A friend of mine is heading off to Dubai this weekend for some winter sun, inspiring me to write a review of my travels there… I’ve been 3 times over the last 5 years to visit a couple of friends who are working over there.
Dubai is certainly not for everyone. It’s man-made. It’s materialistic. And it’s a place of contradictions. But if like me, you enjoy eating, drinking, sunbathing and shopping, then you’ll love it here too!
Last December I stayed with friends, but I’ve previously stayed at the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, a 5-star hotel in the Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) at the heart of Dubai Marina.
Read on for some of my recommendations of what to do and where to go…
- Eating – If you’re visiting on a Friday then definitely visit the new Foodie Friday Market in Safa Park (enter by Gate 5), open between 9am and 2pm. With a host of stalls offering freshly prepared and cooked organic foods and drinks, this is a lovely place to spend the morning. A great lunch (or breakfast) spot is The Lime Tree Cafe & Kitchen, serving up delicious, nutritious food to either take-away or enjoy in situ. You are spoilt for choice for restaurants in Dubai. One of my favourites – for the food and view combo – is Abdel Wahab – an amazing Lebanese overlooking the fountains of downtown Dubai. Top tip – only go if you can book a table on the terrace, with a view of the fountains and the Burj Khalifa in the background. Every 15-30 minutes there’s a stunning water display, choreographed to magical music. Madinat Jumeirah is also a must-visit with loads of excellent places to eat and drink…
- Drinking – There’s a plethora of great bars to choose from, but one of my favourites, again for the view, is Bar 360, Jumeirah Beach Hotel. This is a gorgeous spot to have a sundowner, overlooking the Burj Al Arab, listening to some cool tunes from the resident DJ. Top tips – hop on a golf buggy from the hotel, the walk is further than you think! Also, if you’ve got long hair, tie it back, it is very exposed and windy! Another popular spot is the Barasti, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, a great beachside bar, with a nice atmosphere. And if you can wangle an invite through a member, the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club is an even more relaxed spot to enjoy a drink, in the company of the more established Dubai expat community. Remember and respect the muslim culture, drink sensibly and only in licensed venues!
- Sunbathing – Some of the nicer beaches while beautifully groomed, can be expensive (the Jumeirah Beach Hotel), but there are some other good options to choose from. The RIVA Beach Resort (around 100-150 Dhs a day for a sun-lounger) is one of Dubai’s first standalone beach clubs, with its Café del Mar-style vibe. Top tip – while the beach and sea here are nice, the food is expensive and not great, so take your own! The Dubai Ladies Club (about 80 Dhs a day) is another cheaper and quieter option. There are also some good free beaches along JBR – The Walk – which is great for people watching if you don’t mind going without a sun-lounger. Otherwise stick with the hotel pool, the infinity pool at the Sofitel is stunning and was a firm favourite of mine for soaking up the winter rays!
- Shopping – Safa’s Foodie Friday Market has lots of stalls with local artisans and their wares. But you can’t go to Dubai shopping without visiting the malls, not least to enjoy the lovely air conditioning if the heat’s getting too much for you! The shopping while tax-free is expensive, so things probably work out the same as here in the UK. The most famous is the Mall of Emirates with its marble floors and designer stores. In contrast to the glitzy, glamorous malls, there are the souqs. And there’s one in particular to head to if you’re in the market for leather bags. It’s the market in Karama – Dolce and Karama as my friend calls it 😉 Jump in a taxi and head for the fruit market in Karama… If you can find it, Walencia is one of the best shops with a wide selection of bags.
- Exercising – Dubai seems to attract fit people and has loads of sporting activities to choose from – be it dragon boating, yoga on the beach or sailing. You can get some great advice on running, yoga and the latest fitness classes from this blog written by Tori (pictured above). If yoga’s your thing, then definitely check out this interview with Noura of Yogalates Bliss in Dubai. If you want to run, there’s a good little running track around Safa Park which benefits from the shade of the trees in the park. And, I’ve also previously been put through my paces at a military bootcamp with Ignite on the beach.
All this talk of Dubai is making me quite jealous of my friend who is heading there this Friday! Hopefully this short review gives her some ideas of what to do and where to go…