Dubai stopover - Kidzania, Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall

BIG - that's one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Dubai. The minute we set foot out of the airport we are slammed with the heat - it's BIG heat.

Aussies will say "meh, I'm used to heat" and I generally am. I grew up in a country town which hits mid 40's every summer. Maybe it's because we've just stepped off a plane coming from Australia's winter, but the heat feels different.

It's over 40 degrees Celsius and within minutes the boys and I are welcoming the air conditioning of the taxi we've jumped into which takes us to Dubai Mall.

Dubai Mall
BIG - actually it's the world's largest mall based on total area. As we get out of the taxi I pull my camera out to take a photo from the outside and instantly my lens clouds over from the humidity. We quickly go inside and then stop. Yes, it's big, but suddenly I'm a little overwhelmed. Those who know me know that I'm not a shopper. Truly - I'm not a mall person, preferring shops opening out to the street, and I've never been a compulsive shopper, I'm just not interested. I don't do shopping days with the girls. I have quite a few girlfriends who "just can't leave without buying something" - I don't get it. Dubai Mall must be pumping something through the air conditioning because suddenly all I want to do is spend, and spend BIG. I don't, but I do drag the boys into one or two dress shops till I get a grip and clear my head. We're here specifically to go to KidZania and I locate a help desk for directions.

Walking through the mall I make a note to self - if we ever come through here again, save more money, come up with a $number for spending, quadruple it and plan to leave with an extra suitcase of stuff. There are shops and labels I haven't seen before, or have only seen online, window displays are inviting. If you are a compulsive shopper and are trying to cut back, don't come here! If, however, you love shopping and are coming to Dubai, then you'll be in paradise in Dubai Mall! I don't know what it is, but Dubai Mall brings out an inner shopaholic I did not know I had.

We spend a bit of time watching the fish behind the giant aquarium wall which is free to view. The Aquarium was something I'd considered visiting but despite being one of the largest in the world, I wanted to do something we've never done before in our short time here, and we've been to many aquariums. The boys' jaws drop as we walk by Candylicious but we move on (OK, maybe just one small lollypop each) and head straight to KidZania.

I will say it up front - this is one of the best places we've ever been. I can not emphasise how much the kids loved it. The idea behind KidZania is one of role play, where kids take part in adult activities such as having a job, driving a car, cooking, shopping and more. KidZania is a small city built to child-sized scale.

There is a functioning economy with an official currency - kidZos. Children earn money by performing a service or job - in the bank, salon, supermarket, emergency service or dozens of other occupations. The money can then be spent within KidZania on shopping, food and entertainment. Before performing a job or task, kids must learn about it first. Everything is hands on, but only for the kids. Parents are not allowed within any of the businesses and establishments - kids only!

Upon entry to KidZania, the kids are given a passport and some kidZos to start them off.

Our first stop is to the pizzeria which is timely following the last meal we had on the plane. I stand on the other side of the shop window and watch as the children are given a demonstration on hygiene and food safety, given hair nets and wash their hands.

Each child prepares their own dough and selects their own pizza toppings. Pizzas are cooked, the boys are presented with certificates and we find an outdoor cafe to sit down and eat. I am genuinely surprised - the pizzas are good!

Next the boys want to drive. There are two tracks - one for under 6s and one for the older children. First the boys need to get their drivers licences which are hard plastic photo licences, then each heads to the track appropriate for his age group. I am not allowed in the licence office nor on any of the tracks.

Mr 5's track is more about reading road signs, obeying traffic lights and pedestrian crossings as he is directed around the track.

Mr 8 is quite excited as his age group gets to drive on the race track. He is fitted out and he and a competitor race. Proud mum moment as he wins his first rally in Dubai!

What the boys really want to do is get behind the wheel of a real race car and take to the streets!

Emergency services are active in KidZania, but education first - to get onto the fire engine means learning about fire safety.

KidZos can be spent at the theatre or shopping. The square in front of the theatre is currently set up as a football field as the World Cup is on. Fairy floss counts as afternoon tea (well, it is HIS hard earned money I guess).

As well as professional roles, there are also plenty of activities to enjoy leisure time including games, arts and crafts for various ages. Mr 5 is keen to do some craft while Mr 8 heads off to the bar (game room) where Mr 5 joins him a little later.

I go into the game room to see what the boys are up to and can't believe I have been kicked out of the bar - for being OVER-age!!!!

In total I think we spent about 4 hours at KidZania and I think we only did about a quarter of what was available. We make our way out via the gift shop where the boys each choose a t-shirt. The only reason we left was because I'd pre-booked tickets to go up the Burj Khalifa then we had to get back to the airport for our flight to Paris. If we are ever near a KidZania again (I think there are something like 16 around the world), I'd actually plan an overnight stay and spend two days there. Highly recommended!

Burj Khalifa
BIG - again! The world's tallest tower is accessed via the bottom level of the Dubai Mall. We leave KidZania and the signs throughout the mall are pretty clear which way to go to get to the tower.

We make our way to the queue for general admission ticket holders. I purchased these tickets online about a week ago which is less than a third of the price if purchased at the door on the day. A limited number of tickets are sold for each half hour time slot from 8.30am until 11pm and are available a month in advance. Ideally I should have booked 3-4 weeks ago as when I booked last week only a few time slots remained available. I would have liked for us to have gone up during daylight then watched the sunset - next time!

There are various multi media information displays on the approach to the elevators which are interesting with facts and figures about the construction of the Burj Khalifa and history of Dubai. The boys were starting to feel pretty tired after a long flight and hours at KidZania, but they have been re-energised and excited about going up the world's tallest building.

We went up at 9pm so it was already dark, but the observation deck offers stunning views over the lights of Dubai. The boys and I are mesmerised. There is no cafe on the deck, but there is a gift shop which sells much needed bottles of water. I buy a shot glass (I collect them from wherever I go around the world) and that's all we purchase here before we head back down.

Outside we get some food in the food court then walk around a bit but my camera doesn't like the humidity so it remains in my bag. We head back to the airport around midnight and find seats near our gates. The boys lay on the bench either side of me with their heads on my lap and they sleep for a couple of hours while we wait to board our overnight flight to Paris. I am exhausted, but remain awake until our flight starts boarding.

Quick stopover in Paris
We all sleep on the plane, undisturbed until the plane starts its descent into Paris. By the time we leave Charles de Gaulle airport we have a few very casual hours in Paris. A close friend is also in Paris at the moment and while our paths don't cross (she and her family had other commitments), we use her hotel room to freshen up and feel a little more human and awake. We munch on crepes in a cafe and walk around a bit to keep ourselves fresh until it's time for the final leg of our journey to Croatia.

Julia xo

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