Dubai is a city in the United Arab Emirates that is no doubt developing quickly and becoming popular to many tourists. It is a developer’s playground with heaps of vast flat land to plant in fancy skyscrapers and gigantic attractions. While there are more and more things to do, these are the top 8 things that you should not miss out on:
1. Stand on the Tallest Building in the World
The Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure on the planet (to date). Shaped like a giant needle spacecraft, you can view the city from the observation deck on the 134th floor. Make it a point to book your tickets in advance online, as there are limited slots available each day which fills up early during peak holidays.
2. Shop in the World’s Biggest Mall
Dubai is famous for its shopping malls, but the Dubai Mall holds the title of the World’s Biggest and Most Visited Shopping & Leisure Destination, attracting more visitors than New York City, Los Angeles and other destinations such as Times Square, Central Park and Niagara Falls. Housing a cinema, indoor Sega World theme park, the famous Dubai Aquarium, Dubai Ice Rink, more than 1,200 shops, it is also one place where you can find London’s famous Hummingbird Bakery, New York’s Magnolia Bakery, Shake Shack, Paris’ Pierre Herme and many other international food under one roof.
3. Watch the Dubai Fountain show
Just outside the Dubai Mall lies the world’s largest (yes, another superlative!) choreographed fountain system. Set on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake, the height of the water jet shots are equivalent to that of a 50-storey building, and is performed daily to classical, Arabic and world music. What more, the beam of light shining upward can be seen from space, making it the brightest spot in the Middle East and quite possibly the entire world! Great spot for viewing the show? Reserve a table in advance (and request for a table by the balcony) at one of the restaurants at the waterfront promenade of the Dubai Mall or Souk Al Bahar- I went with Mango Tree, a contemporary Thai eatery with splendid food and view. Or enjoy front row seats by hopping abroad a traditional abra- book your lake ride tickets here.
4. Take the Leap of Faith
You can find several water parks in Dubai, which is the perfect day out in summer, especially when the weather goes up to 40+ degrees. Aquaventure is one of the most legendary water parks with record breaking (superlative again!) slides, uphill water roller coasters, never ending rapid river adventures and the Leap of Faith. The 9-storey tall slide catapults riders down its near vertical drop in a mere second, and into a clear acrylic tube through a shark infested lagoon. Conquer this and feel like a champion!
5. Go to the desert
No visit to U.A.E. is complete without a trip to the Arabian desert! The easiest way to get the most out of a desert excursion is to join a tour. A typical desert safari tour will allow you to go dune bashing (if you fancy getting thrown around in a jeep), ride an ATV or a camel, sand board, have a mediocre traditional Bedouin style barbecue meal and watch traditional Tanoura and belly dance performances under the Arabian stars. Dubai Private Tour has pretty good reviews if you do not want to look further.
6. Spend an afternoon at the Dubai Creek
Situated in the old centre is the Dubai Creek that divides the districts of Bur and Deira. While the vast majority of Dubai is made up of endless steel, concrete and tarmac, the creek maintains its old charm. Take a ride on a traditional abra (water taxi) across to Deira and explore the souks (market) of Dubai, including the world famous Gold Souk where you can find the World’s Biggest Gold Ring on display. I hear the creek comes alive at night too when the water and buildings lit up.
7. Visit the ‘World’s Only 7-Star Hotel’
Also the World’s 3rd Tallest Hotel, Burj Al Arab is situated on an artificial island off Jumeirah Beach. It’s helipad has been graced by many celebrities where Tiger Woods tee-ed off, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer played tennis, Ronan Keating shot the music video for ‘Iris’, and more. The lavish hotel comes with a hefty price tag of an average of USD$24,000 for one night in the Royal Suite, and assuming that most of us will never stay there in this lifetime, here is where you can view what’s it like on the inside. The only way to get inside without paying for a room is to book a table at one of the hotel’s swanky restaurants or have a drink at the Skyview Bar- may I suggest the USD1000+ ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ cocktail that comes in a Swarovski Crystalline glass with diamonds in the stem? You get to take it home..
8. Celebrate New Year’s Eve
If you have the opportunity to spend NYE in Dubai, you can witness quite possibly the most impressive fireworks display in the world. The streets of Dubai comes to a still as thousands gather to watch a dazzling array of pyrotechnics illuminate the Dubai skyline, from non other than the World’s Tallest Building of course. I was fortunate enough to score an invitation to the rooftop of Shangri-La Hotel, which had splendid views of the building and the entire city. Here are some other great spots for viewing too.