You just double-tapped your friend’s selfie with Burj Khalifa on Instagram, your cousin tweeted her shopping experience at the Mall of the Emirates with the hashtag #mydubai and your mom’s discussing places to visit in Dubai for the upcoming family holiday. Yes, Dubai has unapologetically grabbed everyone’s attention as the one-stop destination for fun, entertainment and leisure offering any visitor the largest and most over-whelming experiences ever to take back home. And for the faint-hearted, nearby Dubai getaways like art museums, old coastal towns and monuments keeps one equally gratified and amazed as Middle Eastern hospitality meets modernism at every step.
Start your trip working up a sun-kissed tan under the Arabian Sun while you kitesurf along the Jumeirah beach stretch or jet-ski around Palm Jumeirah. Catch the high tea spread at the Al Fayrooz Lounge at Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah as you sink into colonial style armchairs overlooking the stunning Burj Al Arab from the outdoor terrace.
Cool off at Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East with activities like snowboarding, skiing or take it sipping hot chocolate at minus 4oC. For an all-inclusive family fun book your tickets for the Dubai Dolphinarium. Experience a spectacular action-packed live show with friendly dolphins at their acrobatic best or get your picture-perfect moment as you get a kiss from a dolphin at the meet and greet encounter. Take a late evening stroll along Dubai Marina and as the city dials up its nightlights, make your way to Dubai’s party stretch on Sheikh Zayed Road. Top picks are Cavalli club or The Act for its ambiance, experience and DJ lineups. The traditional finale to the night is a manakish (local Arabic bread baked with a topping) piping hot from a stone oven from Al Reef Bakery in Al Karama, one of the oldest Lebanese bakeries open 24/7.
Dubai is a shopaholic’s haven offering the glamourous malls and the tucked in shopping alleys alike. For the time poor, the first stop is Dubai Mall, the region’s largest mall hosting the world’s top brands in one destination. Gold shopping in Dubai is also an experience and we pick the Gold Souk, located in old Dubai. A dedicated souk area filled with tiny meandering lanes lined up with gold shops selling perhaps the widest variety of gold and precious stone jewellery under one roof. Just adjacent is the Spice Souk where you can’t miss the fragrant spiced atmosphere and historic architecture from shops holding strong from the 70’s. The stories of the city’s past unfold as you visit the little shops selling frankincense, spices, herbs and artifacts. Come out through the other side and you’ll find yourself at the brink of Dubai Creek, the oldest port still lined with abras, the traditional wooden ferryboats.
And if you want something more artisanal and homemade then stop by any of Dubai’s trendy and hip pop-up markets. Shop with a feel good conscious about purchases that are artisanal, local and original. One such market is ARTE where you’ll have to blink twice to believe paintings, fashion, trinkets, bakes and home décor are all handcrafted by the local artisans and enthusiasts. Truly a maker’s market, ARTE’s pop-up market is platform for hobbyists to showcase and sell their crafts. Finally, a place to test your haggling skills is the infamous Karama shopping market with shops lined up selling souvenirs, fashion and some darn good imitations of well-known brands.
If you’re crowd-shy and would like to explore beyond the eclectic city, then just under few hours by road Dubai has some great nearby getaways. Begin your day driving towards the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, an uber-luxurious hotel property sprawled with hectares of plush lawns and gardens. Indulge in the Palace Cappuccino known for its superior blend of coffee sprinkled with real 24-carat gold flakes. Next take a walking tour around the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque that will not fail to leave you overwhelmed with its architectural splendor, extravagant interiors and detailing. Abu Dhabi’s man-made Yas Island is destination adrenaline. An island at your disposal with pristine beaches, circuit track, Yas Waterworld, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and more, where true Arabian hospitality meets world-class entertainment. Located right in the heart of the next emirate is the Sharjah Arts Museum, with massive galleries hosting permanent and temporary exhibitions, a must-do for art enthusiasts. Drive eastwards towards Fujairah and you’ll soon see the landscape changing to mountain ranges and the picturesque coastal town of Khorfakkan. The white sand beaches and coral reefs attract divers or beach bums equally who appreciate a serene environment.
The range of hotels in Dubai comfortably caters to even genre of reason and holiday purpose. From super-luxurious ‘7-star’ properties to boutique hotels, take a convenient pick to suit your budget and experience.
So you’ve shopped till you dropped, danced the night away, eaten at the best restaurants and now what? Just when you think you’ve done it all, think again. For those who dare the alternative side to Dubai is surprising and equally eclectic. Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai’s art and cultural hub address, is the coolest hangout in the city nestled within the industrial quarter of Al Quoz. Spend a lazy afternoon gallery hopping and make a final stop at A4 Space, a co-working collaborative space, for some infectiously good coffee and creative vibes. Or perhaps walk around the Karama neighbourhood that has recently received a facelift by international graffiti artists by painting huge murals on the apartment buildings. This iconic old residential area is now the talk of the town with themes ranging from animals to abstract transforming the neighbourhood to the coolest graffiti spots in town. Slightly away from the city is the Al Qudra stretch of low-lying sand dunes is a popular outdoor site. Plenty of great camping pockets can be found slightly off road and as the sun sets bringing out the starry skies, you’ll just never know how close you are to civilization. As the temperature drops in the desert, set up the bonfire, bring out the picnic basket and get stargazing.
For daredevils, Skydive Dubai it is. Splurge a little extra on a tandem jump experience with professional instructors that offer the thrill of a free fall over Palm Jumeirah. The expressions and moments from the jump caught on digital camera are priceless. The evening can be a sit back and relax experience under the raw and live music scene of Dubai - acoustic, casual, lo-fi and pure talent. Attend a Freshly Ground Sounds event at one of Dubai’s community spaces and watch music enthusiasts sway to the rhythms of amateur artists performing away. Above all, a walk at the brand new Dubai Water Canal is the latest attraction on the block. An artificial canal that stretches over three kilometers will soon be home to plush public spaces, private marinas, hotels, restaurants and walkways. Check it out before it gets labeled touristy!
|Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates||DXB|