Gold standard: Dubai desert luxury
Dubai is a city known for its booming businesses, colourful nightlife and breathtaking buildings. This luxurious city sits smack in the middle of the Arabian Desert, surrounded on one side by dry sand and scorching sun, and the beautiful Persian Gulf with its miles of vast water on the other. The city itself calls the country United Arab Emirates home. It’s full of life, proving itself an oasis in the centre of the dunes, gravel and waves.
Many in the world applaud Dubai for being a step ahead of its time. That adulation is more than warranted. This modern city merges its own culture and traditions with a more Westernised way of life in terms of entertainment, food and drink options. This blend is unique to Dubai, and the reason so many flock to the city every year to discover the magic that it has to offer — and some end up staying there for the long haul. Whether you’re after a relaxing vacation, want to experience the city through your stomach or are hunting for your next outdoor adventure, Dubai is a great option for you and your traveling companions. This metropolis truly has something to do, see, and feel for everyone.
See the Landmarks of Dubai
What makes Dubai such an exciting place to visit are the magnificent sites (and sights!) it offers. Dubai is often touted for being bold, beautiful and big — its tall, glamourous buildings make the city skyline sparkle at night like a reflection of the Arabian sky. It’s this sense of glitz and glamour that truly makes a trip here one of a lifetime, and something that both seasoned travelers and first-time passport holders shouldn’t miss. While some compare it to Las Vegas, travel connoisseurs know that the city’s scale alone sets it apart from anything else in the world.
Of the many sights to see in Dubai, one of the most breath-taking is the world’s tallest building. The Burj Khalifa, which measures over 828 metres tall. The gigantic needle soars high above the rest of Dubai, gracefully standing out from the other impressive buildings in its shadow. It is the tallest solo-standing structure on the entire planet, and tourists can take the world’s longest lift ride to the very top of the building. All of its height makes for the world’s highest observation deck, where visitors can see the city from above, gazing down from up in the clouds. By day or by night, it’s an experience that allows visitors to see everything Dubai has to offer laid out before them.
After heading to the Burj Khalifa, learn about Islam when you visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Another factor that makes Dubai so unique is how modern it is compared to many of its surrounding cities. The centre strives to use this modern ethos to help bring awareness and understanding of the native culture and religion of the United Arab Emirates. Through programmes and talks, visitors can gain insight and knowledge into the traditions and philosophies behind Islam. Understanding the religious foundation of the city and its surrounding area allows travellers to gain a bigger, more complete picture of the city and region they are visiting.
But the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding isn’t the only must-see religious site. The Gurunanak Darbar Sikh Temple was the first official Sikh place of worship in Dubai’s gulf. The brand new, $20 million temple features glitter gold roofs and enormous ceilings. A round skylight shines down on the place of worship, letting visitors gaze up at the blue sky above them. For the past two years, it has been open to the public, and opens its doors at 5:30 each morning. The co-existence of a Sikh temple in a mostly Islam city offers a window into the diverse crowd that makes up Dubai.
Those who feel like shopping can head to Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest shopping mall. With over 1,200 different shops, there truly is something there for everyone. Because of that, the mall receives a lot of traffic, with over 100 million visitors each year, many of them during the yearly Dubai International Shopping Festival. It’s roughly the size of two football fields put together and even includes an ice rink and an aquarium.
At the base of the mall sits a spread of gigantic fountains considered so beautiful that they’re a hot tourist destination in their own right. They shoot up in all directions, spraying sparkling drops of water over 150 metres high across the front of the shopping center. Rows of cafes and restaurants line the fountains, which put on shows set to the tunes of Arabian music and use 1.5 million lumens of projected light to illuminate them. The fountain shows take place daily, and are an absolute must-see for visitors and locals alike.
Gold is notoriously inexpensive in Dubai, which is where the nickname “The City of Gold” originated. It is also why the Gold Souk is so popular. Gold shops line the street, all selling glittering gold in all shapes and forms. Shoppers are expected to barter for their purchases, a ritual which some enjoy more than others, but one that all visitors should experience when they come to the City of Gold. The back and forth dance between buyer and vendor is a cultural fact of life for Dubai residents and an interesting experience for those travellers who come from countries where bargaining isn’t common.
Museum enthusiasts have truly found a home in Dubai. The city features many museums to choose from, all unique and with enough features to pique anyone’s interest. With a conveniently-located Dubai hotel room, you’re never very far from a world-class museum. From art to literature to history, it’s all available in Dubai.
Popular museums include:
- The Dubai Museum is housed in the oldest building in the city. It shows the history of the area, and digs deep into tradition and culture.
- Visitors can head to the Heritage House to see a wide range of art talent. It features both local and international artists’ work, and has become one of the most well-respected art museums in Dubai.
- One of the oldest residential neighbourhoods in Dubai is Al Bastakiya, which has become a museum in itself. It is the historic district of Dubai, and tourists can view old architecture that winds through classic, narrow streets.
- Bookworms and history enthusiasts flock to the Juma al Majid Heritage & Cultural Centre. It’s a reference library filled to the brim with resources in multiple different languages. The focus is mostly on tradition and culture, a true treat and a lovely way to learn about the city you’re visiting.
Relax in Dubai
To many, Dubai is the “city of luxury,” and for good reason. While seeing the sights is spectacular, sometimes it’s nice to remember that you are, after all, on vacation. For those who want to relax, Dubai has dozens of spas to offer, filled with glamourous beauty treatments and massages fit for royalty. Many tourists travel to Dubai to indulge in some of its extravagance, so for many, when they think of elegance and luxury in Dubai, the country’s most elegant spas come to mind.
The Assawan Spa & Health Club at the Burj Al Arab prides itself on offering rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. The spa is perhaps most known for its infinity pool, which overlooks the Arabian Gulf. With a variety of exercise equipment and beauty treatments, guests can truly treat themselves to their health. The spa offers everything from Swedish massages to yoga classes, so there is something for everyone to sit back, relax and enjoy the slower pace away from the bustling city with.
Another place to pamper yourself is the One & Only Royal Mirage. There, guests enjoy hot stone massages, steam rooms, jacuzzis and body scrubs and wraps. The serene spa offers individual therapy rooms, as well as more social opportunities so that men and women can engage in the experience that best suits their mood.
Spas are not the only places to relax when travelling in Dubai. The city itself is built on the water, providing stretches of beautiful beaches to enjoy. Lay out a towel, switch on some music and soak up the sun at Jumeirah Beach Park. It offers both sand and grass to sprawl or walk along. Grab a snack at a beachside cafe, or fix your own on a barbecue. And when you’re ready to leave, rinse the sand and salt off with a warm shower in the clean public facilities. Dubai has many other beaches that are popular with both locals and visitors.
Some of the most popular beaches in the city include:
- Kite Beach, which, true to its name, generally has a sky filled with kites. There are plenty of other activities as well, including beach volleyball, football and a variety of water sports.
- Nasimi Beach brings the party to the waterfront of the city. A DJ keeps the music pumping while visitors grab cocktails at the bar.
- Jumeirah Public Beach is the city’s staple. It’s often shown in photographs of Dubai and is known for its stretches of white sand. It’s clean, simple and entirely relaxing for Dubai visitors from around the world.
Eat in Dubai
Because Dubai is such a modern city, it offers a wide array of cuisine. Adventurous eaters can try something new, while those with more moderate palates will also have plenty to choose from.
Curry in Dubai:
Dubai is the ideal place to devour some of the tastiest curry on the planet. But even after selecting curry, there are still so many options. From Pakistani to Thai, Japanese to Indian, the list of curries can be broken down by region. Here are a few of the most popular picks, spread across multiple regions.
- Ravi Restaurant is almost always packed, and for good reason. The extensive menu, filled with dozens of choices from Pakistan, features some of the best curry in town. Even those who don’t enjoy curry have plenty of alternatives to choose from. The best part? It’s open almost 24 hours per day and the prices are incredibly reasonable.
- Brit Balti features British cuisine and some of the tastiest British-style curry in the city. Even though the restaurant is British, the food still features Indian spices at a variety of heat levels, from mild to melt-your-face.
- Nalukettu brings curry from the south of India to Dubai. The style is called Varutharacha, which emphasises a variety of coconut bases to hit that salty-hot-sweet nail right on the head.
- Qureshi’s Kebab & Kurry does spicy right. This Hyderabad-style curry is generally very hot, so those who prefer a more mild flavour should stay clear. But those who can handle the heat are sure to love its traditional curry dishes.
Persian food in Dubai:
Dubai also offers some of the most delicious Persian food in the world. From kebabs to plates, you’re options are endless.
- Abshar is a top destination for any lover of Persian food. It’s set among a bunch of shops, but the food is far from food court fare. There are many authentic dishes, but the kebabs are particularly popular. For those who can’t quite decide what to order, there’s even a buffet.
- Al Borz is a traditional Iranian restaurant. While it may not be the fanciest on the block, don’t let that stop you from devouring its delicious meals. Take your pick of fish, lamb or chicken and enjoy the house salad and soup.
- Anar features elegant decor that is worth seeing for itself. The food is a delicious blend of westernised Persian. While it’s a little on the pricey side, its quality ensures that it’s often crowded, so tourists may be best off visiting the restaurant during off-hours.
- Baku Caspian gives the illusion of a small, intimate, at-home meal. The food is traditional Azerbaijani, which is not always easy to find.
Dubai’s Chinese favourites include:
In addition to Persian food, Dubai has a surprisingly large selection of delicious Chinese restaurants.
- Hukama is known for being one of the most outstanding Chinese restaurants in Dubai. The interior is elegant, making it feel like a true night out on the town. The sophisticated menu does dim sum extraordinarily, and the quality of food more than makes up for the slightly high prices.
- The China Club specialises in meat preparations. The duck, chicken and fish are all equally popular and lauded.
- Those in the mood for take-out or delivery can still experience delicious Chinese food when they order from Da Shi Dai. Soup, dim sum and an array of fried food is available, but the rice noodles are the true treat.
- Asia Asia, although not truly traditional Chinese food, certainly has a China-like atmosphere. The restaurant blends more Westernised dishes with Asian flavours and spices, creating a truly unique experience.
Those in the mood for more American-style cuisine can head to the cleverly-named Hamptons Cafe. The restaurant features both a cafe and dining room, and diners can order American burgers, salads, fried chicken and more. So if Westerners are hankering for hometown fare to break up their adventurous eating journey in Dubai, this is the place.
Experience Nightlife in Dubai
Despite the fact that Dubai is part of a Muslim state, the diversity means that alcohol is very much available. The one strict rule is that it can only be served within hotel walls, so visit your local hotel bar to enjoy a stiff drink.
Even though alcohol isn’t found everywhere, music and liveliness certainly is. Some of the best clubs in the world are in the glittering city of Dubai.
- People by Crystal is one of the trendier clubs in the city. Its expansive sound system and DJ station guarantee the guests can dance all night long.
- Persian-themed Boudoir offers a spacious dance floor perfect for lots of dancing and heavy beats.
- Check out the view from 360 degrees. The nightclub sits just one kilometre from the sea on a circular outdoor platform. Look below and see yourself surrounding by the glittering lights of Dubai.
- Looking for a ladies’ night out? Head to Aquarus, where hair and makeup tips are served with drinks.
- For those who aren’t as keen on nightclubs, there are plenty of theatres to visit. Check with your local hotel to find out what is available when you visit Dubai.
Dubai is truly a city that is coming into its own. It’s a city of riches in the midst of a desert. But what really makes Dubai stand out is its magnificent, iconic outdoor sites, all must-sees on your travels. From beaches to snow slopes, the sheer variety of outdoor experiences that Dubai has to offer is groundbreaking in and of itself.
While parks may not be the first thing to come to mind in a dry desert city, Dubai actually does offer some beautiful parks to stroll through. Creekside Park offers rolling hills to picnic on, playgrounds, beautiful views of the city and even an amphitheatre. Safa Park is one of the largest and oldest spots for greenery in Dubai. It features a lake with small boats floating along it, bikes for hire and even a small waterfall. Other notable parks include:
- Nad Shamma Park may not have grass to offer, but it is the perfect spot for runners to exercise and hosts several races every year, and sand volleyball courts allow visitors and residents to start up games, as long as you’ve brought your own net.
- Satwa Park is one of the newest in the city. Children from all cultures play on its playground and it features both a basketball and tennis court.
- Al Wasi Park proves ideal for families, as it offers multiple children’s play areas.
- Mushrif Park is the oldest park in Dubai. While portions of it are grass, much of it is composed of long stretches of sand where visitors can walk around or bask in the sun.
Despite the sun-drenched desert, the Mall of Emirates offers Ski Dubai. Because it sits in the sweltering heat of the United Arab Emirates, this snow park is built entirely indoors. It’s the first in the Middle East, and a novelty for many visitors. Here, snow enthusiasts can ski, snowboard or go tobogganing. New at snow sports? Not a problem. Plenty of helpful instructors are here to show beginners the ropes and slopes. All equipment is available for hire. Plus, the park comes complete with a population of penguins sure to delight both children and adults.
Many companies offer visitors the chance to escape into the rough environment that surrounds Dubai. Most take adventurers through the sand on a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Some offer day trips, while others offer more extensive packages that include camping — whether that means roughing it or some other, more luxurious version of sleeping outside under the stars. Make sure to check for added costs and to see what type of food is already included before heading out on one of the overnight trips.
After spending time in the dry dessert, tourists often feel the urge to return to water. They can’t do better than heading to Dubai Creek. Here, visitors can take a relaxing ride on an abra, slowly rocking along the saltwater waves. Stroll along the shore or grab a seat and watch the sun set over the water like the locals.
Dubai is a delightful mix of modernity and tradition. It features some of the world’s largest landmarks and is filled with a rich culture and innovative future. There’s something for the person who likes to shop, one who wants to relax, someone who would rather explore adventurously and plenty to do for the foodies. With welcoming locals, extravagant architecture and some of the most magnificent food in the world, one cannot go wrong when planning a visit to this beautiful city. For more information and suggestions on exploring Dubai, don’t hesitate to contact your hotel. They’ll be happy to help you find exactly what it is you’re looking for with the certainty that whatever it is, it exists in this appropriately-named City of Gold.