Dubai is well known as playground for rich and famous, and for those of us struggling in working class Australia can mean that holidaymakers telling friends of a pending visit to Dubai can be suspected of a secret lottery win.
A recent reality though, is that the Dubai government are doing whatever they can to encourage international tourism, and the Emirate is opening up to people of all social status. With hotel pricing roughly the same as Hawaiian Islands, and flights departing daily from every major airport, there’s no reason to skip past it when choosing your next holiday.
If you’re after an adventure holiday, Dubai has so many unique options available; you’ll probably be quite surprised. From diving and snorkeling, hot air ballooning, hiking, skydiving, mountain biking, SUP, surfing, kayaking, ‘middle of the desert’ snow skiing (yes, that’s right – Ski Dubai has the world’s largest indoor Snow Park, an amazing 3000 square meters covered with snow – in the middle of the desert) and off-road motorcycle adventures, there sure is something for everyone.
Dubai has so many reasons to visit, and although it’s an ultra-modern tropical paradise it still thrives on its old world appeal through tourism outlets. Dubai is known for luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture and a lively nightlife scene. It is a city that must be seen to be believed. Record-breaking architecture stands alongside traditional quarters, while man-made islands jut out of the coastline.
From Burj Khalifa to Palm Jumeirah, here are Dubai’s must-see attractions to tick off your sightseeing list when you’re in town:
Standing 828 metres high, the Burj Khalifa is hard to miss. The world’s tallest tower naturally dominates the Dubai skyline, but the true majesty of the building is best appreciated up close or, even better, from inside. On a clear day, the view from the observation deck on level 124 is absolutely stunning, topped only by that of the view from the luxurious At The Top Sky Lounge on the 148th floor. And for those who would like to linger for a meal in the clouds, At.mosphere on level 122 is the place to be.
The Dubai Mall
Right next to the Burj Khalifa is The Dubai Mall. To call the sprawling development merely a shopping mall is doing it a disservice. Even an entire day spent here isn’t enough to see it all. Along with its 1,200-plus shops and 150 restaurants, the venue is home to an indoor theme park, an ice rink, a huge indoor waterfall, a choreographed fountain and a giant aquarium and underwater zoo.
A man-made island in the shape of a palm tree – there’s a reason why locals say ‘only in Dubai.’ Palm Jumeirah is one of the largest artificial islands in the world and a triumph of human ingenuity. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the Palm’s vast array of high-end hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, Fairmont, One & Only, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and, perhaps most notably, the iconic Atlantis, The Palm. And with a monorail running down the ‘trunk’ that connects to the mainland’s tram system, getting there couldn’t be easier.
Dubai may be famous for the glitz and glamour of its sky-high towers, but the real heart of the city is, and always will be, the Creek. The saltwater estuary is the original site where the Bani Yas tribe settled, and its waters were vital for what used to be Dubai’s main forms of economy: pearl diving and fishing. Today, the area is awash with the history of the emirate, as its home to the Dubai Museum as well as the labyrinthine alleyways of the gold, spice and textile souks. While at the Creek, a ride across the water on a traditional abra is a must, and at an unbelievable AED1 per ticket, it’s easily the best value tourist attraction in the city.
The Walk and the Beach at JBR
For those who like to shop, dine, see a movie and go to the beach all in one place, consider a trip to The Beach opposite JBR. With guest DJs pumping out the tunes on weekends, a regular open air cinema and a popular water park to entertain the little ones for an hour or two, JBR is always buzzing with activity.
The aptly-named Kite Beach is the perfect spot to test out your water sport skills, but there’s plenty to do out of the water at this popular spot, too! Grab a smoothie from one of the many open-air cafes and restaurants just steps from the beach, watch bikers and skaters fly by at the newly finished skate park or get into a game of volleyball. With plenty of beach activities, plus an awesome view of the Burj Al Arab, it’s easy to spend the whole day here.
Look into the future at the world’s largest man-made marina, Dubai Marina. Marvel at some of the world’s tallest apartment buildings as you stroll along Dubai Marina Walk or see it from the water as you set sail from the Dubai Marina Yacht Club.
Less than 20 minutes driving from the modernist streets of Downtown Dubai, you can experience the marvels of the Arabian Desert, the original tourist attraction of Dubai. Take a desert safari Dubai-style with dune bashing, quad biking and sandboarding followed by traditional barbeques, henna and camel rides. Or just drive out and experience the wonder of the desert on a drive of your own. Those looking for luxury should indulge in a Heritage Dinner Safari. Can’t get enough in a day? Treat yourself to an unforgettable night amid the dunes at the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa or Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in Bur Dubai is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. Best seen walking, this area offers a nostalgic view of a bygone era with traditional wind towers and a maze of winding alleyways. You can visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) where guests can take part in Arabic classes, heritage tours and guided mosque visits to better appreciate the local culture. After exploring, take an atmospheric abra ride to the souks on the other side of the Creek.
For an experience that marries tradition and luxury, come to Madinat Jumeirah. Literally translated as ‘City of Jumeirah’, this complex is inspired by an ancient citadel. It encloses luxury hotels; private enclaves built in the traditional style, the world-class Talise Spa, the Madinat Souk, Madinat Theatre, and 44 restaurants and lounges. You can also explore on traditional wooden abras to appreciate the waterways and architecture.
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience in Dubai, try the unforgettable gourmet experience amid the serenity of sand dunes. Enjoy an exclusive dinner in the desert. Desert safaris are hugely popular for tourists visiting Dubai, and for good reason. Most feature a mix of culture and adventure with dune-bashing, followed by a barbecue dinner in a desert camp with traditional majlis-style seating. But you can also dine out at award winning resorts with views over the Arabian Desert.
You can find out more about Dubai, where to stay and how to get there at: ww.visitdubai.com