Heading off on your European vacay with Emirates? Make sure you stop over in Dubai. The city sandwiched between the desert and the sea has so much to offer that you’ll want to linger as long as possible. With the help of our friends at Dubai Tourism, we have put together some ideas for how to make the most of your Dubai stopover.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
Your first stop should be the Burj Khalifa’s Observation Deck. From your vantage point 450 metres up the world’s tallest building, Dubai spreads out below you like a mere model of a city. If the floor-to-ceiling glass walls don’t test your nerves, the open-air terrace certainly will.
The Burj Khalifa does not think small, and The Dubai Mall at its base is the world’s largest shopping centre, encompassing 1.1 million square metres. There are more than 1,200 shops, from chain stores to designer labels. The mall also houses the Dubai Aquarium, children’s theme parks and the Dubai Ice Rink. Dubai also hosts an annual shopping festival, so start saving!
Also at the base of the Burj Khalifa is the Dubai Fountain, which puts on dancing son-et-lumiere shows set to music every day – two shows in the afternoon and several in the evening. Watch as jets of water shoot 140 metres high, with a beam of light that can be seen more than 30 kilometres away.
A NICE CUPPA
Alcohol laws are strict in Dubai, so if you need to calm your nerves after the Observation Deck or at the thought of your credit card bill, opt for a nice cup of tea. Venture into the winding alleyways of the Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood, also known as Bastakiya. The neighbourhood dates back to the early 1900s, and here you’ll find the original Arabian Tea House, which boasts more than 100 varieties of tea. For something a little stronger, opt for the ubiquitous Arabic coffee, or gahwa, served in small cups with a platter of dates, or maybe even try a camel-milk cappuccino.
For another taste of the Dubai of old, take a ride in a traditional abra across the Dubai Creek. A trip on these small boats costs just one dirham (about 35 cents) per person and boats depart every couple of minutes. To experience it at its most atmospheric, take the trip at night. For something a bit more fancy, try a dinner cruise on a traditional wooden dhow, as you drift past luxury yachts, modern architecture, and the Heritage Village.
TO SOUK, TO SOUK
Dubai boasts several souks – or marketplaces. The Gold Souk is one of the best known, with hundreds of vendors and haggling is expected. The aromatic Spice Souk next door features sacks of spices, herbs, rice and fruit. Mingle with top chefs, locals, expats and other travellers, who are encouraged to try before they buy. Up the road is the Perfume Souk, which sells pure perfume, essential oils, incense and the traditional oud – a fragrant oil worn by Emirati men and women.
How many times in your life will you get to experience the romance of a real desert? Take a day trip to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to view native wildlife, ride a camel and indulge in sunset canapes among the dunes. Or take a dune safari to feast on grilled meats and Arabic sweets under the stars.