weekend away - Dubai
Written by Oryx
When you REALISE that 30 years ago Dubai was little more than desert, it breeds new respect for a city that has since become one
of the world’s most enterprising. The speed of development has been nothing short of miraculous. In the last year alone, the city has become home to the world’s tallest building, biggest fountain, and largest candy store.
There are those who would argue Dubai is lacking
in culture. On the contrary, Dubai has an abundance
of it; a mix of cultures from all continents has combined to make the city unique. Karama – a neighbourhood boasting a strong Indian population – houses some of the best Indian fare outside Delhi (Bombay Chowpatty, a street stand serving Mumbai-style snacks, is a particular favourite with residents). Across the Creek, Deira has restaurants catering to Egyptians, Ethiopians, Lebanese, Syrians, and Iranian expats, just to name a few.
Given the smorgasbord of nationalities vying for space in the city, it’s understandable that the native culture – that of the Emiratis – tends to get a little lost. One of the best places to explore the history and traditions of the UAE is to visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, which was founded by the Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid
Al Maktoum. The Centre’s cultural breakfast features traditional Emirati food, and is not to be missed.
Of course, one of the great charms of Dubai is its architecture, and the most spectacular place to glimpse
it is in the Old Town. Here, the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building – reigns spectacularly over the skyline. In classic Dubai fashion, the 828m structure was built in just under six years. Next to it is the equally magnificent Dubai Fountain, a record-setting choreographed fountain that shoots water 150m in the air. Afterwards, a visit to the Dubai Mall – which houses just about every major fashion label and then some – is compulsory.
A trip to Dubai would, however, be remiss without an exploration of the Creek, once home to Dubai’s pearling industry. The best way to do so is either on foot – followed by a trip to Bastakiya, the city’s old quarter – or using an abra (traditional wooden boat). While there are private (read: tourist trap) rides available, the more scenic (and budget) option is to pay 50 fils and jump aboard the public abra. It’s then that the majestic city, and all its new developments, truly come alive.
Where to Stay
If you want to stay in the thick of it, literally, then book into the newly opened Armani Hotel, perched inside the iconic Burj Khalifa. The fashion emporium's first foray into hospitality has already proved successful. With 160 luxury rooms on offer and six decadent restaurants to choose from, there’s hardly any reason to leave the comfort of your room.
Alternatively, experience one of Dubai’s other icons, and stay at Atlantis The Palm. The luxurious Lost Chambers Suites have bedroom and bath views directly into the mesmerising underwater world of the 11.5 million litre Ambassador Lagoon. Book an exclusive experience to swim with dolphins,
or dine in style at Ossiano.
Built in 2000, Emirates Towers – twin buildings that seem borrowed from a Batman comic – are still the most recognisable structures on Dubai’s skyline. Home to excellent, high-end shopping, and the elegant Vu’s Bar.
Charter a luxury motor yacht and, literally, go around ‘The World’ in a single day – the artificial archipelago of man-made islands lies 4km off the coast. Then power out offshore to fish for snapper, barracuda, and even sailfish.