In Dubai, bigger is almost certainly better.
Towering skyscrapers, colossal shopping malls and exceedingly opulent hotels compete for your attention.
Renowned as the most progressive emirate in the UAE, Dubai flaunts a cutting-edge reputation with endless attractions, each one more spectacular than the next. Towering skyscrapers, colossal shopping malls and exceedingly opulent hotels compete for your attention. With its deluge of more excessive projects in the pipeline, the possibilities seem truly endless here.
Height of Sophistication
The city’s most famous landmark and a great example of its bold approach to architecture is the Burj Kalifa, the tallest building in the world. Just shy of touching the clouds at 828 metres and more than 160 stories, it has also held the record for the world’s tallest free-standing structure since 2004.
One of the best views of the legendary design icon can be seen from the nearby 42-storey Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, particularly from the luxurious, palm-fringed outdoor pool, a popular spot for city sundowners. Conveniently located in the city centre, it is mere minutes away from the city’s fabulous retail havens.
Boost your energy for the impending spree by indulging with a lavish dim sum lunch at Shang Palace, named Dubai's Best Chinese Restaurant at the What's On Awards 2013-2014. Try the hot and sour soup and scallop clay pot with asparagus and truffles.
Once satiated, it’s time to brave Dubai Mall, the largest of its kind in the world in terms of total area. Claiming to be the most-visited destination globally for the third consecutive year, more than 75 million visitors were recorded in 2013.
Even after two separate visits (one of which included a five-hour traipse), it was challenging to cover the 13-million-square-foot retail paradise, which boasts a staggering 1,200 shops and 120 eateries. Another jaw dropper within is the Dubai Aquarium & UnderWater Zoo, which earned the Guinness World Record for the world's Largest Acrylic Panel, which at 750 millimetres thick can withstand the pressure of 10 million litres of water, while still transparent enough to provide clear views of over 33,000 species of marine life.
It is highly likely that you will need to refuel at some point during the excursion. For a quick sugar fix, New York’s Magnolia Bakery at Bloomingdales is famous for its sinfully delightful banana pudding. If Arabic sweets are more your taste, Arabesq boutique has a full range of Middle Eastern delights and the kunefe, a Levantine cheese pastry soaked in syrup, made in-store is to die for.
For something more substantial, Karma Kafé has great views of Dubai Fountain set on the 30-acre Burj Kalifa Lake, where water jets shoot as high as a 50-storey building paired with incandescent lights and music, with performances taking place every half hour. Take in the visual feast over sumptuous foie gras gyozas, sashimi tacos, teriyaki salmon, “angry” chicken and beef short ribs.
For an alternative to urban glitz, The Gold Souk in Dubai’s historic commercial centre offers a dazzling array of affordable, yet elaborate jewellery, where haggling is all part of the fun. Better still is the atmospheric Deira Spice Souk, where the scent of frankincense lingers and you’re sure to return with exotic souvenirs, such as masala tea, argan oil, rose water, saffron and vanilla.
While in the area, the Dubai Museum is worth a look, particularly for parents hoping to keep little ones entertained. Housed in Al Fahidi Fort, the city’s oldest building, kids will enjoy the dioramas depicting life in souks, mosques and traditional homes before the discovery of oil in the emirates.
In the evening, see Dubai’s dunes in their full glory on a desert safari, where countless fleets of four-wheel drives weave elegantly through barren land at dusk. Although camel rides, henna tattoos and shisha at camp are a touch gimmicky, it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment, kebab in hand watching hypnotic twirling belly dancers under the stars. However, the stark surroundings, burnt-sienna sand and mesmerising twilight showcase beauty at its most authentic.
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I like to visit Dubai again