The World’s Largest Building – Exploring Dubai International Airport on a Short Layover

Dubai Airport DXBOn our recent trip from Morocco to the USA we flew from Casablanca (CMN) to San Francisco, California (SFO) we had a layover in Dubai. We explored the option of extending it for three days so we could stay at Atlantis The Palms – one of the worlds most incredible resorts, take desert safaris, and do more – we were extremely excited to have the chance to fly to Dubai and see a little bit of what has become a sort of super-grown-up Disney experience with man made islands, indoor skiing, and the tallest building in the world. Unfortunately, since my wife was travelling on a one way ticket and she is a Moroccan national – her visa application was denied – so instead of spending three days exploring the Emirates – instead we spent just about 8 hours in Dubai International Airport.

Now, I know that may sound terrible at first glance, and truth to tell we were a bit disappointed, but if you are going to spend 8 hours in an airport – DXB is definitely not a bad way to go. It was more like spending 8 hours in an extremely fancy mall where you have the option of relaxing in lounges, eating twenty different types of ethnic cuisine, and strolling past giant waterfalls, gardens and koi ponds. DXB is spread over more than 8000 acres and is the 3rd busiest airport in the world! The airport employs 58,000 people – more than most small cities hold around the world. Not bad for an airport that didn’t exist fifty years ago. The first runway, back in 1960 was made of sand – oh my, how things have changed!

Garden inside DXB DubaiThe airport has its own medical services, 2 5-star hotels, 2 health clubs, a business center, mosque, prayer rooms, dining halls, gardens, post office, shops, restaurants and is spread over four terminals connected by walkways and trams. While we only saw Dubai One, the tallest building in the world, from our seats on Emirates, we spent hours wandering through the largest building in the world by floor space which is Terminal 3 – the building is so big that you can scan your ticket to tell you where you are on an electronic map and then have it chart a course for you to where you want to go whether it is a restaurant, shop, post office, mosque, medical unit, play area, bathrooms, showers, hotel, or anywhere else you might need to go in a city – which is really what DXB is – a city of close to a half million people when the airport is at maximum passenger, crew, and staff capacity. A temporary city where the residents are always changing.

World's Tallest Building in DubaiWe loved Dubai and we never even left the airport! However, you may want to check things out a little further when you go to Dubai or if you fly through. For layovers, most nationalities don’t need a pre-arranged visa like Moroccans do, so you should be able to arrange a three to ten day layover with ease. There are a variety of awesome layover packages that start with accommodations for as little as $50 per day and go up to as much as you want to spend. While you are there, you can ski, surf, relax at the beach, explore the world’s largest buildings, the world’s largest man made islands, shop to your heart’s content, and let the Emirates blow your mind!

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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook