In Dubai you can be whoever you want to be…
Dubai is a city that is all things to all people. It is possible to shop for what seems like forever, to sip cocktails on a baking beach, to ski a black diamond run, and skid down the sand dunes of a desert wadi in a dusty 4×4 all in the same day, almost. The only limits are in your own imagination. Here’s our favourite things to do in the UAE’s resort city, as well as some things you may not have thought about.
The beautiful Burj Khalifa spirals more than 800 metres into the sky, so high that when standing at its base it appears to stretch forever. As well as being the world’s tallest building, it holds the world’s highest nightclub, restaurant and observation deck, and the fastest double-deck elevators. You soon get used to hearing about all the largest, fastest, highest things that Dubai holds. A ride to the three levels of At the Top will allow you a falcon’s eye view of the whole, ever-expanding city that barely existed 30 years ago.
The Marina is one of the most famous areas of Dubai. The man-made canal city stretches along the coast of the Persian Gulf and is full of footpaths to dander along while gazing at the terribly expensive skyscrapers towering overhead. The Jumeirah Beach Residence, which can house 15,000 people, holds The Beach; a sprawling development of hotels, bars and restaurants. There’s also the Dubai Marina Mall if you would care to peruse the 140 different shops. But if shopping’s what you’re after …
… You must visit the Dubai Mall, the largest in the world. Opened in 2008, it quickly became the most visited building in the world. And it has literally everything. From haute couture to high street and make up to menswear, you’ll find it all under it’s vast roof. For those who find the whole shopping experience rather disorientating, there’s the aquarium and underwater zoo to visit, or the ice rink, or the 155-million-year-old fossil of a diplodocus at the entrance to the souk. Outside, the fountains put on a show (the largest of its sort in the world…) at 1 pm and 1.30, as well as every half an hour from 6 pm to 11 pm.
You can never know true beauty until you lie on the warm sand of a desert, staring at the vast expanse of stars overhead. Of course, rolling dunes for miles around mean there’s much more than the simple pleasures of spotting Sirius. Many tour companies offer the chance to hop in an 4×4 and spend the day skidding and sliding over the sand. Sand boarding and quad bikes are also available if you like to get even closer to the action. Often the days finish up with a spectacular sunset and a bedouin barbecue, at which point you will see hospitality like no other.
Perhaps skiing is not the first thing that comes to mind when you plan to visit a desert city. But the Mall of the Emirates holds the world’s largest indoor ski slope. Whether you’re a beginner or used to going off piste, there’s a run here for you. Each ticket comes with jackets and trousers, ski boots, poles, and most importantly, skis. Instructors are available, and if you time your trip right you might even catch the UAE Ski and Snowboard Championship. One thing you really shouldn’t miss is the chance to swim with the gentoo and king penguins.
Al Fahidi Fort is considered to be the oldest building in the city and houses the Dubai Museum. Built in 1789 of coral rock and mortar, the fort used to protect the town that lay here before the city exploded with life. The year that the UAE formed, 1971, was the year the museum first opened its doors. It displays and preserves the life of the region from before the discovery of oil. There are houses, mosques, souks, date farms, and examples of desert and marine life. It’s also possible to see how people made living off the sea before the wealth began flowing by diving for pearls.
Dhow’s are the traditional boat of the Arabian people so while you can find plenty of luxury yachts and ribs to cruise about in for the day, this is definitely the way forward. It’s possible to sail the whole way to Dibba in Oman through fjords and past the islands and back in a day. Often you get the chance to snorkel or dive to try and spot the dolphins, and you try a bit of hand fishing too.
The old town on the creek is full of souks and ancient buildings, including Al Fahidi Fort. The history of Dubai stretches back past at least 1587, when it was first recorded. The area is full of souks selling spices and anything else you could barter for. The old town also home to Dubai’s cultural scene. It’s full of galleries and popups, cafés, bars, music and festivals.
Aquaventure is one of the best water parks in the world. Full of different slides, pools and plunges to explore, there’s very few places like it. It’s possible to dive with dolphins, shake flippers with sea lions and practice your yoga in an aquarium. The whole experience is part of the Atlantis resort on Palm Jumeirah – the artificial island that stretches off the coast.
There’s plenty of sport to watch if that’s what takes your fancy. Cricket is massive because of the large Indian population – one day internationals and full tests are often held between countries such as India, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa. It’s the extreme stuff that really gets people going here though. Shark diving, flyboarding, skydiving and scuba are really where it’s at. There’s even the longest zip line in the world …
It might not be something you first think of when you visit an Arabic Emirate, but the nightlife in Dubai is huge. Only 15 per cent of the population is Emirati, and the largest contingent of expats is from India, with most westerners being from Britain. These are both nations that like to eat and drink. With such an international population the food is incredible and varied. You can eat whatever you want at good prices and excellent quality. Coya is highly rated to have a drink or two, as is Siddharta. And if you want to party, then it must be White Dubai on the rooftop of the Meydan Racecourse. Just make sure you get there before midnight.