It’s amazing to think that the construction of modern Dubai didn’t even start until 2005. Fast forward and 148 towering skyscrapers reflect the scorching 45c (July, August, September) sun across the desert plains and the glittering blue Persian Gulf sea. I’ve been lucky to visit several of the world’s biggest cities but Dubai has definitely positioned itself as my favourite for sun, craziness and the sheer volume of activities.
Sunsets definitely make me feel good and seeing one in Dubai was definitely on my list.
The terrace at bar 360°, just behind Burj Al Arab, is a fantastic spot to see the sunset although it was being refurbished when we were there (feel good factor 7/10). If you’re not staying in a seafront hotel get along to the Marriott which has a viewing area that is free to access.
A fantastic way to get a different perspective of the Dubai skyline is to take a boat tour of Dubai’s waterfront at sunset with one of the many tour operators like Xclusive Tours (feel good factor 9/10). Major landmarks you’ll see include the Burj Al Arab, the Palm and the Marina. Even though construction of the Waterfront was halted there’s still a lot changing and it will be interesting to see how it continues to develop.
2. Exhilarating Sports.
Like everything there’s a huge selection available in Dubai and they don’t all need you to have nerves of steel.
We took the gentle approach with a ride around the sand dunes in a sand buggies. The desert can be up to 10c hotter than the city so the best time to visit is early in the morning. After an early drive out of the city we were strapped into our buggy and started an exhilarating ride across the desert. We stopped for some sand boarding too which was interesting, just watch out for the scorpions. Feel good factor 10/10, bone shaking 10/10.
Shopping whilst on holiday wouldn’t be top of my list but it’s worth taking some time out to see why it’s so popular here if only to get out the midday heat for a few hours.
With 1200 shops and counting you can do some serious shopping in Dubai Mall. With an aquarium, underwater zoo and ice skating there’s plenty available for families. You have to keep reminding yourself you’re in a shopping centre.
If you prefer something a bit more authentic it’s worth heading to old Dubai to visit the spice and gold souk’s. The frequent requests to go inside can be a bit overwhelming but don’t be put off.
If you’re feeling active there are a variety of options available including kite surfing, jet ski’s and surfing.
The extreme heat didn’t really put sunbathing at the top of our list, but we were staying on JBR Open Beach so took a dip in the 35c of the Persian Gulf. There are great facilities here including showers and toilets and kids play activities. If it’s cool you can take a run on the cushioned running track that goes along the waterfront.
5. Incredible Restaurants.
There’s a staggering variety of international restaurants such as Nobu and famous chefs to authentic local cuisine to try. And it’s not just served in your typical restaurant environment either. The Al Mansour Dhow dinner cruise takes you on an evening cruise along the creek whilst tucking into Indian and Arabic food. Not your thing? We didn’t make it unfortunately but head to the Burj Al Arab’s underwater seafood restaurant, Al Mahara, where the UK double Michelin star chef Nathan Outlaw is creating amazing seafood dishes.
If you’re after green, mountains and trees then Dubai probably isn’t the place for you. Although I love nature I love the buzz and energy that you get from a city and it’s architecture. White domed mosques sit nestled in between skyscrapers and the cobbled streets of the souks.
Watch the Dubai fountains against the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 833 metres. Although I hear Saudi Arabia are on target to beat it with the Jeddah Tower expected to be nearly 1000m. Plans for a new Burj in Dubai which will stand at 1200m are already underway.
7. The Food.
Our next door neighbours where I grew up were Arabic so I developed the taste for Baklava, dates and falafel at an early age. Although a lot of Arabic food is sweet there are plenty of healthy options available including grilled meats, tabbouleh and baba ganoush (roasted aubergine dip).
We stopped at the The Arabian Tea House for lunch on route to the spice souks. It’s cafe type menu of salad’s and grilled meat are accompanied by a vast selection of teas (feel good factor 8/10). The narrow lanes of Bur Dubai and its shoe-box size restaurants are a feast for foodies.
With the only 7 star hotel in the world, Dubai doesn’t disappoint with its choice of luxury hotels.
We stayed at the 4 star JA Ocean View which is modest by Dubai standards. We had a beautiful room on the 22nd floor that had a balcony overlooking the sea. It was a few minutes walk to outdoor shops and restaurants at the Walk at JBR and the tram.
These are so many great options to choose from but these are some that really stand out:
- Raffles, Sheikh Rashid Road, Wafi £££££
- Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf, Madinat Jumeirah ££££
- The Oberoi, The Oberoi Centre, Business Bay £££
- Grosvenor House, Dubai Marina ££££
- Kempinksi, Mall of the Emirates, £££££
9. Camel Racing.
Camel Racing is a big part of the Emirati culture and attending a race is hugely popular. The racing season is between October and early April. It’s on my list (to spectate!) for next time along with a visit to the horse racing.
OK, so this isn’t for everyone but we love fast cars. With Dubai police owning the fastest police car in the world, a Bugatti Veyron that goes 253 mph this is the place for supercars. Fortunately/unfortunately we didn’t get to go in any but the best spots to see them are cruising along JBR at the weekend, near the Mall and the Burj Khalifa.