New Year’s Eve is a big deal to us. In 2013-2014, we got married on New Year’s Eve. Our wedding lasted from 7pm-1am and it was a party. Since then, we have made it a tradition to check something off of the bucket list every New Year’s Eve and/or New Year’s Day. In the past, we’ve gone dog sledding in the Québécois forest, seen the Northern Lights, swam with manatees and rang the New Year in at Epcot. Before we were married, we did the once-in-a-lifetime twelve hour wait for the ball-drop in Times Square. (Literally “once in a lifetime.” We would never do that again.)
This year, we decided to celebrate in the ‘Times Square’ of the other side of the world: Dubai.
We arrived in Dubai the evening before New Year’s Eve: our international flight was completely full, foreshadowing what we were in for. During the daylight hours of New Year’s Eve, Dubai actually wasn’t terribly crowded. We immediately found the mint lemonade I’ve been pining after since my last trip to the Middle East, then explored the City Walk and the malls, walking 7 miles (11 kilometers) before 3pm. We were jetlagged and tired and decided to go back to our hotel for a nap before getting ready for the night’s festivities.
When we left our hotel after the sun has set, Dubai had exploded into a frenzied crowd. Earlier that day while we were exploring the malls and taking in the sights of the Burj Khalifa, we had stopped by the Dubai Opera to pick up our “city pass” - this pass was going to allow us to enter the barricaded Downtown Dubai (where the Burj Khalifa and the festivities would be) later that night. Now, we were in our formal attire and headed downtown with our passes around our necks. Entire roads leading to downtown were shut down, as was the train station. The train, instead, dropped us off at the next stop, which was approximately another mile’s walk until we could reach where we would be spending the night: the Dubai Opera.
We had to follow the crowds to one of the only two, heavily-guarded entrances. The police were allowing families (anyone that wasn’t with a group of three or more was not allowed into the downtown area) and anyone with a pass like ours to enter. We had to fight through the crowd with our passes above our heads in order to finally get through. After we were through the first barricade, we were greeted by many more. The city was sectioned off: groups who wanted to view the fireworks for free were left in ‘ring 1,’ while the rest of us had passes that allowed us to enter other rings and get to the parties we had RSVPed for. It sounds organized, right? But it wasn’t. We walked a few more miles (our feet were tired and the night hadn’t even begun!) before we finally found someone who pointed us to the underground tunnel that would finally get us to the Opera.
The party at the Opera was stunning. The ‘dress code’ was “black and white with pops of gold” – Daniel wore a black suit, white dress shirt and a gold bow tie, and I wore a drapey black dress with gold, glittery lips. With our tickets came approximately $40 of free drinks per person, so we had more than enough champagne to go around that night; and the party had (perhaps my favorite part) free face glitter stations! The Opera is situated right underneath the Burj Khalifa, so we settled in for a night of dancing, eating, drinking and adorning our faces with glitter.
When the clock was about to strike midnight, the party moved outside, everyone excited to see the show. And a show it was! The incredibly impressive Burj Khalifa outdid itself with stunning fireworks, lasers, sparking lights, music and dancing water fountains at midnight. It was a moment to remember. Another incredible New Year’s Eve in the books.
But the night didn’t finish there. In fact, it went on for four more hours, because we had to figure out how to get back to our hotel. Dubai is set up very much like Vegas: super spread out and largely unwalkable. To get back to our hotel would be 4 subway stops, but it was a two hour walk. We attempted to walk the mile back to the subway stop that was open (in the opposite direction of our hotel) but the line to get onto the train had literally thousands of people in it. Downtown was still shut down, so no taxis or ubers were able to enter. We sat on the side of the road with hundreds of other people who had decided to wait out the barricades until the taxis could enter, but there was no clear time that that would happen and, an hour later, we just decided to start the two hour walk back.
When all was said and done, we walked nearly 17 miles (27 kilometers) that day. A big ‘eff you!’ to the injury and limited mobility I had this summer that ruined our previous world-traveling plans. When the taxis finally did start picking people up, we got into a car that we knew immediately was going to rip us off because he instantly turned off the meter. Insert eye roll here. We barely argued with him – just enough to pay 20 less dirhams then he originally asked for. (On a side note: why are taxi drivers throughout the entirely of the globe dishonest? What a strange phenomena.) But we didn’t even care, because we were back: 4am and 17 miles later, and we finally made it back to our hotel! A night to remember, followed by a night (morning?) of deep sleep.