You can either love or hate Dubai. For us it was love at first sight, and we went there five times: twice staying in 2 different hotels and three times as a port of call on a cruise. Each time, of course, we tried to see things that, for various reasons, we had not been able to see on the previous trip.
Many people say that Dubai does not offer much beyond shopping. In my opinion this is a rather hasty and superficial assessment as Dubai is becoming a tourist destination par excellence.
I cannot deny that everything is artificial, but this is Dubai!!
One does not go to Dubai for the monuments or the history, but to see how far one can push futuristic engineering, the extravagant architecture of its skyscrapers, the unbridled and sometimes disarming luxury. Dubai is also a relatively close destination, in fact, leaving from Milan, you can get there in about a 6 hours flight.
A detail that should not be underestimated is that if you go there when temperatures are below zero in December, Dubai offers you the warmth of 20/25 degrees.
Dubai means skyscrapers, shopping malls designed to impress, luxurious hotels, a vast desert and clean white beaches. Dubai is a mixture of ancient customs and cosmopolitan modernity: a city to be discovered calmly and in a relaxed way!!!
During our first trip, at the beginning of May 2010, the Palm was still under construction, so much so that it could be accessed via the monorail that went all the way to the Atlantis Hotel.
As we drove along the road we tried to imagine how this masterpiece of engineering would look like once it was finished. The Burj Khalifa had been inaugurated in January: construction sites and cranes were everywhere. In a way, we saw it grow and change every time we went back.
Now I will take you with me on a tour of this ultra-modern city without forgetting to tell you about its desert.
This complex located in the heart of Jumeirah and is a reconstruction of an old Arab citadel and, like all things in Dubai, is impressive. In addition to the various resorts in classic Arabian style, the many canals which are navigable by Abre, there is a Souk and a promenade with many restaurants and bars, the Wild Wadi Park, as well as the famous Burj Al Arab overlooking the beautiful Jumeirah beach.
The Madinat Souk has been recreated in a modern key right in the center of the Madinat which has an infinite number of alleys in which you can stroll. Here you can smell inebriating scents, you can buy spices of all kinds and, if you wish, souvenirs to take home for yourself and friends. The colors, scents and flavors that can be perceived while walking in the Souk will leave you with unforgettable sensations. At sunset, the lights turn on and the Souk is revealed in all its beauty, offering a spectacle that you will remember for a long time.
Strolling quietly along the narrow streets of the complex is extremely relaxing. Here you will find restaurants and bars where you can have something to eat or just a refreshing drink.
If you happen to see a staircase, take it without any hesitation as it may lead you to a hidden terrace from which you can look out over the entire complex. In the evening, the gardens are romantically illuminated and the Burj Al Arab glistens in the background.
The various navigable canals and small lakes that surround the entire complex offer a particularly impressive spectacle as they flow between gardens of bougainvillea, banana trees and palms scrupulously cared for by a small army of gardeners.
If you are guests of one of the Jumeirah Hotels you can take advantage of the Abre (small boats) that are very handy to go from one place to another while for non-guests they can be used but with a fee.
The complex has various hotels and all of them are of a high standard. We, on this occasion, stayed at the “Al Qsar” The Palace, probably the most prestigious, which, in Dubai, represents an oasis of luxury. The hotel is, to say the least, beautiful and designed in the style of a Sheikh’s summer residence.
As soon as we entered the driveway adorned with statues of gold-colored horses, horses that are also replicated in a sumptuous fountain right in front of the main entrance, we immediately realised that this was the perfect setting for a special holiday.
Upon entering the hotel we were greeted by a guest relation manager and escorted in a beautiful lounge where we were offered dates and a refreshing drink.
After the check-in formalities we were escorted to our very nice and spacious room, equipped with every comfort and furnished in traditional Arabian style with a beautiful sea view.
During the day, between an excursion and another, we would relax on the beach or at the pool, always with a view of the famous Burj Al Arab.
Breakfast at the Arboretum, where you can find everything you could wish for, is a pleasure for the eyes and the palate. What about the other restaurants, one better than the other, you should try them all. In short, a week at the top to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary!!!
Dubai is often considered the city of records, and I must say that it has not failed to do so this time either, impressing everyone with the largest artificial island in the world, the Pam Jumeirah, an incredible engineering masterpiece in the shape of a palm tree.
The best way to enjoy it at its best is to stay directly on the Palm!!! The first time we went to Dubai it was not yet finished, so we decided to go back with our grandson Lorenzo and stay at the Zabeel Saray.
The hotel is located on one of the West Crescent of the Palm and offers a beautiful stretch of Palm Jumeirah beach. The hotel is clearly high-end, elegant and at the same time extravagant, a triumph of marbles and domes.
Inspired by the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, its hand-decorated interiors are an evidence of the magnificence of the Tulip era. This hotel is part of the Jumeirah group like the Al Qsar and the Burj Khalifa. Upon entering we were transported on an imaginary journey to Turkey, with its rich colors, delicate patterns and luxurious interiors.
The symmetry and complexity are the two themes that compose the architecture of the Middle East and we found both at the Zabeel Saray.
The rooms are modern and elegant, while maintaining the Middle Eastern influence, they are a perfect blend of Traditional Arabian style and Modern Luxury. The view from our room was over the Arabian Gulf with beautiful sunsets.
The Imperium, a splendid imperial hall, is truly impressive, where breakfast and, if you wish, dinner buffets are served. The atmosphere is eighteenth-century with theme music and waiters wearing typical costumes of that century. Both breakfast and dinner are of very high quality and variety.
For lunch we often went to the Plaj, near the beach, or to the Sultan’s Lounge where, in the evening after dinner, it was very pleasant to drink a rose tea or enjoy an ice cream. The second option was Lorenzo’s favourite, although before receiving it, he had to witness various stunts and games by the ice-cream man, which of course amused him.
The 59-meter infinity pool on the beach was not only Lorenzo’s favorite destination but, after sight seeing in the city, but also ours.
The long white sandy beach with a view of the Arabian Gulf is very nice, clean and with really comfortable loungers. I always laughed watching Lorenzo’s face when running on the hot sand hahahaha!!!!!
I must say that the choice of the hotel was perfect, everything was top notch, with impeccable service.
The easiest way, for us, to go in the city was to take a taxi and the journey is of about 20 minutes. The service is guaranteed 24 hours a day and the cost is more than affordable.
When staying on the Palm you must go to the Atlantis which is located in the center of the crescent of the Palm. It is a very special, opulent, luxurious and extravagant hotel, which, in my opinion, is worth seeing.
Here, in addition to the Atlantis Adventure Water Park, there is also the famous Lost Chambers Aquarium. A spectacular aquarium where you can find sharks, rays and many other colorful and rare fish.
Shopping in Dubai: the Dubai Mall
Going to Dubai without going shopping, in my case, is an option which does not exist, as it would mean giving up everything that the Dubai Mall, by far my favorite, has to offer. The first time I went there, I was stunned by the beauty of its structure and the enormity of the complex.
Upon entering, one finds the Aquarium, a gigantic tank measuring 51 meters x 20 meters with a depth of 11 meters, inside which one can see sharks, manta rays, stingrays, jacks, groupers and many other species. The special thing about this aquarium is that it is located in the shopping centre and is visible to everyone.
If you wish, you can buy a ticket and enter a tunnel that allows you to admire up close the various fish.
For the brave you can experience scuba diving, snorkeling, dive or walk underwater while you are surrounded by 65,000 marine animals. For Lorenzo it was joy and incredulity to see all these fish swimming together without any conflict.
The Gold Souk, where most of us can only dream, offers an infinity of jewels, sometimes, in my opinion, a bit exaggerated. However, dreaming costs nothing!!!!!
The Fashion Avenue where you can find all, but really all, the famous brands.
Dubai Skating Rink
Dubai is in the Middle East where temperatures range from hot to extremely hot. Amazingly, however, this skating rink is located inside the Dubai Mall this proves that anything is possible. This Olympic-sized rink is multifunctional. During the year it hosts events of all kinds, from hockey to figure skating. For those who do not know how to skate, you can take lessons. Among other things, during skating hours, the Ice Marshals are constantly supervising to ensure the safety of all the skaters.
It is obvious that during your life you have seen more than one waterfall, but the one in this shopping center is really special and unique. In fact, it has something you’ve hardly seen before – human figures diving into the water. The combination of human features and expert craftsmanship make this waterfall have a special effect when you look at it from the bottom upwards of the four floors along which this creation unfolds.
Although they are not quite located in the Dubai Mall, the Dubai Fountains are the largest choreographed fountain system in the world.
We, in order to enjoy the show to the fullest, found a restaurant, in the Dubai Mall, with an outside terrace where you can have dinner and at the same time watch these fountains dance to the sound of music and illuminated with wonderful colors.
If you want, to see them even closer, you can take the traditional Abra that sail on the lake. A show that is truly worth seeing.
Dubai loves excess and what better way to demonstrate it than by showcasing the world’s tallest skyscraper the Burj Khalifa – located next to the Dubai Mall. I really wanted to go up to the observation deck to admire the city from above but unfortunately, suffering from vertigo I had to give up!!!
Disappointed not having been able to face the ascent, while I was consoling myself with a good dinner, the lights of this majestic skyscraper began to turn on, offering spectators an incredible and hypnotizing show where the lights, passing from one color to another, form the most varied designs.
Chairlifts, ski boots and penguins in the middle of the Arabian Desert!!!!! Is it a mirage? No, it’s not a mirage!!! It’s the Dubai Ski Resort.
It’s the largest indoor ski resort in the world located right in the center of Dubai. Here you will find a hill almost 100 meters high and 80 meters wide with 2 slopes 400 meters long in the shape of an arch. A 4-seat chairlift and a ski lift depart from its base and climb continuously following the shape of the arch.
From the base of the slopes there is also a conveyor belt that reaches the central level, near the Ice Bar – a restaurant with a panoramic terrace in the middle of the slope. The Avalance Bar separates the ski-mini station into two large stations that provide slopes with different inclinations. At the foot of the slopes you will also find a playground and an area where you will find penguins.
I think it is superfluous to describe Lorenzo’s incredulity at seeing a ski slope in a shopping center!!!!
It may help you to know that…..
To ski at Ski Dubai you do not need more than the will to do so. At the base of the station, apart from the ticket service, you will find a store where you can rent or purchase equipment. You can rent everything except the gloves, which you have to purchase. In the store you will find pants, jackets, skis, snowboards, helmets and poles to buy or rent. Ski goggles are not necessary as you are in a giant icebox and there is no sun!!!!!!
Miracle Garden an incredible garden in the middle of the desert
Every year, from mid-November to mid-May, there is the opening of the Miracle Garden in Dubai. This garden is yet another example of Dubai’s ability to create everything with a grandeur that is hard to find elsewhere.
Dubai’s Miracle Garden covers some 72,000 m2 with 45 million flowers arranged in structures and arches in such a way as to create unforgettable settings. Year after year, this garden is open to the public for a few months during which it shows itself in all its beauty and magnificence. It then closes for renovation with a new layout, new designs and structures. More than 1.5 million people visit this garden each year!!
Having included it in our itinerary was definitely a good choice. This place is more than just a big garden with an incredible number of flowers, but it also has reconstructions, sometimes gigantic, of animals, houses and castles, so much so that it feels like living in a fairy tale. Flowers, flowers everywhere!!
During our visit, fortunately it wasn’t very crowded so we were able to enjoy the garden.
Small shops allow the purchase of souvenirs of the place while those who are more interested in refreshing themselves with a drink or ice cream can go to the many bars along the way.
The star of the garden is without any doubt the Emirates A380.
A replica of Emirates’ A380 was built in cooperation with the UAE International Airline. There are more than 500,000 fresh flowers and plants covering every part of its structure.
In full bloom, the structure is covered with 5 million flowers, weighing over 100 tons, wow!!! It takes over 9000 flowers and plants for the Emirates logo alone, while it takes over 100,000 for the wings. The construction of this replica took as many as 200 people working 10 hours a day for 180 days accumulating a total of 144,000 hours. All this to build, layer and mount the foliage on the body of the aircraft. A true tour de force!!!!
Maintenance of the Miracle Garden, especially during the hot weather, takes about 757,000 gallons of recycled water per day!!!
Dune bashing in the desert
In addition to the obvious attractions (Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Palm Jumeirah and the Burj al Arab) I have always wanted to do an excursion in the desert, an excursion that despite having been to Dubai several times I had not had the opportunity to do.
The desert landscape has always fascinated me, so, not without some second thoughts, I convinced my husband to go dune bashing in the desert. After making contact with a local agency we purchased a package that included – Dune bashing with a Hummer plus dinner with show in a desert camp.
Dune bashing was the first of the things we were going to do on the itinerary provided by the desert excursion. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, but I had to change my mind in the end.
It was very exciting to cross a stretch of desert with the hummer scaling the high sand dunes at high speed and then plunging, without any hesitation, into a breathtaking descent. I had the impression of being in a blender with the adrenaline pumping!!! Our driver was very good so I felt I was in good hands.
After several ups and downs the hummer stopped at the tope of a dune to allow us to admire the desert. I got out of the car and sat down on the sand to admire this immense landscape dominated by the warm colors of gold and copper of the sand dunes.
After the dune bashing we headed towards the tented camp where you can use a quad or take a stroll with the dromedaries.
Near the camp there are other dunes where you can admire the sunset on the desert. Sitting on a dune with my husband I thought about how lucky I was to have the opportunity to travel the world with him and when possible with our grandson Lorenzo. It is truly a privilege…..
As the sun went down the air got colder and we walked back to the camp for dinner. While we were having dinner we were able to watch a show that consisted of belly dancing, the classic Tanura and a show based on fire.
Once the show was over and our bellies were full, it was time to head back to Dubai, but not before admiring the magic of the starry sky in the desert.
Futuristic skyscrapers and artificial islands stretching out into the sea have completely transformed, within a short period of time, what were once small fishing villages and farms into futuristic oasis in a territory occupied almost entirely by desert. Apart from a few fortresses and ancient neighborhoods still present in the heart of the main cities, it is among the wide and arid landscapes of the country that one can discover the history and culture of this population divided between tradition and future.
See you soon Dubai!!!!