Dubai – “a stirring alchemy of profound traditions and ambitious futuristic vision” says Andrea Schulte-Peevers.
This glamorous playground that is a powerhouse among the United Arab Emirates is a bustling microcosm that allows cultures from all corners of the world to live in here peacefully while still retaining its authentic old world charm. Dubai has managed to shed the shackles binding it and has evolved into a city of wonders, it’s constantly in flux and the way it has grown and matured into the cosmopolitan society, that it proudly flaunts today is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
The society, which though rooted in Islamic tradition, is an open one that welcomes visitors and newcomers with warmth and optimism and includes them in their culture, connecting them with countless magical experiences which make the visitor more a consociate than a stranger.
With the kind of cultural dynamism that Dubai exhibits, it’s only natural that their innovations should be equally remarkable. The indefatigable verve, indomitable aspiration and skill to dream up and complete projects that would never get off the drawing board or would be brushed off elsewhere as unattainable is what has shaped Dubai into an architectural marvel that few countries can rival.
This is the society that has built the world's tallest building, a palm tree-shaped island, a huge indoor ski paradise, the world's fastest roller coaster, an underwater restaurant, a luxury hotel that can be afforded by few but admired by scores and many more soon to come projects, it sometimes feels like you’ve taken a trip to the future into a society that is superlative-craving, firmly in charge of writing their own narrative that stops at nothing to achieve it.
Dubai has something to offer for everyone from all walks of society. Having said all that, let’s have a look at all that we can do in Dubai before we go off to marvel in its mesmeric sights, age-old traditions, the staggering variety of authentic global fare ready to take you on an epic gastronomic journey and last but not the least, the shopping!
Before we move on to the razzmatazz of the modern city, it’s time to explore the older part which played a crucial part in giving birth to and shaping the Dubai as we know today. It has a completely different flavour, that is predominantly rooted in its Middle Eastern heritage and there’s nothing better than taking a walk through the tiny alleyways and narrow lanes of Old Dubai, that throbs with zeal and life, where trade, immigrants, Emiratis and all their rich cultures meld into one heritage entity. Along the Creek – the main artery – lies Old Dubai and it is undeniably the beating heart of the sprawling concrete jungle that houses millions of folks from all around the world.
Start your walk in Shindagha, visit the Sheikh Saeed House - the palace of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, which dates back to 1896 and has a rare collection of memorabilia and documents which record Dubai’s history. Next stop, the House of Camels and the Traditional House from where we head towards Dubai’s Creek. The textile market, Hindu temple and Old Souk area are a just a short walk from the creek. The history books say it was established at the end of the 19th century by Arab immigrants who came as merchants selling textile and pearls from Bastak, Iran; the winding streets here are lined with restored merchant houses, cafes, boutique hotels and art galleries, a must visit is the Majlis Gallery, which dates back to the 1970s and happens to be one of the oldest of its kind.
Continue walking, go through the Bastakiya area and stop at a local house for a quick break to sample Arabian hospitality and a sip of some authentic Qahwa/ Gahwa, or Arabian coffee as it’s famously known. Rest a while and then make our way to the Creek and board a traditional Abra or water taxi to cross the Creek. Once on the other side, keep walking ahead through the fragrant alleys of the spice souk on the Deira side, inhale deep and store the memory of myriad fragrances perfuming the air. Then you move on to Dubai’s famous Gold Souk where dazzling displays of jewellery seem to twinkle through every window pane, the Emiratis do love their gold. The large and bustling fish market near the Gold Souk is our final stop on our walkabout in Old Dubai. There’s much to appreciate, isn’t there?
City of Merchants, Tour of Dubai City
While in Dubai, you’d obviously go on a fascinating historical excursion of this once-upon-a-time city of merchants. First stop in our exploratory adventure, Burj Al Arab; Dubai’s landmark hotel which stands proud and tall on an artificial island that is 280mts from Jumeirah beach and is connected to the mainland by a private bridge meandering over the seascape. The hotel is world famous for its underwater restaurant, the helipad which stands at a height of 210mts from the ground and the cascading fountain in the lobby!
Next, we continue on to the Majlis Al Ghorfat, originally the summer residence of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al-Maktoum is a magnificent structure which was built in 1955 and restored recently to its original splendour. Drive past modern palaces and then stop at Jumeirah Mosque for some beautiful photos. Then the route takes us towards Dubai’s Bastakiya area, admire the old-wind-towered houses built by wealthy merchants, take care of your eyes, they might pop out of their sockets as you pass by the magnificent Zabeel Palace on the way. Further on, go to the Al Fahidi Fort, the 200-year-old structure houses the Dubai Museum and records the city’s past, did you know Dubai was an important pearl diving and trading centre in its early days? Now it’s time to step into a traditional abra and across the Creek, you’ll find sights of a modern metropolis, with marvellous architecture on the banks of the creek.
Off-Road Adventure - Wadi & Desert Tour
If you’re tired of being cooped up and want different scenery from the cityscape it’s time to escape to the Wadi. The drive along the imposing Hajar Mountains’ to the Umm Al Quwain desert from Dibba is easy and gives no hint of the hair-raising off-road adventure that is to follow. You’ll be navigating the Ras Al Khaimah- Manama road and then drive over its undulating dunes. An experience that will give you such an adrenaline rush that it’ll put hair on your chest and leave you with absolutely no vocal chords!
Then go for a brief stop at a camel farm before exiting the desert at Al Ghail and entering Wadi Asmah through the narrow lanes which are so typical of the small towns here. As you traverse the rugged, rocky terrain progressing slowly but steadily through the Wadi, stop at the various points on the way for some great photographs with wonderful scenery in the background.
Morning Dune Drive - Visions of the Arabian sands
Continuing on the desert trail, there’s nothing more refreshing than a drive on some undulating dunes of the desert sands! The tranquil beauty of the desert interspersed with the occasional scream of the passenger on a desert safari will ensure an unforgettable adventure that stays in memory for ages to come. Book a safari and leave early in the morning, the safari guides will transport you by four-wheel drive vehicles over fast rolling dunes, makes for quite a thrilling drive.
En route, you will also see camels resting at a camel farm and might even envy their resting positions after your safari ride! Alternatively, you could also check out the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Spread over 140 square miles, this reserve has some rare flora, fauna and migratory birds. The varied terrain of the desert which looks so misleading from far as you would have experienced by now will leave a lasting impression with the beauty of its stillness.
Sundowner - Dune Dinner Safari
The desert is mysterious and bends to none, this time it’s beckoning you for a magical evening out - an experience you’ll never forget. Leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and journey over rolling dunes through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, deep into the heart of the desert for a thrilling adventure.
Sit atop the crest of a high dune and watch the huge orange orb that is the sun cast its glow over the vast expanse of rippling sand all around you as it starts its descent into night. It might seem a shimmering mirage at first, but the flickering lights are that of your camp where a traditional Arabian welcome awaits you. Get ready to relive every one of your Arabian night’s fantasies. The beautifully adorned Bedouin tents are strewn with comfortable low cushions for you to sit on and quench your thirst with Arabian coffee and dates, have your hands painted with intricate designs of henna, experience a short camel ride, or just enjoy the aromatic shisha.
Your meal, an Arabian feast of grilled meats, fresh salads and delectable Arab sweets is served under the canopy of a galaxy of stars while being entertained by a belly dancer swaying her hips bewitchingly and gracefully to the haunting strains of Arabian music. You won’t want this enchanting evening to end, ever!
This is the Dubai you need to see, but then that’s not all. Like we said before Dubai has something to offer for everyone, so it’s a party capital too if you’re in the mood to tap your toes to some lively music, a Mecca for shopaholics with the malls offering everything under the sun and great global cuisine for the gastronome or just plain hungry person. It has a host of other things in the form of entertainment too, that would take us days to fill in one article. But in the end, all said and done, Dubai has a charm and zest for life that is unmatchable and you’ll find yourself consumed in the same zeal while you’re there too.
Another word for paradise, is Dubai!
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