21 Hour Layover in Dubai: What to Do, See and Eat

A great flight deal to Southeast Asia from Emirates came with an overnight layover in Dubai. As a result, there was ample time to take in some of the signature sites of this futuristic city in the desert with 21 hours. However, this itinerary was during Ramadan where many eateries were closed until the evening. Therefore, we were only able to have one meal in this futuristic city. Thus, we only have one food recommendation in our write-up. Hopefully, we will be able to add more on a future visit!
The airport is connected to the city via the Dubai Metro, which opened in September 2009. Interestingly, the system is driverless and fully automated with two lines currently in operation. After setting down your belongings, head to the Al Fahidi station on the green line.

Dinner: Kebabs at a Family-Run Iranian Restaurant

Special Ostadi Restaurant

A brief walk up Al Mankhool Road led us to a piece of old Dubai at Special Ostadi Restaurant. Confusingly, the awning says “Al Ustad Special Kabab.”  The Ansari family has owned and operated the eatery since 1978. On the walls, there are photos of customers who have graced the dining room over the years. Under the glass of the tables, there are currencies from all over the world from pesos to dinar.
A combination platter of beef, chicken and lamb kebabs is a great way to tackle the menu. Accompanying the grilled meats is a choice of rice or fries. Initially, a cup of cool yogurt sauce, sliced tomato, cucumber, onions and limes arrive to whet the appetite. The fresh veggies are a great vessel to scoop the refreshing yogurt. Also, they are a great contrast to the meats fresh off the grill.
Complementary mint tea will round out the meal. At the end, be sure to grab dried dates from the large bowl at the counter after settling the bill.
Set your alarm to shortly after sunrise, as the necessity of an early start is twofold. First, to take full advantage of your precious hours. Second, to reduce exposure to the peak temperatures of the scorching Dubai heat.


An Early Morning Dip at Jumeirah Beach

Head to Jumeirah Beach, located near the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel. This structure holds the distinction of third-tallest hotel in the world. An early arrival to the beach will  provide the benefits of less oppressive heat and a smaller crowd.  The warm water is a nice change from the usual, but is still refreshing enough. Gaze through the sandy haze towards downtown and make out the towering Burj Khalifa, which will be the final stop.


Burj Khalifa: The Tallest Building in the World

A visit to Dubai isn’t complete without a trip to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, which was completed in 2009. For a smooth visit, book your ticket in advance via https://tickets.atthetop.ae/atthetop/Step0_BookingInfo.aspx. There are two options – “At the Top,” allowing you to explore the tower on the 124th floor and the “At the Top Sky,” granting you access to the 125th and 148th floors.

As you walk closer to the skyscraper, you can’t help but be amazed at the sheer height. Depending on when you go there may be less visibility due to the sand haze, but is still a worthwhile to view the city from the record-holding structure.

Depending on your schedule, you may be able to add some more to this itinerary. There is also the option of visiting the Burj Khalifa at night if you would like to have some extra time at the beach, or to explore more of Dubai.
Have you had a layover in Dubai? How long was your layover and what did you do with it?
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