Dubai’s High Five: The top 5 luxury experiences
High-rises, high-flyers, and a whole lot of high-lights. No doubt about it. Dubai puts the razzle to the dazzle with luxury experiences like no other.
Jessica Braithwaite shows you how to find your way in a city that is undeniably flash, fast and fabulous.
Dubai is an ultramodern dreamscape attracting luxury travellers from across the globe. But in the sun-drenched city known affectionately to locals as the ‘sandpit’, it can be hard to find the true gems. So how do you discover those rare, authentic moments that make for holiday gold and desert dreams?
Here’s a top five guide to a bona fide Dubai high.
Wander: Madinat Jumeirah and Dubai Mall
For aqua waters, chilled wines and waterfront restaurants, hit the traditionally themed, yet admittedly manufactured, Madinat Jumeirah. The resort looks and feels like a movie set. In fact, it would hardly be surprising if a man with a clipboard yelled ‘action’ and Angelina stepped into shot. Water laps and boats bob while relaxed tourists enjoy dishes from a variety of restaurants, many with views of the iconic Burj Al Arab building.
For shopping, head to Dubai’s famed mega-malls. Downtown’s Dubai Mall boasts not only 1200 stores, but a floor-to-ceiling aquarium. Because nothing says Dubai extravagance more than shopping under the blue hue of something that’s bordering on being an indoor ocean. The mall also lays claim to the world’s biggest shoe shop, selling what could very well be the world’s tallest glitter heels.
Eat: Abd El Wahab
While crowds jostle below, standing on their tippy toes to see the Dubai Fountain, you’ll be peacefully sipping Almaza from the balcony of this cosy Lebanese restaurant.
The Dubai Fountain is a spectacular night-time drawcard in the downtown district. Every half hour it erupts into a display of magical proportions. Seven thousand lights illuminate a series of water jets spurting 150 metres into the air. It’s a musically choreographed bonanza. Think Vegas. Minus the casinos.
Along with zesty haloumi and moreish tabouli, the Abd El Wahab offers unrivalled balcony views of the show. You walk through a weird-ish mall to get there, but when Whitney Houston’s I will always love you hits the crescendo and the water performs accordingly, you’ll have the best seat in the house.
Stay: Waldorf Astoria
The delight is in the detail. Good vibes flow when the champagne is chilled, the milk is full cream and the bathrobes are softer than marshmallows. The Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah delivers on every detail, in a palatial property that can be succinctly described with one word: classic.
On the outer edge of Dubai’s famed Palm Jumeirah, the resort is immediately transporting. Giant white pillars reach for the ceiling in a spacious lobby full of tasteful touches. The regal staircase, fresh flowers and grand piano are purely elegant. The king premier suites boast plush beds, opulent marble bathrooms and balconies with uninterrupted views of the sea and island. And perhaps the best bit? They give you things you actually need in the toiletries draw, like toothpaste, hair ties and a loofah (because yes, we always forget to pack them).
Play: Aquaventure Waterpark
Even if theme parks aren’t normally your thing, spoil yourself to a fun-filled outing at the Aquaventure Waterpark. Far from the nightmares of long lines and sugar-fuelled kids we so often associate with theme parks, this funfair has been designed with adults in mind. Yes, the kids will have super-sized amounts of fun here, but so will you. Lazily drift from one ride to another in giant inflatable tubes floating on meandering bright blue rivers. Or thrill yourself in a transparent waterslide that journeys through the centre of an aquarium. This park has been creatively designed with pleasure in mind – a must visit for for all big kids at heart.
Lose yourself: Qasr Al Sarab
The high rises and superhighways disappear in the rear vision mirror and desert sand appears around you as you make your way towards Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara. The resort’s name means ‘palace of the mirage’, and it certainly would have appeared that way to any lost, weary traveller who happened to stumble upon it. It rises from the world’s largest sand desert as the closest thing possible to a real-life sand castle.
Guests can ride camels, test their nerve with dune bashing, chill by the oasis-style pool or join a sunset desert yoga class. But you should know that trying to watch the sunset while peering through your downward dogging legs is somewhat impractical.
When planning your trip to Qasr Al Sarab, choose the amount of time you think you’ll want to stay, then add another night. You won’t want to leave.