How to do Dubai differently

March 22, 2013 by Flight Centre UK

Travel blogger Jai Yehai tells us the top things to do in Dubai, whether you want to see the main attractions or see another side to Dubai and do things a little differently.

Dubai City Beach

It’s probably the perfect stopover destination, poised physically between the Far East and Europe and offering the chance to experience a truly exotic world in between.

Dubai has morphed from nomadic trading route stop, to fishing village before becoming the planet’s favourite oil-rich power player – and a place where the luxury hotel is both King and Queen, and you’re the lucky consort.

Here’s how to see the best of Dubai and try something a bit different when the mood strikes too.

Shop

Just window shopping…honest.

Don’t kid yourself that you’ll come to Dubai and not join in the unofficial national pastime – shopping!

Dubai is all about the mall! From cute boutique shopping at Tigerlily and Petal at Dubai’s Wafi City Mall to big glam names like Harvey Nichols at Mall of the Emirates (that’s the one with the indoor ski slope don’t you know) and Saks Fifth Avenue at BarJunam Centre, every type of purchase is on offer here, so sharpen your elbows.

And fear not, yes you can stay at the malls too, so if the idea of being away from all those trinkets is too much just lay your head at the Kempinski at The Mall of The Emirates or choose to shop and sleep in a recreated souk with its own waterway to ferry you around, at Souk Madinat

Do it differently

You can get a taste of India at Meena Bazar, an area selling textiles, saris, bags and jewellery, get your gold fix at the tantalisingly-named Gold and Diamond Park in the Sheikh Zayed district or hit Deira’s Gold Souk itself where you’ll need to have your haggling head on, big time.

Sightseeing

In a place as vehicle-focused as Dubai (don’t even try walking anywhere) taking a Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing tour really makes sense, especially if you’re on a stopover and don’t have too much time on the ground.

The tour gives you a real sense of orientation and allows you to move around Dubai relatively cheaply and easily by day – and by night will take you to the see light and sound show at Wafi City.

But two words of warning; firstly the views from the top deck might be great but it gets pretty windy up there, so ladies will need to tie their hair back to avoid arriving at the next designer mall looking bedraggled!

Secondly, in a city with such little real history and few sights, the main stops on the tour are, you guessed it, more hotels!

Do it differently

Spend some time in Bur Dubai on the far side of the Creek where you’ll see Hindu Temples rather than temples to consumerism and you can marvel at the Grand Mosque and the Al-Fahaidi Fort, Dubai’s oldest building.

Eat

From the heady heights of the first Nobu to open in the Middle East to the restaurants bearing the names of every celebrity chefs you can think of from Gary Rhodes to Georgio Locatalli Dubai foodie scene leaves no stone unturned and due to Dubai’s alcohol licencing laws requiring bars to be attached to hotels, virtually every one of your dining options will be inside a luxury palace.

Do it differently

Check out the little local secret of Baskadia Nights serving Emirati meets Lebanese cuisine in a 1001 nights-style setting, tucked away in the city’s oldest district in a hard-to-identify sandstone building it’s worth the effort to enjoy an outdoor terrace that’s not connected to a 5 star hotel for a change – the catch is it is unlicensed.

Drink

Voted one of the top 100 clubs in the world by UK DJ Magazine, the name 360° says it all, this bar/club at the Jumerah Beach Hotel is all about outdoor panoramic views at a perfect coastal location overlooking the Buri Al Arab.

Or you could also go old school with a champagne tipple at Bar 44 at Grosvenor House Hotel – on the 44th floor of this 45-floor hotel, you’ll get great sunset views of Dubai Marina and Palm.

New on the scene is Fairmont’s trendy outdoor rooftop lounge, called Nine which will act as the perfect pre-cursor to a night at the Cavalli Club, there’s no better place to get in touch with the beating blinging heart of Dubai.

Do it differently

This one’s a little tricky, as the aforementioned alcohol laws mean you can only drink alcohol in places that have a licence, and those licenses are only given to bars with accommodation attached. However, there’s a very generous duty free alcohol allowance in the airport on arrival and non-Muslims are free to consume it in any private house, so maybe it’s time to make some new friends!

Hit The Beach

Dubai’s overdose of opulent hotel pools may give the beaches a run for their money but it’s worth feeling the sand between your toes on Dubai’s many miles of beachfront too and many of the big-name hotels have beach access.

There’s the Beckhams’ favourite pad, the over-the-top opulent Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa with its own private beachfront on Jumeirah Beach.

Or you can get lost in Atlantis on the Palm Jumeirah a hotel so large it virtually needs its own postcode – oh wait, its already on its own island. This jaw-dropping themed hotel is home to a marine and waterpark with the highest waterslide in the middle East, then go and dry off on the 1.4 kilometre stretch of sand.

Do it differently

If all the glitz and glamour gets too much you can head to the 106 hectare Al-Mamzar Park area, a real hidden gem which is perfect for getting away from the crowds with its five beaches equipped with lifeguards, changing rooms and sunshades.

Dubai Need To know:

  • Dubai is warm and dry year-round but reaches the dizzying heights of 45 degrees Celsius in the summer yet during Dubai’s so-called winter the temperature is a pleasant but mild 20C.
  • The currency is the Dirham, currently £1 buys you around 5.5 Dirhams
  • The official language is Arabic but virtually everyone speaks English
  • Dubai is the second largest of The United Arab Emirates – there are 6 other Emirates, each with their own unique flavour.

Follow more of Jaillan’s travels on her blog, Savoirthere.com and on Twitter.

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