Spotlight on… Dubai

Dubai in the Arabian Peninsula is one of the largest developing cities in the world. The city has become a byword for luxury living, a base for international businesses, and a hide-away for celebrities, rock stars and millionaires, who come for the amazing lifestyle.

Dubai skylineIt offers a wonderful blend of sandy beaches, desert landscapes and fantastic architecture. Dubai has a rich cultural history and has changed radically since the discovery of oil around 50 years ago.

Spectacular skylines and souk shopping

The world’s tallest. The world’s first, deepest, and most expensive… you will find it all in Dubai. After all, where else could you find a 7-star hotel? Or climb one of the world’s tallest buildings? Bringing together ancient traditions and contemporary culture, this is a city of contrasts, where East meets West. Head for a swim in the sea before shopping in the many malls and high-end boutiques. Or enjoy a round of golf before a visit to a souk, a traditional Arabic open-air market.

My must-see places

Depending on who you’re travelling with or what you’re looking to get from your holiday there is something for everyone here. So if you’re holidaying with family or friends or taking a break as a couple, there’s plenty to see and do.

Dinner in the Dunes is not to be missed! There are loads of tours that can be pre booked before you travel or booked when you arrive. You’ll be picked up in a four-wheel drive and taken across to the dunes to the East of the city. You can ride camels and experience an amazing barbecue dinner sitting in an Arabian tent under the stars. Traditional belly dancing forms your entertainment for the evening, making this a real once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Khalifa in DubaiThe Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building and provides a very interesting contrast to the traditional surrounding Dubai architecture.

It’s best viewed as the sun rises and strikes the reflective surface.

Dubai Marina is especially beautiful at night, or if you visit on a Friday afternoon you’ll experience the amazing Marina Market. Plus there is an impressive choice of restaurants on the waterfront which make a great stop for lunch after shopping.

The Mall of the Emirates is one for shopping lovers. Here you’ll find an enormous variety of high street and designer shops, as well as the amazing Ski Dubai (the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East). You can go skiing and snowboarding before you head to the beach (only in Dubai!)

The Burj Al Arab is certainly worth a visit, if only for a coffee or drink. The world’s only 7-star hotel, it stands at 320 metres tall on its very own island just off Dubai’s coastline. The extraordinary sail-shaped building is truly iconic, and inside you’ll find dancing fountains and an Atrium. It really is amazing.

Find out more about… Dubai

When to go:

  • Summer – June to September – can be too hot, with humidity sometimes topping 90%. However, this is when you’ll find a dramatic reduction in room rates at many hotels and the Summer Surprises shopping festival offers great value discounts.
  • October to April sees the finest weather and is when most people visit Dubai, attracted by centigrade temperatures of early 20s-low 30s.
  • The Dubai Shopping Festival in January/February is a big pull, and hotels often hit peak capacity, so serious advance booking is necessary. During the winter months you can also catch the Dubai International Film Festival, Art Dubai, Rugby Sevens and other events that take advantage of the perfect outdoor temperatures.

Burj Al Arab hotel at a distance in Dubai, United Arab EmiratesGetting there: There are excellent connections from the UK and you can usually fly direct.

The main airport is Dubai (famous for its duty-free shopping) although you can also fly into Sharjah or Abu Dhabi.

Getting around: Most people opt for a taxi from the airport but if you’re feeling adventurous you could also to hop on the Metro or a bus. The Metro is super easy to use, although it’s a very car-orientated city and most people end up taking taxis to get around. You can hire cars very easily and you can get a boat to cross Dubai Creek, a very cost-effective way of getting a view of the city.

Eating and drinking: Shawarma is very popular and a cheap street food available everywhere. Essentially, it’s Dubai’s equivalent of a burger or kebab, and is cooked on a skewer and then put into a Kuhbus (pitta) with vegetables and dressing. Another popular local snack is Falafel.

On the other end of the scale, you’ll find many upmarket and high-end restaurants and bars. You really can eat to your budget. Most of the usual names have chains in Dubai, such as Starbucks, KFC and TGI Fridays, so if you want to keep to your home comforts that’s fine too.

Dubai has several laws in regards to drinking so you must be careful to stick to them. The nightlife and bar scene has really grown and many DJs are now adding tour dates in Dubai. Alcohol is only available in licensed premises, which are usually attached to hotels (as are most nightclubs). It can only be bought at certain outlets and supermarkets only stock non-alcoholic beers and drinks. It’s illegal to drink alcohol in public places and there’s a zero tolerance on drink driving. You also can’t enter a bar if you’re under 21.

Things to think about: Dubai strictly follows Islamic laws which must be respected by all travellers. Islam is the official religion, so don’t publicly criticize or distribute material against it.

Eating in public during the holy month of Ramadan is prohibited from sunrise until sunset so you’ll need to eat your meals in your hotel.

Women should dress sensibly and avoid wearing revealing outfits in busy areas. This is especially true in districts like Karama, Deira and Bur-Dubai, where the streets are packed with men, particularly on evenings and weekends.

While swimsuits and bikinis are a common sight on Dubai beaches, avoid sunbathing topless or wearing micro bikinis, even in the private beach of a hotel.

Kirsty Fisher

About Kirsty Fisher

I’m a travel counsellor with over 12 years’ experience working in the industry, in both leisure and business. I have many customers who love to cruise – visit my website to find out more.