Tuesday, 17 January 2012

10 Reasons To Visit Dubai

I've sort of fallen off the blog stratosphere the past week or so. I blame back to work blues, reprogramming my body to cope with a 9-5 lifestyle after the holidays and generally feeling "meh". January's a funny sort of month. A month for hibernating, for sorting out your finances while you wait for the ever distant January payday and for dreaming about warmer climes. Hence, my post... Arabian Nights. Going to Dubai last year was one of the best holidays/ experiences I've ever had. A lot of people have preconceptions about the country and are put off by the admittedly very scary horror stories, so I wanted to offer my experiences of Dubai as a travel destination. (I traveled to Dubai alone and stayed with a friend who is currently working over there. I flew with Emirates and stayed for 10 days.)

10 Reasons To Visit Dubai:

1) Single, white, blonde female in Dubai? 

The rumours aren't true. I felt just as safe in Dubai as I did back home. My friend was at work most days so that meant I ventured out alone... Took taxis, went to the beach, went shopping, ate lunch and went site seeing. At no point did I feel nervous or threatened. I also never felt the need to completely cover up. Shorts, vests etc are all acceptable. On the advice of my friend, I carried a pashmina in my bag just in case I ever felt it was necessary to cover my shoulders but ended up using it to deal with the super cold air conditioning.

2) Little girl, big city.

I have never been to a city like Dubai before. Most of my shock and awe was in relation to size: the size of my friends apartment building; the size of her apartment; the size of the shopping malls; the size of the food portions; the size of the Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building. Everything is big, big, BIG!

3) So hungry I could eat a horse.

I could not fault the food in Dubai. Whether it was eating a giant bowl of king prawns watching the dancing fountains in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa or eating quails egg sandwiches and chocolate shoes at a fashion themed High Tea at Raffles hotel. There's something to cater for every taste. During my ten day stay I sampled food as diverse as sushi to braai pork (that's South African for BBQ). I scoffed an Arabic feast of falafel and shish taouk (chicken kebab!). I was converted by my first prawn burrito (can you tell what my favourite food is yet?). I munched on mini burgers washed down with champagne and drank copious amounts of lemon and mint juice (a Dubai staple). Yum! And if you feel like eating in they even deliver McDonalds and Subway to your door!

4) Oh What a Night!

Every Tuesday in Dubai is ladies night, which means Ladies drink for free - hello champagne! We spent it at the Westin Hotel (alcohol can only be served in hotels) which had two gorgeous bars and definitely made the most of the offer. During my stay I also sampled happy hour at the Observatory (Mmm Mojito!) while I watched the sunset over the Palm Islands and had did Jaeger bombs at a Mexican restaurant called Loca with lots of South Africans. A lot of big DJs and Music Artists go to Dubai and there is something to go every night. Time Out Dubai lists "What's On" day to day so it is worth checking out before you go on holiday if you want to plan some nights in advance.

5) Life's a Beach.

I only "chilled" on the beach a couple of the days I was in Dubai. The locals commented on the fact it had just got cool enough to be able to enjoy the outdoors - It was still 35 degrees plus! My friend took me to a quiet spot which we virtually had to ourselves and wading into the sea was like sinking into a bath; absolutely gorgeous. I also went to the larger Jumeirah beach - think kite flyers, lots of beautiful families, thousands of white shells and a view of the Sail (Burj Al Arab - the seven star hotel).

6) Shop til you drop.

Shopping is a national pastime in Dubai. Everything from Potterybarn to Marks and Spencers can be found in one of the many, many malls. Dubai Mall is particularly impressive. Located in downtown Dubai it houses an ice rink, a cinema, an aquarium with a walk through tunnel that allows you to come face to face with several sharks and the entrance to the Burj Khalifa. It also allowed me to peruse the rails of Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and pretend for a moment I was Carrie Bradshaw. Worth checking out if you are brave enough is the Antique Museum but do not be fooled by the name! The Antique Museum is a located in what I can only describe as a warehouse. It is an Aladdin's Cave of souvenirs and curiosities and houses everything from Dubai tea towels to beautiful multi-coloured hanging lanterns. The building is divided into lots of different rooms which are interconnecting and never ending. Door after door, row after row of items with wildly decorated secret corridors leading from one room to the next. African masks and giant tigers lurk round every corner and mystical music provides the soundtrack to this hot and dusty treasure trove. The staff are friendly, if a bit persistent and give you free water to drink and a wet-wipe as you leave. I bought some beautiful tea light holders and a few hanging lanterns.

7) Old Dubai.

My friend took me into Old Dubai or Bur Dubai as I wanted to see the Gold Souk (Market). Old Dubai is a cacophony of noises and smells. There are shopping centers dedicated to the sale of gold and jewellery, lots of flashing lights and lots of people. Despite this, it felt a lot more intimate than the city centre. The massive glossy sky scrapers twinkle in the distance and frame Bur Dubai from all sides but this definitely feels more authentic, more Arabic. We took an Abra (wooden taxi boat) across Dubai Creek for about 20p to the Textile Souk. I picked up (yes, always shopping) little embroidered slippers made from camel leather and two wall hangings. We ate in one of the oldest restaurants in Dubai which had tables that over looked the Abras cruising back and forth over the creek.

8) You're gonna need a bigger boat.

My friends boyfriend owns a small fishing boat and kindly agreed to take me out deep sea fishing. I had no idea what this would entail but was extremely excited about it. Believe me when I tell you that the best view of Dubai is from a boat. You can see the whole of the coast line shimmering in a blaze of heat and it only emphasises just how HUGE the Burj Khalifa is in comparison to the other buildings. Not only that but boats are fun! Zooming at top speed across aquamarine waters while the wind whipped through my hair (I do not think it would be as fun in the North Sea). Chasing schools of frenzied feeding fish and holding aloft the Queen fish that my friend caught first cast putting all the males to shame! And finally, jumping into the sea to cool off... If you can get book a boat trip I'd highly recommend it.

9) Bali High.

Towards the end of the stay I had a Balinese massage. I went to the Dreamworks Spa in the Ibis WTC Hotel. This would be considered a budget spa in comparison to the other spas I looked at on Time Out Dubai but it had excellent reviews and all of the staff are from the island of Bali. I had a full body Balinese massage (60 mins) followed by reflexology (30 mins) for about £45 (depending on your exchange rate). It was the best massage I've ever had. I would definitely recommend doing something like this when you are in Dubai. It's too hot to lie in the sun all of the time and there are so many hotels with world class spas there is no reason not to finish off your holiday in the most relaxing fashion possible.

10) Reaching New Heights.

I have mentioned the Burj Khalifa in most of my ten reasons. It is hard not to mention it as it dominates the Dubai skyline and is truly and impressive sight both in terms of size and design. Whether it is twinkling at night or shining in the day, every time I stood in its shadow it took my breath away. I saved my journey up the tower until the end of my holiday. I would advise booking in advance as instant access tickets are extortionate! Tickets are roughly £15-20 in advance compared to £70-80 for immediate entry. You can see everything in Dubai from the viewing platform; Atlantis Palms, Burj Al Arab, the Palm Islands, the World Islands and my friends apartment! You also get an amazing view of Downtown Dubai and the pool which contains the Dubai Fountain which is also a must see.

Okay... so this has been quite a lengthy post which I'm sure will only interest those of you who have either been to Dubai or are considering going... I would go back in a minute! Hopefully you've enjoyed my account of my trip and picked up a few suggestions of where to go and what to see. Maybe the next time I go I'll be lucky enough to blag a night in the Sail or Atlantis Palms!

All photo collages created with photos taken on iPhone with Leme Cam App.

No comments:

Post a Comment