I was privileged enough to live in Dubai for 6 months doing an accounting secondment (sounds great right?). Even though it was for work I managed to enjoy most of what this magnificent place has to offer. When I arrived in Dubai I could not believe the grand scale of things – I lightly use the word “things” as it’s not just one thing that Dubai offers – but many things on a bigger, better, more lavish scale!
They have the tallest building in the world, the biggest mall in the world and without a doubt the most iconic and modern city in the world. Dubai makes the impossible possible – it does not snow in Dubai but yet you can go skiing. They ran out of ocean view land – so they built land in the ocean. It’s crazy to think that it was once a barren desert before. Someone told me once that Dubai houses 98% of the world’s cranes. I can believe that as I stare across the horizon noticing just how much construction is happening with the aim to make this place a destination that brings all the wonders of the world to one location.
These are my top ten things to do while visiting Dubai:
1. Du-buy or not Du-buy?
When visiting – you just have to visit the Dubai mall to do some quality shopping. This mall houses every single brand your mind can fathom! Remember – this is the biggest mall in the world and considering I lived there for 6 months and did not even put a dent in the mall means you will need a strategic shopping plan when visiting! After shopping, you can grab a drink at one of the amazing restaurants that overlook the “dancing “fountains. You can watch a preview here. You can access this mall directly from the airport. The mall is directly linked by air-conditioned footbridges to the subway.
The mall of the Emirates is considerably smaller than the Dubai mall but offers more in aesthetic beauty and activities. I mean this is where you can have a sneak peek into the indoor ski resort. From the Emirates mall, you can catch the train to the IBN Battuta mall.
2.Visit the Burj Al Arab Hotel
This structure looks like the “Sail” of a yacht. The description of luxury at its best. This self-proclaimed 7-star hotel is located on its own island in the middle of the Persian Gulf. The outside entrance is always lined with luxury cars and the ceilings glimmer like stars. I managed to book a buffet brunch which was 7 stars at best! Visit the sky bar for a “drink” just to see the view. It’s spectacular. Fun fact – The sky bar serves one of the most expensive cocktails called the 27.321 cocktail and costs around $7400 a glass. Since its creation in 2009, it has only been sold 10 times.
3. Visit the Burj Khalifa
If only I could’ve base jumped off this building! Being the tallest building in the world, visiting here is a must. Before going in, try taking a selfie getting the entire building in (I would say it’s impossible!). You have to book tickets in order to visit the observation desks of this building and it ain’t cheap!
Level 124 -125 will cost you AED 135 (ZAR 484)
Level 124,125 and 148 will cost you 370 AED (ZAR 1328)
You can book tickets here.
4. Take a lesson skiing or snowboarding
As mentioned above, there is an indoor ski resort in the middle of the mall of the emirates. It may not be the biggest ski resort in the world – but it is grand! Very grand! If you are an avid skier you can rent equipment as you need it! As I was quite the newbie, I opted for snowboarding lessons. I must admit it was fun until I landed flat on my behind more often than I would like. It is just crazy to think that you are skiing in a desert! Check out pricing here . If you do not want to ski, they offer a once in a lifetime opportunity swimming with penguins! It’s quite expensive but as I said once in a lifetime experience. Read about it here.
5.Go on a desert Safari
Dubai is located in a desert so you have to enjoy a desert safari! I have had the opportunity to enjoy a desert safari twice (having to entertain visitors!). I always looked on Groupon for great deals with desert safari packages. Read reviews and choose the best providers.
If you get queasy in cars, then this is not for you. The safari starts out with desert dune bashing in a 4×4 wheel drive. Once the madness stops you will be taken to what feels like a “city” in the desert for an evening buffet meal with live entertainment and good food. You can choose to do a camel ride, have tattoos painted in henna and enjoy some shisha (hubbly bubbly) at an additional cost while there. Check out more detail here.
6.Visit the Dubai Marine and Jumeira beach walk residence
I would suggest booking a dinner cruise that travels through the Dubai Marina. This experience is most spectacular and the food is amazing. Before the dinner cruise, head down to Jumeira beach walk residence for some gawking at the most beautiful residential high rises and cafes.
7. Visit a few souks (Arabian market)
A wander through one of Dubai’s bustling souks is an essential experience for visitors. I believe that if Dubai is the heart then the souks are the heartbeat of Dubai. From jewellery to spices, traditional Arabic delicacies, to fabrics and traditional oud fragrances – this is a place to shop cheaply.
You will find almost all the souks in Dubai’s old city called Deira. You must visit the Gold Souk, spice souk, fragrance souk and textile souk. Do some research before you go as to make your trip worth-while. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the vendors questions as they are more than willing to help. The textile souk is a wonderful place to get a suit made or even a traditional Abaya. (This is the place my in-laws bought my traditional morning outfit for my wedding and it was gorgeous!)
8. Visit the palm islands
To think that these islands are man-made is just insane! The sheer magnitude of it is quite breathtaking. These islands house beautiful beaches and the city’s most lavish houses. I would suggest taking the subway through the heart of it and hop off to visit the beaches and gawk at the houses
9. Visit the water parks
I am truly a water park lover and no holiday is sufficient if I was not entirely wet for the whole day! Atlantis is by far the best water park I have been to in my entire life. You walk from ride to ride through pools (how clever!). You literally do not need to get out of the water the entire day.
They have one of the scariest slides that literally houses a vertical drop. This is not for the faint-hearted but lucky for everyone – I do like a challenge and a thrill. Let’s just say …… do not wear a bikini top when sliding down – you will reach the bottom topless.
Did I mention that there is even a slide that goes through a shark tank? If its adrenaline you seek, then this is the place to go. A ticket will cost you about 275AED per person (ZAR 987)
10. Visit the Madinat Jumeriah
The Madinat Jumeriah is truly a mini Arabian city in the heart of Dubai. There is an entire river system five kilometers in length complete with its own fleet of traditional abra boats. You can take a tour around the whole property on one of these in-house abras and stop by the Madinat Jumeirah’s own souk on the way. This place is definitely quite romantic and a must visit for first-timers. When you are tired of shopping in the souk, grab an Arabian tea at one of the many cafes overlooking the spectacular view of the Burj al Arab.
If you are considering visiting this spectacular city, try to avoid their summer months as it can get extremely hot! Looking for cheap flights to Dubai, check out some specials here.
I do hope this post was informative in helping you plan your itinerary when visiting Dubai. When you do decide to go, just remember this when overlooking the city skyline – “We in the UAE have no such word as ‘impossible’ it does not exist in our lexicon.” – HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
images – google images