Oh Dubai… It has been a mere 48 hours and you have SO won me over.
You have assaulted my senses with the most exotic sights, the likes of which I never would have believed I would be lucky enough to experience in this lifetime.
I still can't quite believe I am here.
It seemed like only last week that I received a phone call inviting me to Dubai and yet... Holy Cheeseballs - here I am.
After saying goodbye to my hubby and boys and wiping away my tears, I put on my big girl panties and climbed aboard the Emirates Flight bound for Dubai.
It only took 14 and a bit hours to get here. 14 hours or 12,042 kms to what feels like an entirely different world.
We arrived before the sun was up and the incredible Dubai Airport was just a mere hint of the grandiose that was to come.
Before the sun set on Day 1 my senses were completely overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, smells and scale that is Dubai.
After checking into my stunning room on the 37th floor of the incredibly beautiful Shangri-La Hotel I had time to shower and change and take in the magnificent view, before being whisked off to a traditional lunch at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.
It was here in the historic Al Fahidi District in Bur Dubai, that we sat barefoot and drank offerings of Arabian Coffee - a blend of lightly roasted Arabic beans, cardamon and saffron and sampled the locally harvested dates, all the whilst learning about some of the local culture, customs and religion of the United Arab Emirates and gaining a greater understanding of the Arab culture.
We dined on the most delectable spread that included among other things - Balaleet (sweetened vermicelli or Chinese noodles mixed with eggs and cardamon, saffron and yellow raisins), Fareeth (layers of bread, spices, chicken and vegetables) and Ligamat (batter deep fried in ghee and served with local date syrup - very similar to donuts).
Of all the things we spoke about over lunch, I was particularly interested in learning about the hows and whys of the abaya (long black robe), hijab (a head-scarf that covers the neck and part of the head) and the niquab (additional cloth that covers the nose and mouth) that many Emirate women wear.
I was fascinated to learn that it is not only worn for sun protection, modesty and privacy but to prevent gossip resulting from the behaviour of Emirate women in public. It is also worn by choice and not something (contrary to popular belief that is enforced by the men.
After lunch we took part in an amazing race type of activity that saw us break up into teams and explore the Al Bastakiya district.
In true Sonia style, Jen and I got lost in the back streets, distracted by the old souks and colourful merchants selling silks and carpets and the shoes with the curled up toes - just like the ones Carrie bought in Abu Dhabi in the Sex and the City movie.
The back streets of this area are a maze of traditional houses and courtyards, and it is very easy to lose yourself here.
The daily prayers bellowed hauntingly from the mosque towers all around us and despite being separated from the group, I have to admit, I was totally happy being lost in such an enchanting place.
Eventually we were reunited with the group, just in time fortunately to board an Abra - a traditional Dhow boat made of wood.
We crossed the Dubai Creek, passing the many fishing and trade boats before jumping ashore and disappearing into the maze of Gold and Spice souks.
I absolutely loved these traditional Arabic markets and I am hoping there will be some time for me to go back and explore them some more in the next week.
All this, and we are only at Day 1.
Whilst I am missing my boys and hubby and wishing they were with me to enjoy this too, I cannot wait for the days to come and I plan on soaking up as much of this incredible place as I possibly can during my time here.