|photo by Freeimages.com/Ali AlEfain|
by Nick Boulos, The Daily Telegraph, January 25, 2015
From traditional souks to cutting-edge galleries and restaurants, Dubai is full of surprises, says Nick Boulos.
Why go now?
Already a favourite for travellers seeking top hotels, world-class shopping and guaranteed sunshine, Dubai is also gaining a reputation as a rewarding stopover destination en route to the Far East and Australasia. Among forthcoming attractions is the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature ( emirateslitfest.com ), which runs from March 1-12 at Dubai’s InterContinental Hotel. Around 140 authors are attending, including crime writer Ian Rankin and regular Telegraph Travel contributor Anthony Horowitz. Netflights (01772 911736; netflights.com ) has packages from £1,049 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and £1,439 at the InterContinental Hotel, including return Emirates flights, six nights’ accommodation with breakfast (based on two sharing), Freedom Pass for unlimited main festival sessions (restrictions apply), transfers and 24-hour city sightseeing ticket.
Flights touch down at Dubai International Airport, a short distance from the city centre. Virgin Atlantic (0344 209 7777; virgin-atlantic.com ) flies daily from London Heathrow from £565 return, as does British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com ), Royal Brunei Airlines (020 7584 6660; flyroyalbrunei.com ) and Emirates (0344 800 2777; emirates.com ), which also operates from London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow.
Where to stay
In a city brimming with luxury hotels, the Oberoi at Al A’amal Street (00971 4444 1444; oberoihotels.com ) is the best. Think airy rooms with city views and handwoven rugs, with a lobby of gold leaf and white marble. Doubles from £525 per night.
In a former life, the XVA Art Hotel, in Al Fahidi, one of Dubai’s oldest neighbourhoods, was a house belonging to an Iranian fisherman. Today it’s a small, trendy property with 13 individually decorated rooms, a gallery and café. Doubles from £80.
Rooms at the Bur Dubai Citymax Hotel on Kuwait Street (00971 4407 8000; citymaxhotels.com ) are cheap and cheerful. Its outdoor pool and central location make it an attractive option. Doubles from £32.
Stretch your legs with a walk along the sand. While many beaches in Dubai are attached to hotels and reserved for the use of guests, a few are open to the public. The Jumeirah Open Beach on Jumeirah Road is free and has nice views of the emblematic and sail-shaped Burj Al Arab.
Hop in a cab to the Dubai Marina Mall for dinner at Pier 7 (00971 4436 1020; pier7.ae ). With a restaurant for every day of the week split across seven floors, the building offers plenty of choice. Dine on Latin flavours at Ocacti, go Asian at Cargo, or sample local cuisine at Abd el Wahab; try the grilled lamb and aubergine kebabs. The views of the harbour, including the new twisting Cayan Tower, are equally delicious.
Have breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding at 26 Mussallah Road (00971 4353 6666; cultures.ae ), which has been bringing cultures together over tasty Emirati food (spiced meat and sweet dates) since 1995. Breakfast costs AED95 (£17). Reservations essential.
Take a stroll around the Bastakiya Quarter on the Dubai Creek. Among the restored buildings are cafés and independent galleries. Wander west towards the Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Street (00971 4353 1862), which explores the city’s history and showcases archaeological finds.
Lunch. Grab a bite at Local House at House No 51 Al Bastakiya (00971 4354 0705; localhousedubai.com ). Try its famous camel burger (AED20/£3.50) or camel milk ice cream, deep-fried and dusted with cinnamon.
Zipping back and forth across the Dubai Creek are countless abras (small wooden water taxis). Hop aboard and watch life on the river unfold. A one-way ticket costs a single dirham (a paltry 20p).
Over in Deira, it’s time to hit the souks, where hundreds of vocal vendors compete for business. Concentrated around Sikkat Al Khali Road are markets specialising in spices, gold, fish and fresh produce.
For shopping of a different kind, the Dubai Mall on Financial Centre Road (00971 4362 7500; thedubaimall.com ) has more than 1,200 high-end stores. If that doesn’t float your boat, the mall’s vast aquarium with its 33,000 marine animals will.
Dominating the Downtown district is the Burj Khalifa, at 1 Emaar Boulevard, the tallest building in the world at 2,716ft. Take in the views from At the Top, the 124th-floor observatory deck (00971 4888 8124; atthetop.ae ) or, better still, put the £23 admission cost towards a drink at At.mosphere (00971 4888 3444; atmosphereburjkhalifa.com ), two floors below.
Back at ground level, don’t miss the dancing Dubai Fountains, which spring to life every half-hour from 6pm to 11pm. Choreographed to music, the jets shoot 500ft into the air against the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa.
Fresh from a recent makeover, Pier Chic at Al Sufouh Road (00971 4366 6730; pierchic.com ), headed up by British chef Rosalind Parsk, is one of Dubai’s standout eateries. It’s at the end of a private pier overlooking The Palm, the world’s largest man-made island, and the emphasis is on seafood. Dishes include roasted yellowtail tuna with a black truffle sauce. Sit under the Swarovski crystal chandeliers or choose a quiet spot on the outdoor terrace. Mains from AED190 (£34).
The brunch at Tom & Serg in the Al-Joud Centre (00971 56474 6812; tomandserg.com ) is not to be missed. Housed in a converted warehouse, this quirky spot was founded by an Australian chef and businessman from Spain in 2011. Try the shakshuka (spicy baked eggs with tomatoes and cheese). Mains from AED37 (£7).
Discover Dubai’s arty side at Al Quoz, near the Mall of the Emirates (home to the world’s largest indoor ski slope). Galleries and studios around Al-Serkal Avenue include Carbon 12 (00971 4340 6016; carbon12dubai.com ) and the Green Art Gallery (00971 4346 9305; gagallery.com ).
Pick up a souvenir or two from the Antique Museum (00971 4347 9935), a sprawling collection of Arabic lamps, fabrics, handicrafts and more, housed in four warehouses. Prices are fixed, so there is no need for haggling.
This article was written by Nick Boulos from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.