To be honest, Dubai has never been on the top of my travel bucket list. This is purely because in my mind I imagined it to be a hot, humid desert city which had extreme cultural differences. We booked a four day layover on my last trip overseas and even when our travel agent was raving about how amazing Dubai is and how much there is to see and do, the Middle East was probably the place I was least excited to visit.
You can imagine how surprised I was to find myself in a thriving city that is so friendly to tourists, have more international companies than we even get here in Perth (hello, Starbucks!) and have more attractions than we could possibly fit into our four days there. Dubai is now one of my favourite travel destinations and I’m so keen to go back as I’m sure what I experienced in my measly four days was just the tip of the iceberg of what this city has to offer. These are my top five things I loved about Dubai (purely from a tourists point of view) and I can’t wait to visit again to add more adventures to the list.
Whenever I imagined myself eventually crossing off the ‘learn to ski’ item on my bucket list, I always dreamed it would happen in a little Christmassy village on the Swiss Alps or the trendy slopes in Canada with a group of Australian backpackers. Learning to ski in a mall in a city in the middle of the desert is certainly not what I had in mind but I think this was probably my favourite Dubai experience. Ski Dubai is an mountain-themed ski resort right in the middle of the Mall of the Emirates, complete with a chair lift, miniature chalets and even penguins. You can go snowboarding, skiing, tobogganing or even just sit in the cosy restaurant with a hot chocolate and watch the skiers. It really does feel quite magical!
If you ever decide to take a holiday to Dubai, make sure you bring a wad of extra spending money and at least one empty suitcase to fill up because the shopping in Dubai is pretty impressive. As we were only in Dubai for four days, we went to the The Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates. These are two of the biggest shopping centres and have attractions such as ice rinks, giant aquariums, theme parks, bowling alleys and every kind of restaurant imaginable. I consider myself to be a champion shopper but even I was overwhelmed with how many shops there are in the major shopping centres. Also, most shops stay open until 10pm most nights so you really can shop til you drop. The Dubai Mall is also a great mall to go to if you’re only visiting Dubai for a few days as it is right next to the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world, so you can easily walk from one attraction to the next and kill two birds with one stone.
The Water Parks
The weather in Dubai is mainly hot and humid so it’s a blessed relief to visit one of the water parks to cool down for a bit. We spent a day at the Atlantis water park and it was one of the most enjoyable days on the trip. We spent the entire day on the water slides and the longest lazy river that I’ve ever been on but there are plenty of other activities to do there such as visit the marine park, swim with sharks in the aquarium or wander around the many shops and restaurants in the resort. One thing I would recommend when going to the water park is to make sure you take flip-flops for walking around the park in between rides. There isn’t a lot of shade on the pathways and the paths get super-hot so there were a lot of people (including myself) burning their feet on the hot bricks.
One of the attractions in Dubai that was highly recommended to us was the Arabian Nights tour. Basically, you get picked up at your hotel by a driver and taken out into the middle of the desert to a Bedouin camp where you go dune bashing, camel riding and sand boarding. There are tents set up in the camp where you can get a henna tattoo, try shisha, get your photo taken in traditional clothes and buy souvenirs. You also have a barbecue dinner cooked for you and belly dancing to entertain you while you eat. It sounded like a lot of fun and we were all excited to try this unique experience.
We found a tour on Trip Advisor and it probably could have been a little bit better than what it was. The dune bashing was the pinnacle of the tour and was better than any ride we went on in Atlantis. The drivers are completely fearless and at one stage, our land cruiser was driving nearly horizontally along the side of a sand dune. The rest of the tour was slightly disappointing as many of the activities were not as described on the tour website but it was still something that I’m glad I experienced. The drive alone into the desert is worth the money as you get to see how quickly the landscape of the city changes from ultra-modern architecture to total starkness and the only inhabitants you come across for miles and miles are camels and their owners.
One thing that really impressed me about Dubai is the diversity of food options there are to try. After visiting Tennessee a few years ago, there are many American food franchises that I enjoy that haven’t arrived in Australia just yet but have found their way to the Middle East. Even the food courts in the shopping centres have a wide variety of cuisines so tourists from all over the world can generally find something to suit their tastes. During our visit to Dubai, we stayed at the Grand Hyatt and their hotel breakfast was one of the most extensive buffets I’ve ever seen in my life. It was actually overwhelming how many different cuisines there were on offer and my stomach continued to let me down as I couldn’t possible try all the different foods there were on offer.
If you’ve been to Dubai before and have had different experiences or have any good recommendations, I would love to hear them so please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Thanks for reading x