Dubai is the most glitzy and glamorous city of the oil flush UAE, and it is a wonder to behold. When you look past the ultra-modern glass skyscrapers and luxurious interiors, you will see a city that is still very in touch with its traditional roots.
In the last decade, Dubai has been on a spending spree, and it is home to many of the biggest things in the world. The Burj Khalifa, at 830m tall, is the tallest man-made structure in the world. The observation decks are well worth a visit to take in a bird’s eye view of Dubai. Underneath the Burj Khalifa, is the largest fountain in the world, sitting right in the middle of the Burj Lake. At nights lights and projectors turn the fountain into a synchronised light show. The Palm is the biggest man-made island in the world, home to 30 high-end hotels and numerous private residences of the Dubai elite. The Burj Al Arab is the world’s highest all-suite hotel at 321m high and is so luxurious; it has been classed as a 7-star hotel.
The Al Fahidi Quarter is the historic district of Dubai, with narrow, winding alleyways, and traditional architecture. There is a nearby souk, numerous art galleries, and tea houses to stumble upon as you explore. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is located here and offers many walking tours, traditional meals, and other activities to allow visitors to learn about the culture, religion, and customs of Dubai.
As Dubai is a Muslim country, you will not find pork or alcohol served in any of the restaurants. If you stay in one of the large hotels, they will be licensed to serve alcohol, but drinking in public and public drunkenness is forbidden. Be respectful of these laws, and consume alcohol in moderation while in Dubai.
Dubai is home to gorgeous long white sand beaches which are perfect for lazing around and swimming in the cooler months. The summer sun can be scorching here, so the beaches are often empty. If you book a beachfront hotel, it is acceptable to wear a bikini or any other swimming costume you desire on the hotel beach and pool. However, on a public beach, it is better to have a t-shirt and shorts to cover up a little. While you will not be arrested for wearing a bikini on a public beach, you will attract stares.
Most of the hotels have large beach clubs with water sports, music, bars, and activities. However, there are a number of public beach clubs as well. La Mer is one of these and is more of a destination than a beach club. It is 1.24 million square kilometres of shopping malls, amusement parks, restaurants, cafes, and cinemas, oh and of course the beach. It is so large that guests are ferried around in buggies. On the beach, there are cabanas for rent, beautiful Banksy-style murals, and numerous water sports to choose from. La Mer is a fun day out, with options for everyone; you can even book a boat cruise from here!
November to March is the best time to travel to Dubai; the temperature is not as scorching as in the middle of summer. All of the buildings in Dubai are well air-conditioned, so if you do go on the shoulder season to get a deal, you can seek respite from the sun. It is also worth noting that Ramadan is widely celebrated in Dubai, and while the celebrations are something to behold, not much will be open during the day. Check the dates of Ramadan before you book your trip.
The main languages spoken in Dubai are Arabic and English. Because of the international business and tourism in Dubai, most people will speak English to a high level.
VOYA’S FAVOURITE PLACES TO VISIT INCLUDE
The Atlantis the Palm is an iconic Dubai hotel, but if you’re not staying there, you can only visit the restaurants or waterpark and aquarium. One of Voya’s top recommendations of fun things to do in Dubai is to visit the Saffron restaurant at the Atlantis the Palm for their Friday Buffet Brunch. There is a ridiculous amount of food and alcohol and a DJ. It is great fun to do with friends to start your weekend off well.
Dubai Garden Glow is absolutely magical at night, with themed sections of glowing sculptures. It is the world’s biggest glow park, with 120 glowing dinosaur sculptures alone. It is very popular with families, but the glowing sculptures are spectacular to behold, and the glow park attracts all sorts of people wanting to experience the otherworldly sculptures.
VOYA'S FAVOURITE PLACES TO STAY INCLUDE
XVA Art Hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel and contemporary art gallery in the heart of the pedestrianised Al Fahidi Historical District. The hotel is a 100-year-old building that was formerly a house with 15 rooms set around the central courtyard. All of the rooms are decorated by local designers to be completely unique and themed. The hotel’s café is popular among locals with their wide range of breakfast dishes, most of them vegetarian.
The Royal Le Meridien is a much bigger, beachfront resort with a wealth of facilities for guests of all ages. There are water sports, tennis, squash, beach volleyball, and crazy golf as well as a state of the art fitness centre. The luxurious spa is a must-try while staying here, it has been decorated to look like a Roman bathhouse which maximises the serene atmosphere.
VOYA’S FAVOURITE DISHES TO TRY
A popular traditional dish in Dubai is Ghuzi, which is a whole roasted lamb served over rice, vegetables, and hazelnuts. It is a very filling and flavourful meal that can be found at most traditional restaurants. It is also the national dish of the UAE, which is even more reason to give it a try while you’re in Dubai.
One of our favourite desserts is Esh Hasaraya, which is a little bit like a cheesecake in richness and consistency topped with pistachios. It is very creamy and indulgent and if you eat one dessert while you are in Dubai, make it this one.