Whenever we hear about deserts, we always think of unbearable heat and no life, but Dubai is exotic, and the only evidence of the desert is in the outskirts of the city. A visit to Dubai, technically the second largest desert city in the United Arab Emirates after Abu Dhabi, changed my very notion of a desert city. Here’s why…
Why Visit Dubai?
The architecture in Dubai is superb. Did you know that Dubai is the home to the tallest building in the world? Burj Khalifa is over 2,722 feet tall with a staggering 163 floors. The architectural splendor of the buildings in Dubai is awe-inspiring from the Entisar Tower to the such building as the Cayan Tower (with some many architectural wonders contributing to the ever-expanding skyline).
The weather is hot throughout the year and is accordingly, conducive for a comfortable swim in the beautiful Arabian Sea. The total population of Dubai is 2.2 million. However, out of the 2.2 million, only 200,000 are locals, so foreigners (including tourists) are welcomed, not ostracized.
Most of the taxis are owned by the government. They are spotless and air conditioned. The rates are affordable, and the drivers are very kind.
The hotels are impressive, very secured and clean with excellent amenities. What’s more, Dubai has nearly zero crime. I came across the legendary Lamborghini driving policemen only once. While many people think the Lamborghini-driving police are just stories, they actually drive these luxury cars. While the extra horsepower may not be why the crime rate is so low, that’s the purpose I like to imagine!
The shopping malls are enormous and offer brands from all over the world. The 5.9 million square foot Dubai Mall, which is one of the largest malls in the world, features world-class clothing shops, perfume stores, and jewelry stores. The Emirates Mall is also a go-to place when shopping. Just remember to bring a jacket or the like if you run on the cold side as the malls are a bit chilly in the summertime.
Outside of malls, there other more affordable stores (I remember that one store sold all manner of items for what equated to roughly $2.72 USD). Small shops are prolific throughout the city. Interestingly, Gold is sold in a special marketplace called “Gold Souk”.
How to Get There: Flying to Dubai
For a fun and luxurious flight to Dubai, I would recommend flying Emirates Airline (which is headquartered in Dubai). One easy way to book a trip on Emirates Airlines to Dubai is through Cleartrip which specializes in travel bookings for the Dubai region, among others.
While Emirates Airline offers fantastic flight packages all over the world serving 150 cities in 80 countries over six continents, it is headquartered in Dubai and offers fantastic, non-stop flights to Dubai.
Offerings on Emirates Airline flights include comfortable reclining economy class seats with a 4,000-channel in-flight entertainment offering, free wi-fi, and in-seat power for your devices. You can even make in-flight calls. Business class seating generally includes seats with massage functions that convert to beds, numerous onboard entertainment channels, laptop charging, and access to an onboard bar.
For those lucky enough to travel first class on Emirates Airline to Dubai, you’ll enjoy flying there in a private suite with a mini bar. On Emirates Airline’s newer planes, first class suites also include a private bathroom with two showers and a spa!
With an outstanding loyalty program complemented by first-class, Platinum, and Gold-Member access to lounges in a variety of different cities (with Silver Member access to the Dubai International Airport Lounge) and complimentary, chauffeured airport transfers in more than 70 cities, Emirates Airline offers an outstanding travel experience for those going to Dubai.
Where to Stay? Awesome Accommodations
I loved the hotel Atlantis. With a breath-taking view of the sea and state of the art facilities, you will relax in this hotel. Most celebrities go to this hotel while on holiday in Dubai, so you may have an opportunity for star gazing. While there, I was able to play and swim with real dolphins, which was quite a fun and touching experience.
Burj Al Arab is another great option. I have to say that I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined I would sleep under the sea, but at Burj Al Arab, the first two floors are underwater, so my dream became a reality. The transparent walls give you strange and wonderful views of marine life. While it’s not cheap, this luxury hotel offers an incredible, immersive experience on so many fronts and should be on everyone’s bucket list.
For affordable hotels, Grand Excelsior Deira and the Crown Plaza are great hotels to consider.
Great Eats in Dubai
The Athena floating restaurant in Dubai Marina is a solid dining choice, because it offers an exceptional experience: you eat as you cruise up and down the Dubai Creek (you will be able to take in the sights and sound with many an excellent photo opportunity). For middle eastern food, I would recommend Amaseena or Olea (which is more affordable than Amaseena). Another great choice, generally speaking, are the Indian restaurants in the city, which offer a scrumptious taste of the Indian culture that Dubai has to offer. Also, there are various Chinese restaurants that will get your mouth watering. If you’re not a vegetarian, I highly recommend trying camel. I found that the tender, tasty camel meat with spiced rice was to die for.
What to Do in Dubai? Sites and Activities
I was worried about the language barrier during my vacation in Dubai, but the tour guides spoke very fluent English, so a tour is an excellent way to take in the experiences and historical sites that Dubai has to offer.
I should point out that there are two parts of the city, Deira Dubai and Bur Dubai. They are separated by the Dubai Creek. An underwater tunnel, showcasing Dubai’s technical and engineering sophistication, connects these two sides, so be sure not to miss one half of the city!
One attraction that I really enjoyed was the Miracle Gardens, a veritable paradise in the desert. Almost all types of flowers are found in this garden, so it is like a fairy-tale oasis in a city that is an oasis in its own right.
Speaking of deserts, the desert safari is the prime pick of any outstanding vacation in Dubai. The four-wheel vehicles access the desert with so much ease and the quietness of the desert is at once calming and exhilarating after being in a bustling city.
I am a lover of history, so it was only natural for me to visit the Dubai Museum. The artifacts there are well-preserved, and the museum offers exhibits focusing on Arabian culture, local economic activities, and key Dubai socio-cultural events. One realization that I had while there is that the Dubai Creek is full of history. It is where the economy of Dubai began to grow, fueled by the fishing trade. Over time, the creek has been expanded as the city has come to prosper in a more modern context.
In a feat of modern engineering, a man-made island off of Dubai, the iconic
Jumeirah, is shaped like a palm tree. The aerial view of it is spectacular. It took ten years to compact the soil, and portions of it are adorned with luxurious homes and apartments.
If you have had enough of the heat and you just want to cool down, there is an indoor skiing arena. I am talking real snow and penguins. You will think you are in the North Pole.
Best Time to be in Dubai
The best time to visit Dubai is between November and April. The weather is roughly around 79 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s more comfortable than during the other times of the year. The other months have highs of up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is important to be mindful about the timing of your trip to Dubai.
The traditional culture of the people of Dubai is conservative. Their traditional male attire is a white, straight garment (called a kandura) worn with a kind of headdress (known as a keffiyeh) and traditional women’s attire consists of long, flowing gowns that are generally black and can be either plain or showcase rich embroidery. While you are expected to dress modestly -preferably covering up bare shoulders, arms, and legs (especially, if you’re visiting the older parts of Dubai, such as Dubai Creek), you don’t need to cover up your hair or for women, to wear a burqa. The weather might be hot, but modest, light clothes will keep you out of trouble, and save your skin from burning.
Having said that, when visiting the beaches, you don’t need to be completely covered up. You’ll find that you’ll fit right in with modest swim trunks for guys and a modest bikini for women.
On a final note, to get the most out of your Dubai experience, it is advisable to engage a tour company with fluent English speakers who know how to expose you to the main attractions and their context. After taking a tour, you can venture out into this magnificent oasis on your own to experience a perspective-changing odyssey into the marvels of a city that has used the most advanced of modern technology to turn an old desert into a cosmopolitan oasis.
**This is a collaborative post from Cleartrip.**