As I begin to jot down about my first and very special destination overseas, I can’t begin to think where to start. Partial fears embedded in overshooting the length of the post, and death with details, I embark ahead with caution.
Checklists and the concept of photo blog are ready remedies in such situations. So here’s a list of go-to places, compiled over a course of my two visits spanning past 5-10 years to the City of Gold.
A ready reckoner – list of places to visit in Dubai:
Touted to be the tallest man-made structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa sits at a height of 829 m and is a wonder of a skyscraper. I remember how excited we were like giddy kids on entering the lift, as the liftman dressed in style, pressed the key to level 125, At the Top Burj Khalifa SKY. With gaping views on a glass bottom, one can see teeming Dubai in sparkly lights glistening in the night sky!
2. Desert Safari
A highly exhilarating and one of a kind safari, this is one of the finest attractions in Dubai. Before the main safari starts, an arena with small jeeps for sand dune bashing is quite fun. A sneak peek into wildlife like ostrich is another viable attraction. The real thrill begins once the monstrous SUVs go sand dune bashing, only to be besotted by the belly dancing Russians twirling in the arena, and delicious treats waiting to be savoured in the desert chill in the ultimate finale.
3. Dubai Mall
This mall is rather huge and known for its grandeur. The Aquarium in there is a feast for the eyes, with umpteen species of fish, and all the big ones, I was rather shocked to see a shark in the tank. It is known to house thousands of aquatic animals over 140 species, 400 sharks & rays. The blues made for a wonderful bash! The ice skating rink is a great adventure, and for onlookers like myself it was fun watching the kids take a slide. Besides, the Dubai Fountain is an accessible attraction here, which is located on the Burj Khalifa lake and is accessible from various view-points. The musical fountains orchestrating some magical tunes from the yore, in a colourful streak is a spell-binding attraction. I found myself swinging to the tunes of Ain’t no mountains high enough, Oprah tunes and the iconic My heart will go on (read Titanic)! A shopaholic’s paradise, housing high class brands, the Lebanese eating joints and the Village are among other delights, which will make your heart sing and leave your mouth drooling.
4. Dubai Festival City and IKEA
The Dubai Festival city is a one-stop-shop for all retail enthusiasts, its home to the Guinness World Record holding cutting-edge daily attraction, IMAGINE, as well as IKEA, the only Hard Rock Café in the Middle East and a world-class mall. Its a keep for some 5 star hotels as well. The Ikea Dubai has fancy home decor products, quite nifty and one can easily get lost in this store, much like the malls.
5. Mirdif City Center Mall and The Mall of Emirates
Among the other must-explore malls in Dubai is the Mirdif City center and the Mall of Emirates. With all brands under one roof, Papa Roti, and the famous Paul bakery, Mirdiff is a treat for the eyes. The Mall of Emirates offers the Ski Dubai as its most promising attraction, imagine a dedicated 22500 square meters skiing area, playing in igloos and posing with snow props, like real snow in a desert within a mall – only Dubai can pull it off!
6. Miracle Garden, Dubai
If snow wasn’t enough, think flowers, string them together in well-designed outlays and you have another miracle up your sleeve, Miracle Garden is a befitting tribute to the wonders that the desert land can concoct. From butterflies to cars to umbrella canopies, and the very Eiffel tower replica of flowers, one could let their imagination run wild and the structure stood there in its aromatic-floral best.
7. The Palm, Atlantis & Burj-Al-Arab
A wonderful driveway to the charming 5 star hotel, The Palm Atlantis offers spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf. Touted as the UAE’s largest aquarium, we had a blast inside ‘the Lost Chambers’ free-wheeling our way across the wide spectrum of marine life we saw thriving inside, scuba divers included! Burj-Al-Arab, another 5 star hotel is a glorified property which is visible from major strategic view-points.
8. Wild Wadi
Splash, whirl, twirl and dunk – we had all the antics up with the super fun adventure park rides in the Wild Wadi. With adrenaline rush at its peak, and numerous rides to pick from, I was spoilt for choice. Water rides were my best pick as my cousins and I dashed our way through the park from one ride, to the next. Be prepared for a bucket full of memories as you step outside this park, albeit taking pics inside is forbidden.
9. The Dubai Golf Creek and Dine @QD’s, explore the Dhow Cruise
Offering resplendent views of the golf course, and a peaceful evening, the Dubai Golf Creek is a perfect setting for a quite, lovely time in the greens. What better than having a jazz band playing alongside at dusk, and a hot cuppa in hand! And if you want to take that up by a notch higher, opt to spend the evening and dine @ QD’s with amazing views of the skyline and a sumptuous meal by the creek.
A ride in the Dhow Cruise for first timers is a charming attraction, as one swifts on the shimmering creek in a wooden dhow, which is essentially the generic name given to traditional sailing vessels.
10. The Jumeirah Beach Residences and the Madinat Jumeirah
A prime property by the beach, Jumeirah Beach residences transport one back to a dreamy world with a great choice of cuisines in the umpteen restaurants, snazzy brands of cars wading by and a beachside which is accessible in the night, and buzzing as much! The Madinat Jumeirah is a resplendent culmination of design, and architecture which is reminiscent of an Arabic town! Its palm-fringed waterways and souks are absolutely gorgeous under the sparkling night sky.
11. A ride by the Dubai Metro – From Bur Dubai to Ibn-Battuta Mall
With cutting edge technology and magnificent views of the spinning roadways, a ride by the Dubai Metro is a great pick to witness the pulse of this gigantic land. The added plus is the speedy ride which zips and zooms to the destination within no time! We rode from Bur Dubai where my mamu stayed at the time, to the Ibn-Battuta Mall where I got plaques with names etched in Arabic, for free from a calligrapher. At Bur Dubai, we freaked out on grocery and necessities shopping at Spinneys and Carrefour. BurJuman is another mall in the vicinity, which could be explored if one happens to be at Bur Dubai.
12. Of Gitex and Gold Souk
GITEX is an annual consumer computer and electronics trade show, an exhibition of sorts that takes place in Dubai, at the Dubai World Trade Centre. I had the opportunity to check this place out owing to my relative who had a stall there for gadgets. But what’s more on display is the business mindset and brilliance of the Dubai entrepreneurs in a tech ecosystem with the best in class names.
Think gold, and Gold Souk Dubai comes to instant recall, with plethora of retail shops raining in gold with market rates displayed at various junctions. Located in Deira, the commercial business district, this is a must stop for the old market experience in the otherwise plush side of Dubai.
13. Dine @The Grand Hyatt , and Aroos Damascus for authentic Lebanese treats
Despite the glitz and glamour of the shiny persona accentuated by the skyscrapers, dining at Hyatt was a relatively affordable deal. If you are looking for a more earthy experience, head over to Aroos Damascus, Deira for a no-frills authentic Lebanese treat.
14. Quieter options: Mamzar Beach and Zabeel Park
For quieter times, head to Mamzar beach on the outskirts of Dubai, we had our own little family picnic there! Zabeel Park is a great option for a quite stroll in nature, it is clean and well maintained and very close to the Financial Center.
Whatever you include in your itinerary, Dubai is a joy ride. So take your pick, better still – hit all the places (literally too!), and enjoy your explorations in the land of Sheikhs!