Welcome to Dubai, the home of the ‘Burj Khalifa’, the world’s tallest tower at a soaring 830 metres, and the ‘Burj Al Arab’, rumoured as the world’s only 7 star hotel. The Palm Jumeirah an artificial archipelago shaped like a palm and extended into the Persian Gulf. Souks (ancient Arabic style markets) are commonplace, and the Emirates and Dubai malls cater for a huge range of shopping needs, ranging from teapots to travel guides. With so much to see and do in this economically and culturally rich city, here are our top tips on how to get the most out of your stay, and what to see and do during a Dubai holiday.
1. Take a trip to the desert
If you wish to see the desert, the best way to experience it is from the comfort of a Jeep whilst journeying across steep golden sand dunes. If you prefer more civilised travel, hot air balloon rides are available, which allow you to witness a desert sunrise from an altitude. In the evening, you will get the rare opportunity to sample traditional Emirati cuisine and sleep under the stars. It doesn’t stop there though, Camel rides are available, and so are horse rides, if you so prefer. Whichever way you choose, a trip to the desert is paramount in discovering the proper Arabic experience.
2. Visit, or at least witness the Burj Al Arab
The truth is there is no such thing as a seven star hotel. But if there was, this would definitely be one. With a lobby boasting gold leaf decorations, fountains in the foyer, and an endless selection of pricey restaurants to choose from, it is easy to see why this is the flagship of Dubai. If the luxury suits your fancy, but not the price, there is still an opportunity to gaze longingly at it, and the stunning view behind it, from the comfort of the beach whilst enjoying a cold refreshing beverage.
3. Uncover the secrets of the Souks
Dubai is well known for its size and scale, but also for its abundant, cheap gold supplies. This, and countless other market stalls are found in the Souks, or traditional Arabic trading markets. To get a real sense of the traditional Arabic way of life, be sure to visit at least one of these: experience the Emirati way of life, negotiate a price, and grab a bargain!
4. Shop at The Mall
Although Souks are commonplace, Dubai is also famed for its massive shopping malls, including the Dubai Mall (the world’s largest), which contains hundreds of both unfamiliar Arabic shops, as well as famous chain-shops from back home – so there will always be something of interest. Of course enjoy the shopping experience, but be warned – you can take up a lot of valuable sightseeing time browsing (or getting lost in!) them, so spend your time wisely. If shopping isn’t your thing, marvel at the colossal aquarium built in the middle of the Dubai Mall.
5. Visit traditional Dubai
It is also important to discover and remember the history of traditional Dubai. The old Dubai Museum, situated in the Al Fahidi Fort, gives an insight into the history of the great city, containing artefacts dating back to 3000bc. These artefacts tell a story of the Emirate, a citizen of Dubai before the discovery of oil and the mass construction of sky-scrapers and other incredible structures which we recognize Dubai by today. Alternatively, you can visit the Bastakia Quarter, an ancient Arabic city, now developed into art galleries and cafes.
6. Have fun at a water park
We know that sightseeing can be tiring, which is why we recommend that you take a break. A huge range of Water Parks are on offer, including ‘Wild Wadi’, a more child friendly park, and the waterpark at Atlantis the Palm, which is fun for all the family, where activities on offer include swimming with dolphins, deep-sea diving, or sliding down the ‘Leap of Faith’ waterslide; at an 84° incline through a shark tank it is only for the bravest of tourists.
7. Witness Dubai from the heights
Whether after eating your fill at a buffet at the top of Grosvenor House, or enjoying cocktails at Vu’s at the top of Emirates Towers, try to see Dubai from an altitude – it will not fail to disappoint you. The view of the Burj Al Arab at night with its colour changing lights is purely breath-taking, not even mentioning the view of the coast from the observation deck on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
8. Visit the incredible man-made islands
Dubai has astonished the world with its huge building projects, so we should have the courtesy of admiring them. Huge projects such as the man-made group of islands in the shapes of palm tree, 3 of them that span 800 football pitches each! If that wasn’t enough, a group of islands has been built 2.5 miles from the coast, constructed from over 321 million cubic metres of sand, and 31 million tonnes of stone – taking the shape of a scaled-down model of the entire world.
9. Walk along Dubai Marina
If relaxation is needed, take a leisurely stroll along the promenade of the largest residential area in the world – the Jumeriah Beach walk in the Marina. It is a perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal, whilst marvelling at the wonder of 36 residential towers overlooking you.
10. Relax at the Spa
If travelling or sightseeing has got the better of you, treat yourself to a luxurious spa day or weekend at spa resorts such as the Le Royal Meridien or the Habtoor Grand Resort, for that extra bit of R&R to get you back on the road to good health again.