Once upon a time, Dubai was one of those places that rarely featured on people’s travel bucket lists. Then, as more and more Indians began to set up base in this glittering Arabian city and the wheels of its publicity began spinning, the world started waking up to its many attractions. We are all well acquainted with the urban paradise that is the commercial centre of the United Arab Emirates. But what really sets a holiday in Dubai apart is its potential for adventure, discovery and inimitable experiences. It also helps that getting a Dubai visa is a breeze for Indian nationals.
1. Swim with the dolphins
It’s not easy on the pocket (13000 rupees onwards) but where else are you going to get a chance to get so up, close and personal with dolphins? Dolphin Bay at Atlantis The Palm is a beautiful lagoon surrounded by palms, where you can swim with adorable dolphins and indulge in various water sports. Getting clicked with the dolphins will put you back by a few more rupees though the memories are worth treasuring. If the water baby in you is still not satisfied, head to Wild Wadi Water Park and try every one of those roller coasters, wave pools and gulp-inducing water slides!
2. Go for a desert safari
Dubai is in the Middle-East after all, which is synonymous with large expanses of strangely hypnotic deserts. And no amount of civilisation can take away the primitive appeal of spending a day in one of nature’s most trying landscapes and ending with a star-studded luxury desert camp. To get your adrenalin pumping, go dune bashing, ride a camel or enjoy a four-wheel-drive safari that ends with belly dancers, desert barbeque and cocktails in the setting sun. And did we mention that you can get an Arabian style mehendi done as well? At around 6000 rupees, this one’s not too expensive either.
3. Ride a hot-air balloon
This one’s for those who simply can’t get enough of the desert. Personally, I think a hot air balloon is just the right amount of adventure. Unlike bungee jumping, you get to stand comfortably and enjoy the sandy panorama around you. And you also have other people with you to make it less forbidding. You’ll have to wake up before the birds do for a truly memorable hot air balloon ride, because then you get to see the sun rise over the horizon of the Sahara desert and capture some truly breath-taking photographs. An hour in the balloon will cost you around 18000 rupees.
4. Get a bird’s eye view of the city at Burj Khalifa
You haven’t really seen a city until you’ve looked down upon its urban jewels from up above. A must-do while in Dubai is a visit to the observatory deck at Burj Khalifa, which is the world’s tallest building at 828 metres. Prices begin at 125 dirham (2300 rupees) and you can choose between the 124th and 148th floors. End your experience with a drink at their restaurant bar on the 122nd floor. Since this is a sought after experience in Dubai, it is advisable to book your tickets well in advance. Both the day-time and night-time views are equally spectacular.
5. Shop till you drop (and a lot more) at Dubai Mall
Dubai seems to excel at building the world’s record-breaking architectural marvels. With 1200 stores, Dubai Mall has the distinction of being the world’s largest mall and it’s safe to say that there isn’t a single luxury brand you won’t find here. The best part is that there’s so much to do apart from shopping! You can go skating at a giant ice rink and peek at fishes in the aquarium. Kids will also be wowed by the dinosaur skeleton on display and indoor theme parks. When you get hungry after all that shopping, there are 150 food outlets to choose from.
6. Stay at Burj Al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah
I have just two words to recommend this Burj Al Arab and they should be enough – seven star. Sure, a stay at Burj Al Arab might involve mortgaging your house and everyone in it but imagine scoffing at five star hotels and telling them you’ve seen better. Although seven star hotels are not really verified, the exceptional restaurants at Burj Al Arab make a visit here worthwhile. You can also spend a couple of nights at Madinat Jumeirah for an authentic Arabian experience. It’s a replica of a traditional Arab village with souqs (markets), palm-ringed canals and romantic villas and hotels.
And in case you cannot afford it for your entire duration of travel (it can get really expensive!), make sure you book Dubai hotels in advance since there is always a certain rush. Planning your travel can also help you save on airfare, with multiple providers like flydubai offering economical prices, which means you don’t have to string out your accommodation, food or shopping!
7. Get off your high horse and dig into street food at 2nd of December Street
Enough with all these expensive indulgences, we say. Sink your teeth into some refreshingly cheap street food with the locals at this lane, earlier known as Al Dhiyafah Road. Here you will find tasty treats from Iran, Lebanon and India. The grilled lamb and couscous salads come highly recommended. For a filling meal, try the seafood at Pars Iranian Kitchen and home-style fare at Ravi Restaurant. As per regulations, these restaurants cannot serve alcohol but a meal here will only put you back by around 1500 rupees.
8. Walk down history lane
And get a dose of art and culture too, while you’re at it. Dubai was once a quiet fishing village and remnants of its serene past can be found at Al Fahidi Historic District and the endearing Basta Art Cafe. At the erstwhile Bastakia Quarter, you can walk through a maze of tiny lanes that are dotted with museums and art galleries. Notable among these are XVA Gallery for contemporary art and Majlis Gallery for Middle-Eastern art. Shop for fabric at the textile souk and then treat yourself to a scenic tour in a water taxi. The Dubai Museum is also worth a visit for history lovers.
9. Play a game of golf
In case you didn’t know, the folks of Dubai are quite crazy about golf. At the golf courses designed by Colin Montgomerie and Ernie Els, you might bump into a known face or two. The most famous courses are the Emirates Golf Club which hosts the Dubai Desert Classic tournament and the excellently designed Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. Tiger Woods is also set to launch a stunning golf course this year after an earlier failed attempt.
10. Let your hair down at Pacha Ibiza Dubai
What’s a Dubai trip without a night of revelry? Pacha is the name of everyone’s lips when it comes to nightclubs that stand a foot apart from the rest. And the Dubai chapter is as impressive as the rest, with groovy house music and amazing acrobatic displays. Located at Souk Madinat Jumeirah, the club comes with a Main Room, Red Room and Rooftop spread across three floors. Too expensive, you say? Well, you can afford to splurge a little since your flight tickets came so cheap!
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