February 28, 2018
As the snow is coming down thick and fast here in England, the idea of sunnier climes comes to mind. So I am ignoring the British weather and remembering a few weeks ago when I visited Dubai.
This is the fourth time we've visited the United Arab Emirates' busiest and most stunning city. Having friends who live there has helped us see behind the high rise glass buildings and shopping malls, and discover a city rich in culture as well as riches.
There is so much to do in Dubai, its taken us four trips and we still haven't made it out into the desert for the famous camel rides - but we have eaten at lots of restaurants and visited the city top to bottom, so here are my top tips.
Dubai has a taxi culture, they are plentiful and cheap. Look out for the cream taxis with red roofs (or pink roof if you want a lady driver and green if you want a hybrid eco cab) - they are the Dubai government taxi service and can be found everywhere.
There is also Dubai's version of Uber called Careem if you want to download an app to get a taxi from anywhere.
Dubai is a modern city but upholds its cultural values, so covering your shoulders and knees is advisable when outside of the touristy areas like hotels, beaches and malls and definitely for visiting mosques.
If you visit in their winter, a light cardigan is a must anyway for the evenings - the sun starts to go down around 5pm in February.
We always visit in February, the best month for bearable weather. We have been lucky enough to enjoy 25-30 degree sunshine, but do be prepared for the odd cloudy day or sandstorm.
As you head towards summer the weather can reach 50 degrees so I'd avoid anything from May-September unless you can stand the extreme heat.
Dubai is huge - there are so many areas to stay in from The Palm to downtown - you'll be spoilt for choice.
The popular Atlantis The Palm is a great choice for families, as it has its own phenominal waterpark and aquarium on site. Plenty of restaurants and a good kids club help parents relax - and its all with a touch of grandeur and luxury. When you walk down the sweeping staircase to breakfast for the first time to the giant aquarium shark tank (which is two storeys high!) the sight will take your breath away and keep the kids amused for hours.
My tip would be to go half board - the choice of restaurants is great and eating out in Dubai is expensive.
For high end luxury, and a quieter experience, I would recommend The One & Only Royal Mirage - its low rise arabic design was much more to my taste (interiors heaven) and The Arabian Court section of this large estate was a little more low key and quiet, complete with private beach.
The Drift beach bar on site is a haven of white and aqua with a glossy looking clientele, an over 16s only policy made it a lovely little escape. A chilled rose and plate of mezze to graze while we watched the beach waves ebb and flow made it a special way to wile away an afternoon (it was Valentine's Day after all).
pic credit: Time Out Dubai
If you want to stay closer to the action, W Hotel Al Habtoor City is situated near the busy Sheikh Zayed Road, and is a super-modern interior complete with W-famous wet deck, where you can party the weekend away after its Friday brunch.
Al Sayam Suites is a high rise modern apart-hotel in central Dubai and a much more affordable option - especially for groups. With a nice pool on level six, and a range of shops and restaurants close by, its a more budget city stay without being less of an experience.
We ate at our hotel most evenings, but did venture to a great little spot at Club Vista Mare on The Palm for reasonably priced food (and licensed bar which is rare outside of hotels) on the beach. Breeze beach bar & grill offered a good range of tex-mex style food. We sat outside near the shore as we watched the sun go down and the skyscraper lights go up. The views of the city from The Palm at night are spectacular.
We haven't made it there yet but I know from friends that live there that Black Tap is one of the best places to eat in Dubai with kids - its burgers and freak shakes are very popular. Its situated inside Rixos Premium Dubai onThe Walk at JBR.
JBR is the best public beach in Dubai - situated just past the marina it has a walkway along the beachside filled with great restaurants, and you can rent a sunbed or cabana to spend the day sunbathing while the camels stroll past - for the brave you can book a ride.
Nightly light show at the Burj Khalifa
You can't visit Dubai and not take in their spectacular malls. Dubai Mall is the biggest and has all the designer stores you can think of. Its well worth booking an evening meal after you shop - pick somewhere with tables outside near the fountains with a view of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper as from 6pm the light and water show is out of this world - get your cameras ready and do not miss this for anything!
Ski Dubai Pic: Pinterest
I actually prefer Mall of the Emirates for shopping and it has the usual array of places to eat too. For those who don't like shops, you can skip on through to Ski Dubai on the same site - where you can ski and see the penguins. Yes really - expect the unexpected - in Dubai, anything is possible!
There's a nice little mall at Dubai Marina, where after wandering past all the yachts you can do some beauty shopping at Sephora and have lunch at Pier 7, seven floors of gastronomic heaven. Watch out for the zipwire flying past, a great spectator sport for this not brave enough for the ride high above the marina!
Dubai may be a glittering man-made city but its culture is evident, and beautiful. From the architecture of its mosques to a ride across Dubai Creek in an abra, and of course a visit to the many souks for a bit of haggling, its all there to be enjoyed.
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