As you travel from the airport, seemingly endless sand dunes roll into the distance. Then, suddenly, a crest of skyscrapers appears on the horizon. Between them lie rivers and fountains and beyond, the Arabian Gulf speckled with exclusive island retreats. Dubai feels like a dream from the moment you arrive. Yet it’s also a living, breathing city that people from countless cultures call home. If you’re planning a luxury city break, few places can compare for sheer ambition.
An energetic, futuristic vision with a rich Arabian heritage between the desert and the sea.
Things to do
It may seem as if Dubai is a city of innovation, but the glossy skyscrapers hide deep roots. Visit the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization for an insight into the Middle East’s rich artistic and scientific heritage. See traditional houses in the Bastakiya heritage district, or hop on a wooden Abra to ride down the creek and along the waterfront. Jumeirah Mosque is open to visitors – check dress requirements before you go. You’re also just an hour or two from Abu Dhabi and the monumental Sheikh Zayed Mosque, with its pure white domes and gold-topped minarets.
FOOD & DRINK
You can eat your way around the world in Dubai. The city – and the wider Arabian Peninsula – has long drawn people from different cultures. So dining options now range from Middle Eastern mezze to Michelin starred fine dining. Dubai’s strong south Asian community means you can count on enjoying particularly good Indian food. When it comes to alcoholic drinks, you’ll need to stick to hotels and nightclubs. Take a seat at a terrace bar for a sundowner. Or zip up to At.mosphere on the 122nd floor of Burj Khalifa for drinks with a view.
With lavish malls and stores from almost every designer worth knowing, shopping in Dubai is an art form. There’s even a winter festival dedicated to it, featuring sales and special events throughout the city. For a taste of souq shopping (with the comfort of cafés and air conditioning), try Souq Madinate Jumeirah, a contemporary venue styled like an old Arabian town. But for the real thing, venture into Deira, one of Dubai’s old quarters. The souqs here may not be as attractive as those in Marrakech, but they’re real and offer all the fun of haggling.
At first glance, Dubai may not appear a family destination. But waterparks, a snowdome and Kidzania ‘edutainment’ centre offer plenty of excitement.
Top tip from SLH