While Britain freezes, Dubai’s winter brings T-shirt temperatures that are far more pleasant than in scorchio summer
What to see and do in Dubai
Dubai didn’t just emerge out of the sand five years ago although the rapid development of the city may suggest otherwise. In the historic Bastakiya area, you can see what life was like before the glitz arrived: meander in the tight alleyways of the textile souk, take a wooden abra (traditional boat) along the busy creek, then pick over meze on the over-water terrace at Bait Al Wakeel as you watch the dhows sailing past in the sunshine.
You could spend an entire day at the Dubai Mall without setting foot in a shop. By far the grandest of the dozens in the emirate, it’s got its own aquarium, ice rink and theme park. Come evening, sit outside at More Café, watch the Dubai Fountain play prettily to music (with all 828m of the Burj Khalifa tower looming behind it), and marvel at what a whole load of petro-dollars can build.
Warning: wandering below Dubai’s skyscrapers can cause cricked necks. For a more up-close-and-personal experience, climb aboard the Seawings seaplane for a 40-minute tour of the architectural highlights. Flights take off from the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club and start at around £200pp.
You won’t find ancient camps or lost tribes in the desert; still, bombing up and down steep sand dunes at sunset easily beats a night round the fire with fake Bedouins. The most daredevil 4WD-drivers can be booked through Arabian Adventures £50pp, who will happily churn your lunch for a few hours.
There are few places in the world where you can be a ski and beach-bunny on the same day. But thanks to Ski Dubai (Mall of the Emirates; www.skidxb.com), the world’s largest indoor slope, you can catch a chill and a tan within the hour. Ski down manufactured snow (about £35 for 90 minutes), stopping halfway for a hot chocolate at the Avalanche Café; then jump in a taxi to the sands around Burj Al Arab , about five minutes away.
Hotel not posh enough to have a private beach? Don’t panic – you can lounge on somebody else’s. Among the best is the Jumeirah Beach Park , with its lengthy stretch of sand, profusion of shady trees, and a large grassy area for BBQs and ball games. Entrance, plus a parasol and sunlounger, won’t set you back more than £5.
Vertigo-sufferers, look away now – a trip up Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, requires nerves of steel. A super-fast lift whisks you up to the viewing platform on level 124. From here the emirate unfurls beneath you. Beyond the shiny skyscrapers, there’s nothing but a haze of sand hemmed by glimmering sea. Book online at least two days in advance for a discounted entry fee of £17 – on the day, it’s a dizzying £70.
This video filmed using wonderful time lapse sequences takes you on an amazing journey through Dubai highlighting things to see and do in Dubai
For an insight into expat life, it’s worth partaking in the rowdy institution of Friday brunch, an all-you-can-eat-and-quite-often-drink affair (the emirate’s workers have Friday and Saturday as their weekends). Most hotels in Dubai offer one, varying from the pricey and posh to the less-than-salubrious. Try the bubbly-fuelled option at Yalumba from £33, including as much Champagne as you can handle.
there are a few etiquette issues to be aware of – you shouldn’t take pictures of local women, for example, or be over-affectionate in public. If in doubt, check with your concierge.
Where to stay in Dubai
Cosmopolitan Dubai is home to futuristic architecture, fabulous restaurants and world-class beaches. For the ultimate holiday, stay at one of the following Radisson Blu Hotels in Dubai located in some of the city’s top locations – along the Arabian Gulf, in the heart of Dubai Marina, in Media City, right on the most bustling street of the city Sheikh Zayed Road or overlooking Deira Creek!
Radisson Blu’s upscale hotel in Deira Creek the heart of Dubai’s bustling business district, offering 276 rooms and suites all with balconies and fabulous views of Dubai’s legendary Creek. A choice of 16 restaurants and bars, state of the art conference & banquet facilities, and close proximity to shopping malls, souks and the main tourist attractions including the Creek golf club.
The Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Downtown is ideal for business and leisure guests and it’s on the doorstep of the Dubai Fountain and over the road from the Dubai Mall and skyscraping Burj Khalifa (visible from some rooms)
This apartment hotel at Dubai Marina is a luxury residence perfectly locatded in a highly developed and upscale neighborhood. The residence is just minutes away from the Jumeirah beach, diverse tourist attractions.
Where to shop
Souk Madinat Jumeirah.
Although the maze-like corridors here would probably struggle against other souks for authenticity (they’re not quite 10 years old), it’s a great place to pick up souvenirs such as carvings, shisha pipes and silk garments.
The Mall of the Emirates
It may have lost out to the Dubai Mall in the shopping battle, but the new Fashion Dome here has given it a luxury-label edge. Keep your credit card on a leash at Boutique 1, the local answer to Selfridges.
Local Dubai resident JamesClar is an American artist who has lived in Dubai since 2007 offers the following insider tips:
Dubai has plenty of glitz and glamour, but if you want to see another side, it’s worth stopping by Dragonmart (www.dragonmart.ae), a sprawling mall full of goods imported from China. Dubai is a globalised city, and this is the new city’s souk. You can find everything here, for a quarter of the price you would pay elsewhere. A great place to kick back is Kung restaurant at the Byblos hotel in the Tecom district. The Korean community come here to relish proper Korean food and drink shochu. There are private karaoke rooms next door. Lastly, there are a few etiquette issues to be aware of – you shouldn’t take pictures of local women, for example, or be over-affectionate in public. If in doubt, check with your concierge.