80s and 90s cover band at McGettigan’s Irish Pub. We fell into our respective beds at 3am with ambitions of a sunrise shoot in the desert.
Surprise, surprise, we didn’t make it into the desert at sunrise. But we did make it out a few hours later, before the sun became too high and unmanageable. A little woozy and dehydrated from the day before, I chugged water and coffee, occasionally sloshing into my lap as the truck mounted ceaseless sand dunes. The majesty of the landscape quickly distracted me from the hangover as I rolled around in the orange Earth for the camera.
With sand hiding out in the folds of my clothes, behind my ears, and in my hair, we made our way back to the apartment with a trail following behind. After freshening up, we met some more of our yacht friends from the previous day for a relaxed lunch at Tasha’s overlooking the bay. Climbing into a stranger’s Rolls Royce, we leisurely drove to the Yas Marina Circuit, aka the Formula One Track, where things accelerated pretty quickly.
I safely watched the race cars from behind a tall fence as they zoomed around the corner and then went out of sight once more at the following bend. Jittery with nerves, I climbed into a jet-black McLaren beside a very handsome Palestinian young man, who quite literally swept me off my feet as we sped around the track. But the romance was ill-fated, as I had a mere 12 hours left in Abu Dhabi.
Octavio and I then went to the mall for a quick look at Ferrari World, but mainly to pick up a souvenir and a LUSH bath bomb for some fun shooting in the bathtub. Back in the apartment, I reclined in a black pool of water which created the most eerie images - I can’t wait to show you guys. Then after a much-needed hot bowl of soup I drifted of for a solid 7 hours before rising for my return trip to Tbilisi.
All in all, 4 nights in the UAE was hardly enough time and just enough time… at the same time. Let me explain. This elaborate and intense, party-centric culture is very similar to Las Vegas. Both Las Vegas and the UAE are packed with adult-fun, but it gets very tiring after just a couple of days. At the same time, there is still so much I missed, such as the Louvre, Grand Mosque, and Dubai Mall. But I’ll make it back one of these days - and next time I’ll book in a bit of rest between the parties!
*Below: sneak peak from the Desert series, coming soon