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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in The United Arab Emirates.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in The United Arab Emirates.
There are more than 200 nationalities that make up the expatriate community of Dubai, making it one of the most culturally diverse cities in the Middle East and to a greater extent, Asia.
These nationalities that now call Dubai home now have the opportunity to showcase their cuisine to the rest of Dubai at this food festival. The festival will kick off with the return of Miele Dubai Restaurant Week, where for 10 days, gourmands can enjoy a three-course prix fixe menu.
There will be 30 restaurants participating this year, including Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen, Heinz Beck’s Social and many more. A fun activity to get the family involved in is by heading to Etisalat Beach Canteen at Sunset Beach. There will be Al Islami Masterclasses, farmers’ markets, popup stalls, entertainment for the whole family and even a beach cinema. Rounding off the festival is Taste of Dubai, where visitors can catch live cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Dubai Food Festival 2017 runs from 23 February to 11 March. Find more information on other activities and details of specific events at visitdubai.com/en/dff.
After filling up on world-class cuisine, head home to a world-class hotel at the new La Ville Hotel & Suites CITY WALK Dubai from Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The first hotel to grace CITY WALK is an urban metropolis with open social spaces, including three restaurants, a lobby cafe and rooftop bar to feed hungrywanderers (from US$320 per night; livelaville.com).
Formed in 1971, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is much younger than a good proportion of its citizens and travelers who visit. It sits just off the coast of the mainland and is the largest of the seven emirates. Abu Dhabi also has the largest population but only less than 21% of its 2.3 million residents are Emirati citizens.
Its large expatriate community is what makes it one of the truest cosmopolitans in the world. For years, flocks of expatriates from Britain and the rest of Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australia have flown to Abu Dhabi for its flourishing oil industry.
There are also a large number of Arabs from other Arab nations, such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and other countries. The influx of expatriates has definitely changed the infrastructure of the city.
Only a few decades ago, Abu Dhabi was a barren desert with no running water, electricity or public transport. But with the discovery of two oil mines in the late 1950s, demands for better amenities for the growing number of foreign workers entering the country pushed Abu Dhabi to completely transform its skyline. And thanks to its oil trading industry, gleaming sky scrapers, and other architectural marvels soon became a norm.
Many also attribute the exponentially fast development of Abu Dhabi to Sheikh Zayed, the late former President of UAE. Before his position as President, Sheikh Zayed served as Ruler of Abu Dhabi, which at that point of time was still a separate emirate from the rest of the seven emirates around the Persian Gulf.
The decline of the pearl industry and discovery of oil in Abu Dhabi hastened unification calls made of UAE sheikdoms, when Sheik Zayed was declared President of UAE and Abu Dhabi established as the capital of the UAE.
However, despite the advancement of Abu Dhabi, it still is the less glitzy sister of Dubai, which is why more travellers are heading here instead. The stronger sense of traditionalism in its souks and grand mosques, the untouched mangroves, wildlife safaris and Liwa Desert (the world’s largest sand desert) are just some of the things that make Abu Dhabi an oasis in the Persian Gulf. Abu Dhabi is relatively near Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and is easy to get to.
The city is served by the Abu Dhabi International Airport, where there are 30 international and domestic airlines that service 112 destinations in more than 40 countries, and offers direct flights to all inhabited continents.
Official flag carrier and Skytrax’s sixth best airline for the year, Etihad Airways, has its home base in Abu Dhabi International Airport. The airline has direct eight-hour flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur daily.
Navigating around Abu Dhabi is convenient. Get to the city centre in 45 minutes via the green and white A1 bus that departs from Terminals 1,2 and 3 that runs 24 horns a day at 40-minute intervals. Those who plan to stay around the entertainment district on Yas Island can hop onto the complimentary bus service. There are two bus routes that connect all major attractions. There is also a shuttle between Yas Island and Saadiyat Island between 10am and 7pm.
There is also the Abu Dhabi City Bus that operates on 14 routes that traverses all of Abu Dhabi. Get the rechargeable smart card, Hafilat, from vending machines at bus stops and shopping malls for a fast and efficient way around the city.
The Temporary Card (US$1.40, valid for 14 days) is the most useful for visitors. Women travelling by themselves should look out for the government-monitored Abu Dhabi Taxi that operates a ladies’ cab service.
It may be surprising, but in fact it was inevitable – Dubai’s over-the-top party excesses are giving way to places that actually have character. NOLA Eatery & Social House, New York import Miss Lily’s and Stereo Arcade are just three of the new lot.
While New Orleans is the inspiration for NOLA, Miss Lily’s transports you straight to Jamaica, with old-school Usher on the sound system and cocktails named “Rude Boy” and “Tempted To Touch” on the menu. Stereo Arcade meanwhile is the place to play retro arcade games, grab a drink or boogie the night away.
If old habits die hard and you’re looking for something plusher, stop by the St Regis Lounge at the recently opened luxury hotel and order the Gold Mary, the hotel’s twist on a bloody mary, with an edible gold leaf. Also in the neighbourhood is the new W Hotel: Head to the W Lounge on the 30th floor, for a drink and vistas of the city, or to Boa on the 32nd floor, where the party never stops.
Dubai is the host of rich culture and history as well as exquisite views and attractions, and Inspired Travel thinks this is the perfect destination for luxury-seeking holidaymakers to spend their next vacation. It is clear to see that Dubai is becoming an increasingly popular location for British holidaymakers looking for a luxurious break and, with its exceptional landmarks, scenery and lavish lifestyle, it’s clear to see why. Although it has always been a desired location for many holidaymakers, Dubai has become more and more popular overtime. It’s unusual and, quite frankly, very difficult to find a destination that hosts the best of both worlds, yet Dubai seems to have this down to a T with its fascinating desert and highly developed city overflowing with modern architecture immediately adjacent to each other – quite possibly the main reason as to why Dubai has become such a sought- after location for visitors with interests in all aspects of travelling.
The city is one of the seven United Arab Emirates and is well served by airlines, with direct flights from London taking under 7 hours, making the travelling experience a whole lot less daunting. As with any holiday location, Dubai has its best and worst times of the year to visit, although this depends on what you’re looking for during your trip. One of the best times to visit with regards to getting the most out of your money is during the months of June to August, as Dubai’s hotels and general facilities tend to offer a wider range of deals and discounts on accommodation and promotions on dining and attractions.
For those seeking the perfect holiday heat, you might assume that the best time of year to visit Dubai is during the hottest months; typically between April and October. However, during this time of the year, highs are in the 100s and, although rainfall is scarce, humidity levels rest around 90% or higher. Although weather like this might seem like somewhat of a privilege in comparison to the miserable British rain, it makes any outdoor activity – including even a relaxing day at the beach – almost unbearable. The best time of year to take a trip to Dubai, in terms of sensibility, is between the months of November and March. Although these are Dubai’s winter months, daily highs range from the upper 70s to the low 80s (around 20-30 degrees Celsius), making it the perfect time to sprawl out along the Persian Gulf’s white sands. You can also expect a few raindrops here and there, although this is almost always short lived.
Since the beginning of time, mankind has known that the desert can be a sanctuary, its space, serenity and silence providing an environment that allows the mind to be free and the body to unwind. A mere 45-minute drive from the city, yet seeming a whole world away, Al Maha is set at the end of a long, private road amid the thousands of hectares of Dubai Desert Conservation Area; its peace is inviolable and its connection to the desert and to the emirate’s cultural heritage emphasised in every detail. Scattered across a vast dune and shaded by ghaf trees, each of Al Maha’s tented suites has its own infinity-edge pool with grandstand views of the desert and distant mountains.
Just below the suites, Al Maha’s Timeless Spa sprawls along the crest of a smaller dune. Inside, you are transported into a world within Al Maha’s private world – it seems deliberately designed so that you lose yourself in its labyrinth of rooms and, in the process, lose the stresses of the outside world. Tailored to both men and women, treatments at the spa combine Middle Eastern, Asian and Western traditions Balinese massage to hydrotherapy. Alongside traditional oils used in Oriental and Eastern therapies, the spa offers treatments using two widely praised product ranges that are entirely derived from natural ingredients: Babor, from Germany, and Sodashi, from Australia. And, as a bonus, you can buy these products to take home, so as to extend the spa’s benefits over the weeks and months to come.
When you stay at Al Maha for a few nights, your spa treatments will be enhanced by the deep peace of the desert night; however, if your schedule is too busy to squeeze in that unique benefit, Al Maha now offers privileged access by the day, with a package of spa treatments, lunch and plenty of time to relax beside the pool with views of the desert.
From its peaceful location on the Dubai Creek to the serenity cultivated within the Moorish-inspired hotel itself, Park Hyatt Dubai has long been a haven for the city’s residents and visitors. While luxurious guest rooms and five-star restaurants are a draw to the resort, the idyllic Amara Spa, with lush courtyards and tranquil water features, is a destination all on its own. The palatial white and blue-domed spa includes eight luxury suites – three of which are for couples – each with its own spacious terrace and indoor and outdoor rain showers. Visitors to the spa also have complimentary access to the hotel’s pool with comfy loungers and palm islands.
Using Europe’s finest treatments and high-quality products like Anne Semonin, Natura Bissé and Aromatherapy Associates, Amara blends Arabian touches into the experience through its Jewels of Arabia spa menu. Highlighting precious gems and their rejuvenating powers – diamonds for energy, clarity and revival; emeralds to detox, cleanse and heal; rubies for restoration, anti-ageing and revitalisation; and sapphires to calm, relax and balance – in an extensive variety of treatments with carefully chosen essential oils, stress melts away to provide an entirely relaxing experience. The indulgent Ruby – Spirit of Arabia Ceremony is a two-hour treat with Aleppo soap and a full-body massage using a signature massage oil of frankincense, amber, myrrh and sandalwood.
Start the new year on a path to positive wellness with Amara’s new Rose of Arabia package available through January. Cleansing, relaxing and enhancing, the 90-minute journey is beneficial to the mind and body. Starting with a bamboo scrub body polish with a lengthy rose oil massage following, the experience ends with a selection of fresh juices, aromatic teas and healthy cuisine – an ideal way to reboot after a decadent holiday season.
The Hyatt Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi may be one of the city’s leading business hotels, but its innovative design, sleek dining venues and sky-high spa make it so much more. Occupying the 18th to the 33rd floor of the Capital Gate building, which boasts a Guinness World Records-certified 18-degree lean (that’s four times the Tower of Pisa), the structure’s design means that the spaces throughout are unique in shape and size, adding to the hotel’s character. The innovative form isn’t just attractive: “The Splash” – the metal mesh structure twisting around the building – incorporates sustainability by encapsulating wind and providing shade from the midday heat
In an aesthetically pleasing contrast to the high-tech building exterior, rooms are bathed in muted earthy colours and natural textures like rough stone and olive Zebrano wood from Africa. The designs may appeal to the style conscious, but that doesn’t preclude functionality: high-speed wireless internet, generous work areas and plenty of power outlets are available for any gadget. Five restaurants and lounges dish up a variety of social scenes and cuisines: Signature restaurant 18° serves eastern Mediterranean food made from locally sourced ingredients alongside expansive views of Abu Dhabi and its coastline; baked goods – sweet and savoury – of all sorts are prepared for guests at Profiterole; and Privé is the place to be if you want to leave an impression, with gourmet tapas and a sophisticated atmosphere.
Keep your New Year wellness resolutions with a visit to the spa’s fitness centre that includes state-of-the-art exercise equipment and a gravity-defying cantilevered swimming pool 80 metres above the ground. Or treat yourself at Rayana Spa, a “sky spa” on the 19th floor, where city views are laid out before you as therapists perform holistic treatments for total rejuvenation.
Dubai is a destination defined by superlatives – the biggest, the best, the priciest – where cheetahs are considered status pets and police drive Ferraris in lieu of standard squad cars. It’s where you’ll find the largest shopping mall on the planet, the world’s biggest indoor ski resort and the tallest building on earth, known as the Burj Khalifa, an architectural marvel that soars half a mile into the sky and is more than twice the size of the Empire State Building.
Up until 50 years ago, the now-glittering metropolis was a modest fishing village. It was only after oil was discovered off the coast in 1966 that the region was catapulted into a period of explosive growth, with revenue from black gold fueling the rise of a modern city seemingly overnight. The Dubai we know today is largely a reflection of its leader. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who transformed the Emirate into a booming hub of global activity, diversifying the economy with tourism, manufacturing, finance and technology. (Oil now accounts for just 6 percent of Dubai’s economy.) The Sheikh has made his goals for the region abundantly clear. “We want to be number one,” he says. “Becoming number one is not impossible – the word impossible doesn’t exist in our dictionary.”
Without question, Dubai has a reputation for making the impossible possible. There’s its indoor ski resort, where locals and guests can hit the slopes year-round despite the region’s unforgiving desert climate. Or its 12 million-square-foot mall, which manages to attract more visitors per year than all of New York City. And then of course, there are the Palm Islands, a trio of man-made archipelagos so expansive, they can be seen from outer space. Conceived in 2001, the project promised a solution to the dry’s beach shortage – Dubai’s 37-mile-long coastline was completely inundated with skyscrapers and hotels by the ‘90s, leaving little room for expansion. (Developers extracted 3 billion cubic feet of sand from the Persian Gulf to form the palm-tree-shaped islands.) Though only one of the planned three is complete, it’s already paying dividends: The artificial land mass has doubled the amount of coastal real estate available in the dry. Residential villas are selling for millions, and the list of luxury hotel brands opening properties on the Palm continues to grow. The St. Regis recently announced plans for a development with 289 rooms and 504 apartments, set to open in 2018. When it does, guests will be treated to views of the city’s extravagant skyline from a 360-degree infinity swimming pool – 50 stories above ground.
It’s this brand of next-level luxury that makes Dubai a rich man’s Disneyland, with sprawling hotel suites, desert off-roading and indoor black-diamond slopes. You can spend the day with a falcon trainer, and the night at a Champagne-soaked nightclub. If you’re in the market for an opulent escape, you’ll find it in Dubai. Here’s what to do when you go.
You’ve got to see this place to believe it. Even die-hard nonshoppers must visit Dubai’s Gold Souk as part of their cultural experience if not for a shopping spree. Probably the largest such market in Arabia – and that says a lot, given the local penchant for bauble buying – this gold souk has held out after most souks have gone the way of the modern boutique-filled shopping mall.
Even seasoned souk-goers of the Middle East are unprepared for the sheer size and razzle-dazzle of it. The largest pieces here are not always designed with women in mind; some of the most elaborate pieces are often crafted for men, children, or the home. Expect to find ornaments in every imaginable design and form, with weight (and price) never seeming to be an issue.
Of the seven sheikdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai was the only one to become wealthy through trade rather than oil (although the discovery of oil in the 1960s sped up the modernization of an already booming country). Bearing in mind that trade was originally built on gold smuggling, it is not surprising that an anything-goes spirit of capitalism flourishes here. And here’s the best news: The prices are actually reasonable.
The fifty-six-story Burj AI Arab (“The Arabian Tower”) is the world’s tallest hotel, shaped like the billowing sail of a traditional Arab dhow and rising out of the Arabian Gulf on its own man-made island, an homage to Dubai’s seafaring heritage.
Petrodollars paid for the five-year construction of this technical and engineering marvel, which upon its completion in 1999 immediately became the icon of tiny but confident Dubai, the most progressive, aggressive, and dynamic of the United Arab Emirates’ seven sheikdoms – a kind of Arabian Hong Kong, with the design sense of Miami and the flash of Las Vegas. Conceived to pamper and amaze jillionaire sheiks and jaded international execs, the Burj al Arab is a cool oasis of unfathomable luxury, part James Bond and part glory-days Hollywood.
It creates an over-the-top impression from the moment you enter its atrium lobby (at 600 feet the world’s tallest) to the moment you step aboard the luxury submarine that takes you to its glass-walled seafood restaurant, submerged beneath the gulf. Rare multicolored marble and 21,500 square feet of 22-karat gold leaf embellish this symbol of the New Arabia. Its enormous suite-only duplex guest quarters are some of the largest and most opulent in the world, outfitted with the latest technical wizardry and a private butler to show you how it all works.
The ne plus ultra are the two 8,400-square-foot Royal Suite penthouses, two floors with their own private cinemas, meeting rooms, dining rooms, dressing rooms, rotating beds, and private elevator. They can be yours for a cool $7,000 a night.