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Dubai - jewel of the desert

July 18, 2011, 7:58 amYahoo! New Zealand

The best of ancient culture mixed with futuristic attractions. From fine dining and sightseeing to world-class boutiques.

Emirates Dubai
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Arabian nights meets cosmopolitan chic, where vendors sell spices in markets to visitors staying at Dubai’s seven-star hotel. That’s the juxtaposition of the tiny Emirate of Dubai.

The magic of Dubai is its capacity to cater to tourists across the spectrum of budgets, all under an umbrella of complete luxury. Dubai is quite simply a city of superlatives: words like lavish, exquisite, amazing, refined … first, best and tallest, roll off the tongue when you stand in awe of the city’s engineering and architectural marvels. Dubai is home to the world’s tallest skyscraper – the 828 metre high Burj Khalifa which opened in 2009, and one the very few 7-star hotels in the world, the Burj Al Arab Hotel on Jumeirah Beach. If an overnight stay at the Burj Al Arab is out of reach, consider an evening meal within the hotel’s opulent surroundings – pure extravagance and an unforgettable gastronomic experience, and still within the budget.

This city on the Arabian Peninsula punches above its weight when it comes to international visitors and makes an exciting stopover on the way to Europe. With a total population of just over 1.7 million, you’ll find plenty to see and do as East meets West and ancient culture merges with a rapidly developing high tech future.

Known as the shopping capital of the Middle East, the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, that runs for a month from late January to late February, draws literally millions of eager bargain hunters from all over the world as prices are slashed on top designer fashion and spectacular events are organised to celebrate the exchanging of the dirham.


Yet you don’t have to drive far out of this dynamic hub to find camels roaming free and the locals plying their trade, selling spices, silver, carpets and antiques in souks to tourists who are encouraged to haggle for a great price – perfect for souvenir shopping and a people-watcher’s paradise.

Dubai also has a vibrant nightlife and delicious dining options, catering to a range of ages and tastes. During the day, Dubai continues to be a breathtaking playground for all, with everything from the world's largest mall to seemingly endless beaches … and even a year-round ski field. Big kids and small (and kids at heart) will be wide-eyed with excitement and anticipation at the abundance of theme parks on offer – and we’re talking fun beyond your wildest dreams; adventurous, extravagant and huge.

A quick stopover won’t be enough time to experience all the crazy activities on offer, but here’s a few to whet your appetite.

The Atlantis Aquaventure Water Park – built on a manmade island sprawling over 17-hectares, some say this is the best family entertainment in Dubai . Let the fun begin plunging down the 9 storey high water slide before taking on rapids, waves and waterfalls; with so many rides and pools to choose from, you need never get out of the water all day. There’s also a 700-metre beach for a more serene day – or for mum and dad with a book while the kids play.


Wild Wadi Water Park – a wadi is a dry gorge that is prone to flooding in seasonal rains, hence this theme park is all about rushing water and white-knuckle rides. There are lifeguards on duty – and tamer pools for the little ones. This is incredibly popular in summer so plan to get here early to avoid the rush.

Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo – this will be one of life’s highlights for marine lovers. The absolutely massive facility holds 33,000 marine animals with a glass walk-through. Wander through three ecological zones: Rainforest, Rocky Shore, and Living Ocean, and see penguins, seals, crocodiles, piranhas, spider crabs, water rats, giant catfish, lizards, tiger fish, and dart frogs. The sheer size will amaze you – as will its surroundings, as the aquarium is set within one of the biggest malls in the world – the shopping fanatic’s Mecca. Fun for the entire family, all under one roof.

Ski Dubai – yes there is snow in the desert! A great alternative to basking in the desert sun is Snow Park and Ski Dubai. This amazing facility has ski slopes to suit all levels and you can get lessons for the kids in the beginners area, try bob-sledding and tubing or head to the more serious slopes then meet up in the Ice Bar for a hot chocolate – before heading back to the beach.

Kidzania – for an entertainment and educational extravaganza, Kidzania offers a new twist on the oldest game of all: role play. In a world scaled down to kid size, child’s play takes flight into learning real life skills as kids perform over 75 adult professions in this make believe city, stimulating their creativity and social values.

Children’s City – this is a museum designed for 2-15 year olds. They’ll love getting amongst the interactive displays on space exploration, the human body, science and communication. There is a plethora of things to play on – and in. Workshops, stories and shows are held throughout the day so it’s worth checking in advance to see what is on if you want to spend a few educational hours with the kids.


Nightlife

Dubai has an extraordinary nightlife catering to a range of tastes - from colossal bars and discos to intimate lounges and outdoor beach clubs – although only bars in hotels are able to serve alcohol. The drinking age in Dubai is 21. Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays are the busiest nights so keep in mind that it’s best to make reservations at your restaurant of choice to avoid disappointment.

The best time to go: While the malls and hotels are all air conditioned making any time of year an easy stopover, if you want to get out and explore this fascinating part of the world, the best time is from October to April. In winter (December to March) it is very pleasant but overnight lows can drop to as low as 10˚.

What to wear: Loose-fitting clothing is essential for comfort during the summer months and the winter evenings can be surprisingly cool. Western women are not expected to wear head coverings except when visiting a mosque, but dressing modestly is expected – cover your shoulders and don’t wear skimpy shorts or skirts.


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3 Comments

  1. Chris06:56pm Wednesday 21st December 2011 ESTReport Abuse

    Burj Khalifa is a Giant, I like most this Building, Burj Khalifa apartments

    Reply
  2. Mrs Mole10:56pm Saturday 19th November 2011 ESTReport Abuse

    Loved Bahrain. Made a lot of money working there many years ago and had a ball with the pom's. Not as strict as saudi arabia, had bars etc.

    Reply
  3. Mrs Mole10:56pm Saturday 19th November 2011 ESTReport Abuse

    Loved Bahrain. Made a lot of money working there many years ago and had a ball with the pom's. Not as strict as saudi arabia, had bars etc.

    Reply
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