With year-round sunshine, great shopping, beautiful beaches and some fantastic restaurants, Dubai is the perfect place for a blissful break. And as it gets ready to host the World Expo, there has never been a better time to go.
Boasting some of the biggest, flashiest infrastructure in the world, Dubai prides itself on its man-made marvels. The most prominent is the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building, which stands at a colossal 828m. For stunning views – and to see the surrounding skyscrapers pale into insignificance – head up to At The Top (Burjkhalifa.ae) and enjoy tea and sweet treats while taking in the breathtaking panoramas.
Dubai Mall – one of the world’s biggest shopping centres – stands at the base of the Burj, and the area outside is dotted with shops and restaurants set around the 30-acre Burj Lake and Dubai Fountain. With shows set to music taking place every 30 minutes after 6pm, the world’s tallest performing fountain is a very pretty place to be in the early evening.
To see Dubai’s relatively undiscovered art scene, head to Alserkal Avenue (Alserkalavenue.ae). An industrial-style setting scattered with potted snake plants and cacti, there are contemporary art galleries, artisanal spaces and hipster coffee spots to explore. Wander between them to check out local and international artists’ works, shop for affordable pieces or just soak up the creative atmosphere.
For some under-the-radar active relaxation, head to PoleFit Dubai (Polefitdubai.com). Popular with locals, pole dancing or flying yoga are on offer with an encouraging teacher for a workout with a difference.
Head out of the city and discover the surrounding desert. For an interactive experience that brings traditional culture to life, try the Al Marmoom Bedouin Experience (Bedouinexperience.com). You’ll ride a camel over the dunes before stopping to meet a falcon and hear about the role these birds play in Bedouin culture. Then, explore a Bedouin camp, where you can get a henna tattoo, try traditional dancing, enjoy a warming tea – the desert can get surprisingly chilly at night – and a feast prepared in the traditional way. Your evening under the stars will be rounded off by the resident astronomer leading a fascinating lesson, and you can gaze through the telescope to see the desert moon in all its glory.
Dubai boasts some beautiful shores and man-made island groups. From the three Palm Islands – Jumeirah, Jebel Ali and Deira – to The World, an archipelago of 260 islands, the Persian Gulf boasts plenty of gently sloping sandy spots to bask on. La Mer – the city’s favourite beach district – features wide-open spaces with palm tree-lined boulevards and graffiti art murals. There are plenty of shops and cafés to browse if you step off the sand, and play areas for kids, too. For an urban beach with plenty going on, check out The Beach at JBR. Lined with eateries and shops, and offering watersports such as parasailing and wakeboarding, it’s free to access and conveniently located.
Food and drink
Dubai, with its thriving expat scene, is a melting pot of cultures and offers cuisine to match. Our recommendations include the Moroccan menu at Bab Al Mansour (Babalmansour.ae), a stylish restaurant with plenty of outside space for watching the world go by as you feast on tagine, kofta or pastilla. Like many local restaurants, it’s dry – meaning it doesn’t serve alcohol – but we can vouch for the virgin mojito.
For Turkish-inspired treats, try Bosporus at JBR (Thebosporus.com). You could happily while away the hours here, with a terrace overlooking the beach and an extensive menu to choose from. We recommend the tavuk shish kebab followed by a traditional Turkish coffee and baklava.
Elsewhere, The Beach House at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort (Anantara.com) makes for a sun-drenched dining experience. It’s set on the beach at the luxury resort, and you can live the high life with dishes from the Mediterranean-inspired menu – the calamari is excellent – as the waves lap the shore. It’s not cheap, but worth it – not least for the view across the water of the stunning skyline.
Originally due to open this month, Expo 2020 Dubai – dubbed The World’s Greatest Show – has been postponed to next year. Described as the Olympics of human achievement in design, culture, technology and human excellence, the show will host exhibits from 192 countries, including the UK pavilion designed by ES Devlin. There will be parades, concerts, shows and plenty of dining options. With 25million visitors expected over the six-month opening period, and with previous Expo legacies including Paris’ Eiffel Tower, London’s South Kensington area and Seattle’s famous Space Needle, this is set to be a major event. Expo 2020 Dubai opens 1 October 2021 and runs until March 2022 – go to Expo2020dubai.com for more info and to book tickets.
Where to stay…
We stayed at the Avani Ibn Battuta Dubai. Located next door to the Ibn Battuta Mall and Metro stop, it’s got plenty going on in the immediate area, and boasts easy transport connections into the city centre and to the Expo site. There’s a rooftop pool, bar and restaurant, and the rooms are stylish and comfortable, too. Prices start at £80 per room per night, based on two people sharing on a bed and breakfast basis. Go to Avanihotels.com to book.
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