The Thrills and Spills of Dubai

Rocketing from zero to 240 kmph in a mere four seconds, the ride brought us to 4.8Gs of force...

Dubai was a fitting spot to mark the halfway point of our journey. For one, it is a global crossroads, capitalizing on its location and abundant petroleum reserves to transform from a sleepy pearl diving port into a mega-modern city and a transportation hub between Europe, Africa and Asia. It is also a city of extravagance – well suited for celebration.

We were not the only ones in a festive mood that week. We met up with pioneering YouTube twins Jack and Finn Harries from JacksGap.

The four of us spent the week in Atlantis, The Palm, a luxurious resort that crowns the head of one of Dubai's most unique monuments: Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree. With a deluxe double room overlooking Dubai's modern skyline; we began our time in Dubai by exploring what the resort had to offer.

Alex and Marko with Jacks Gap

The resort's attractions follow an Atlantean theme, with aquatic decorations along the hallways leading to its stunning centerpiece - the Lost Chambers Aquarium, a hyper-blue 11.5 million litre tank brimming with 65,000 fish, sharks and rays representing some 80% of marine species found in the Arabian Gulf.

While most guests spend their afternoons staring through the glass, the four of us were invited to SCUBA dive inside the aquarium. For nearly an hour we swam through schools of fish and gams of (harmless) sharks before the most special treat – feeding a ray from our open hands. Afterwards, we went to the Aquaventure Waterpark where we almost lost our lunches on Poseidon’s Revenge, a water slide that hurls you down a straight vertical drop at up to 60 kmph.

However, there was much to experience outside our hotel. Dubai has a penchant for earning Guinness World Records, so we made a point of visiting the world's tallest tower (Burj Khalifa), the only 7-star hotel(Burj al-Arab), and a the largest mall on earth (Dubai Mall). But it was in Dubai's other famous mall where we had the most fun – snowboarding down the slopes of Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates.

Alex and Marko hit the slopes of Ski Dubai

Next, Finn, Jack, Alex and I drove an hour to neighboring Abu Dhabi to ride the world's fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World then race cars around the Yas Marina Circuit. We started with the roller coaster, strapping a GoPro on the front of the car to capture the moment.

Never have I screamed so loudly and so publicly in my life. Rocketing from zero to 240 kmph in a mere four seconds, the ride brought us to 4.8G of force (a human being passes out at 4.9) and brought me into an infantile state of terror. The picture says it all. 

After that brief moment of humiliation, we crossed over to the Yas Marina Circuit, home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. There we found a race-ready Aston Martin Vanquish waiting for one of us to drive – but one of us, no more. To settle the matter my brother and I raced the twins on a nearby go-kart race course, with the prize going to the winner... Jack. We watched from the sidelines.

No trip to the Middle East would be complete without a day in the desert. We started early and met up with Balloon Adventures Emirates for a sunrise air balloon ride over the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. For an hour we peacefully floated through the sky, past camels, gazelles and oryx... before the wind picked up and we had a rough landing that left our basket sideways in the sand! It was a thrilling adventure nonetheless and standard procedure for desert landings. Our captain, Peter, was marvellous to say the least - and quite a pilot. This experience is a must in Dubai.

The Thrills and Spills of Dubai

We then ripped across the desert on dune buggies with Delta Tours, weaving our way between immaculate rifts of sand before grabbing a snowboard and riding down a hillside. Perhaps a little too cocky from Ski Dubai, I ended up catching an edge and somersaulting through the sand!

For sunset, we went on an evening desert safari with Arabian Adventures, which took us deep into Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary for a falconry show and a visit to a desert camp for dinner, tea, hooka and a belly dancing show. 

Fun as they were, these activities only showed us a part of Dubai's culture and what it has to offer. Only a few decades ago it was a small port town centered around Dubai Creek, the remnants of which are still intact in the Al Fahidi Historic District

There we visited the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of peace and cultural openness through dialogue. Over a heritage tour and a local brunch, impassioned Emiratis answered our questions on the most important cultural values of the UAE and the greater Arab and Islamic world.

We walked away with a far greater understanding of our host culture and an even greater urge to travel farther into the Middle East to our next destination – Oman.

Would you like to keep up with Alex and Marko’s travelling tales? Keep an eye on the blog and tune into BBBtv

Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding