• Nicole Reed

Year of Zayed

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

To commemorate the 100th birthday of the late founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE has designated 2018 as the 'Year of Zayed'. In January I was extremely excited to celebrate my birthday during such a monumental year. I am equally fortunate to have a friend, who is a kindred spirit, based there.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Emirates Airlines has a direct flight from Chicago which added to my joy because I hate connections! Dubai International Airport is pristine and silent (it is a "quiet" airport meaning no overhead announcements). The visa process was smooth and I was able to grab a cab immediately. Note: I was offered the choice between a female or male driver. The driver did not take credit cards but did except US dollars and provided the change in the local currency (dirham).

The most difficult decision was choosing a hotel because there are so many spectacular properties to choose from. My friend recommended I stay near the Palm. I finally chose the Grosvenor House near the Marina. The hotel was beautiful and the staff was top notch. The Concierge team even had flowers and cake delivered for my birthday.

Due to the jet lag and time difference (plus me bringing in my birthday dancing & drinking at Q43 in Media One) several of my meals were room service, which I did not mind because the food at the Grosvenor House was yummy. Here are some other spots in Dubai I enjoyed.


Buddha Bar
  • Mint Leaf - Upscale Indian restaurant in the Emirates Financial Towers with amazing food, cocktails, and views from the outdoor patio. Off the beaten path but worth the journey.

  • Buddha Bar - Luckily for me this hot spot was connected to my hotel so I didn't have to wait to get in. The decor is sexy, the vibe is upbeat, and the service & food are good.

  • Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara - This upscale seafood restaurant is located in the most expensive hotel in the city, The Burj Al Arab. I felt as if I was under the sea at the restaurant. The service was impeccable and the food delicious.

  • Indie - Located in the DIFC this restaurant & lounge is great for food, drinks, and listening to good hip hop music. Tell Brian from Tucson I said hello!

  • Caramel - Also located in the DIFC this spot is more "loungy" but the food, drinks and music makes this a good no key spot.


  • The Burj Al Arab is one of the unofficial symbols of Dubai. This five-star luxury hotel is the third tallest hotel in the world. You have to be a guest or have reservations at one of the restaurants to enter the property. I ate at Nathan Law and had drinks at Gold On 27. Opulent!

  • Mall of Dubai - I could have literally spent the entire day at the mall and I almost did because it was so massive it was difficult finding an exit. It has every store you could possibly imagine and then some. They even have a Garrett's Popcorn!

View of the Burj from the bottom
  • Burj Khalifa - You can ascend to the 125th or 148th level of one of the world's tallest building. Great photo opportunities and best to go during your visit to the Mall of Dubai since they are connected.

  • Gold Souk - My friend put me in touch with someone to escort me around the souk which can be quite overwhelming. I was looking for a piece that would uniquely remind me of my Dubai experience; yet many of the pieces are the same from each shop. If you want a custom piece allow two days minimum.

  • Beach - The sunset from the beach is quite beautiful. Also there is camel back riding and other aquatic excursions.


  • Friday Brunch - The weekends in Dubai are Friday and Saturday. Friday Brunch is a huge thing in Dubai and there are numerous options.

  • Dessert Safari - Next time around I will stay at the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara and possibly do the safari tour and dinner.

  • Spa - I love to be pampered and Dubai has the reputation of being home to some of the best spas and hammams in the world. I will definitely carve out one day to treat myself to a few treatments.

Things I noted about Dubai. Smoking is permitted and rampant in restaurants and bars which takes some getting use to since many cities in the US ban smoking.


One of the best decisions I made was to spend a few days in Abu Dhabi.

  • Louvre Abu Dhabi - The main driver of my decision to visit Abu Dhabi was the opening of the Louvre in November 2017. I love museums and the Louvre in Paris, which is possibly the best in the world. Therefore, I assumed their first collaboration outside of Paris would be amazing. I was not disappointed. The two museums are not similar, yet impressive in their own rights. This museum feels fresh & airy; yet sleek & contemporary. The building is stunning and the exhibits are a perfect blend of East meets West.

  • St. Regis Sa