So I find myself in Dubai with a view to seeing the sites and making the most of my week off work. I had already explored The Marina and found my favourite public beach on which to bask shamelessly in the sun (read my previous blog post to read more). The guide book was full of other tips and places to visit, so I chose a handful and set off to explore. I generally found that even the top picks in the guide book were quite boring if you are travelling by yourself. If you are on holiday with friends then these places may actually be really good choices, as well as the various swanky brunches and all-day boozing events you can go to. But, as you can imagine, sitting by myself for a day of gastronomy and bottomless champagne would be too tragic for words, so did not even feature on my list.
The Burj Khalifa
Currently this sky-scraper is the tallest in the world, so I felt it would be worth a visit before it’s overtaken and stripped of its record. I was advised that booking in advance would be worthwhile in order to beat the queues and the extortionate on-the-day prices. When I went to book there were two options- At The Top, and At The Top SKY – the difference is just 24 floors and about £80! Thinking that 124 floors was quite enough I opted for the cheap option which cost about £20 having booked in advance. Whilst you progress to the lift from the entrance within the Dubai Mall you pass boards of information which explain the planning stages of the building, the construction and show Tom Cruise doing hair-raising stunts dangling from the top with just a few ropes and carabiners keeping him from plunging into the fountains below. At the top, the view awaits. In all honesty, I don’t think the view was that great. Unlike observation decks in London where there is a wealth of variation, architecture and history in which to marvel, there isn’t a great deal to see in my opinion and it’s more about the novelty factor of being at a stomach-churning height. Children might enjoy the various green-screen photo opportunities they do at the viewing platform, but this would have been highly embarrassing to do on my own, as well as being very expensive.
The Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates
If you have a lot of money to spend and love shopping then you might possibly have found heaven in the form of these two malls. Westfield on steroids they are simply enormous and contain everything from Marks and Spencer and H&M through to Cartier, Chanel, Tom Ford and Celine. I am not a big shopper myself, so whilst they were fascinating epitomes of capitalism and great for people watching, they weren’t places I would think to spend a lot of time should I go back to Dubai again. However, I couldn’t resist a quick whiz and trying-on session in Celine in its marble-filled glory. If you are travelling with children then the malls do provide an escape from the scorching temperatures outside, and would provide endless entertainment with a vast real-snow indoor ski slope (complete with chair lift!), aquarium, adventure play park and all the restaurants from home.
Unwilling to let Barcelona or Vegas steal the limelight with their fountains, Dubai felt the need to once again pluck something from another city and do it bigger and better. The fountains lie in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa just outside the Dubai Mall and ‘perform’ several times a day. I saw them at night when they were perhaps more impressive than during the day. The highlight though was probably the hilarity of onlookers applauding the fountains as if the synchronised display was thanks to the water’s nature-defying skill and talent rather than a computer-operated sprinkler system. But they were entertaining nonetheless.
Bar 42 in the Sheridan and The Observatory Bar in the Marriott
Both of these bars are ones which I would highly recommend. Great views, great atmosphere and not too strict or flashy when it comes to the dress code, they won’t disappoint or break the bank. I was quite happy rocking up in jeans and sandals and luckily didn’t feel the need to wear heels or a dress- something which always earns brownie-points in my books.
Barasti is just a stone’s throw from the Marina and is a trendy beach bar for day or evening. I only visited it for dinner and drinks but I hear that it’s a really fun place to chill during the day with comfy beach seating and music.
The Scene is a restaurant in the Marina serving British pub food classics, London beers and gins with Fevertree tonic. The food really was delicious and the cocktails and G&Ts really did hit the spot, however, it did feel bizarre being half way up a sky-scraper in thirty-degree heat in a restaurant mimicking those that can be found just round the corner at home, complete with jam jar cocktails. This was one of the noticeable oddities of Dubai – it doesn’t have its own delicacies or cuisine. This made me feel slightly less guilty of enjoying eating British food when half way round the world. If I was in Italy and was shunning the gorgeous national gastronomy for a pie and chips then I would be thoroughly ashamed of myself, but in Dubai that just isn’t an option so you just have to go with it and enjoy the food regardless.
Don’t forget that I did visit these places on my own, so my reviews of them may have been entirely different had I been able to experience them whilst chatting away with friends. Likewise, if you do have company then there are plenty of other things which would, I am sure, be great fun in Dubai.
Having found these touristy-picks slightly underwhelming it was time to be a little more adventurous and head into the desert….