There isn’t a city in recent years that has captured the world’s imagination more than Dubai. From a sandy pearl fishing village to a global commercial hub, in under 50 years, Dubai has changed the face of the Middle East.
Home to the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, an indoor ski slope with real snow and some of the fanciest hotels you’ll ever book into, everything in this city competes to be the biggest, boldest and brightest.
And if that’s too much for you, relax on a lounger by a pool and enjoy a resort style holiday, it is after all a city on the coast of the Arabian Gulf. Dubai is a true multicultural hotspot and a cosmopolitan way to explore the different cultures of the Arabian peninsula and the Middle East.
Where to start? From teeing off on international golf courses to hiring jet skis, outdoor types won’t get bored. Shoppers have the world’s biggest mall on their doorstep at Dubai Mall or if it’s culture you’re after head to industrial Al Quoz for the city’s surprisingly vibrant art scene. Or just relax, book yourself a spa ‘ritual’ at one of the many five star spas and be massaged and spoilt for hours.
We could write a whole guide on just this section. For a beach resort head to the areas around Dubai Marina or Jumeirah. The Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is located on the Palm and has one of the largest and most luxurious spas in the Middle East with three traditional hammams.
To be near the shops, book into a hotel in Downtown. For a more budget stay, Al Barsha has chains like Novotel and Ibis. B&Bs and boutique hotels don’t really exist here, but XVA Hotel in the cultural heritage area Bastikiya is a small, locally inspired, design lead property.
There are endless fine dining options in every hotel in Dubai but for something a little different try Al Nafoorah at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on Palm Jumeirah, and taste local Emirati dishes in Arabic splendour, Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire in Festival City is a once in a lifetime molecular gastronomy evening or book into Pier Chic for a romantic seafood meal out at sea.
At.mosphere, in Burj Khalifa, is the highest restaurant in the world, pop in for an afternoon tea and see just how spread out the city really is. Local café chain Lime Tree Café serves unbeatable carrot cake for when you need a breather.
The Metro is useful (and very cheap) but the stations can be a bit of a walk from your final destination. Beige coloured cabs are the most popular form of transport and can be booked or hailed. Ladies only taxis exist and are flagged bright pink.
October to April is the best time to visit, although January can be wet and windy, if not cold. The summer months see temperatures soar well above 40C with up to 90% humidity, so is best avoided.
The traffic. From bad drivers to the rush hour traffic jams, Dubai’s roads might be new but they’re a hassle.
A new development, the beachside mall at The Walk, Dubai Marina has revolutionised the beach going experience in the city, with beachside cafes, facilities and ice cream sellers.
Sundowners. Find a beach bar and snap the quick sunset around 6pm almost every day of the year. Jetty Lounge at the One & Only Royal Mirage is a refined, elegant option.
Brunch has been taken to new levels in the city. It really means an all you can drink and eat feast every Friday lunch time. While not cheap it’s probably the only time you can combine everything from lobster, curry, Champagne and anything else your stomach fancies in one sitting.
Dubai is geared up to be family friendly. There is so much geared for kids, from interactive play brand KidZania at Dubai Mall to kids’ meals pretty much everywhere. Sadly breast-feeding in public however remains a little contentious, be discreet.