“You haven’t picked the best time of year to come to Dubai” were among the first few words we were greeted with on arrival to the city at the peak of summer. Six days later, as we depart the stiflingly hot desert for a much cooler Nordic sommer, I can empirically disagree (and I don’t want to leave).
With almost a week in Dubai, we had long enough to experience the very best of it: from the height of luxury at Jumeirah Beach and Dubai’s best fine dining restaurants, to a thrill-seeking 4×4 desert ‘dune-bashing’ and a traditional Emrati dinner at a camel farm. Between the two, we soaked in our fair share of five-star (and tax-free) shopping and nightlife.
When a friend pointed out that our entire European summer holiday lacked any beaches, the Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeirah Beach became the perfect seaside stopover. Having spent our week on Big Island Hawaii at the Four Seasons Hualalai last year, I knew the beachfront sanctuary would be the perfect place to unwind after a 17 hour flight (which actually became a 30 hour escapade through Singapore).
Jumeirah Beach aka ‘The Beverly Hills of the Middle East’ is a natural beach close to downtown Dubai, the Burj Khalifa and all the shopping you can get your hands on. If you’re looking for the best of both worlds in terms of city and the ability to cool down on white-sand coast of the Persian Gulf, Jumeirah Beach is the perfect location.
The Four Seasons is the only hotel in this particular area of JB, distanced a little from the more densely populated shopping and dining district nearby the Burj Al Arab, but in the perfect spot for relaxation. While much of Dubai is a little gaudy, the Four Seasons perfectly balances the luxury and extravagance the city demands, and the classic, modern and elegant design found at other Four Seasons resorts. If you’re heading to Dubai on your honeymoon, you’d be well catered for here, with a separate ‘quiet pool’ that was sans children during our stay (however, the other pool has two inflatable swans, so you win some, you lose some….).
While I’m told FS has some of the best restaurants in the city, namely Sea Fu, Coya, Nusr-et and Jean-Georges, we exhausted our need for fine-dining with Zoe and instead ate at the resort’s more low-key ‘Suq’ for a taste of local cuisine, and Shai’s salon for a light dinner and dessert.
Though we missed what is arguably Dubai’s most famous dining experience, the Dubai brunch, we more than made up for that in other cuisine adventures.
Our Dubai playmate and personal tour-guide Zoe is also a blogger, so she spoiled the rest of our holiday eating entirely by taking us to one of the top fine dining restaurants in the United Arab Emirates (which makes it among the very best in the world). Rather than copy her review verbatim and pretend I know any of the words she associates with food at Morah Dubai, read this.
Between food-babies we shopped. I mean, we really shopped. You haven’t been to a mall until you’ve seen Mall of the Emirates or Dubai Mall – the latter being the largest in the world, with 1200 shops. At least during our five hour shopping experience we stepped outside to see the Burj Khalifa and the neighbouring souk.
When we weren’t at either of those, we even shopped at the Four Seasons, where we stocked up on candles that emanate ‘Boy Smells’ – not.
While I could go on and on about sunbathing, shopping and the other luxuries this magnificent city entails, there were also a few ‘must-do’ activities on our list for which I’m glad we managed to tear ourselves from the pool for.
We set off for the Lahbab desert where we had the thrill, and sometimes fright, of an adventurous dune-ride. To prepare for the drive, the tyres are let out to allow for better traction. This precaution couldn’t possibly prepare us for the ride that followed, there were at least a dozen times I was certain the vehicle would roll (it had roll-bars installed for that very purpose), but miraculously it stayed upended.
As if that wasn’t enough, what soon followed was a short camel ride, without any warning or explanation about the way the camel would stand up, throwing me forward and convinced I was going to fall on the poor old thing’s neck. Speaking of necks, I lost mine in the ordeal, I’ll let you count the chins I ended up with instead.
While the activities were fun, the tour itself wasn’t an excellent one, and I’d probably recommend booking a more expensive, better quality one. Booking last minute, there was limited availability, and we did this one (by Ideal Adventure tours and safari). However, I do strongly suggest you do one.
After the ride, you arrive at a traditional Bedouin camp where you can have shisha, henna hand painting and dress up in Arabic dress (none of which we did) before a modest buffet dinner (Morah , this is not). During dinner, there was also various entertainment provided including belly-dancing, flame swallowing and fire-sticks. Though we weren’t particularly impressed by the tour, I’m still glad we did it and would recommend to others to do so, it was worth it just for the ‘dune bashing’.
While we spent quite a long period of 6 days, most would suggest you can see everything in 3-4. We had the benefit of having friends in the city, so we also spent some time with them, as well as completely switching off and relaxing at our resort. We’re heading off on our European holiday today, so make sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram to see the rest of our adventures!
No matter how long you have in Dubai, whether a week, 48 hours or even less, make sure to add these ‘must-do’s to your list (and bring a shopping list, too!).
- Burj Khalifa + Dubai Mall – Conveniently located together, and on the man-made lake, are these two behemoths. The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, at 828 metres high, its stunning architecture pierces the skyline and is an absolute wonder to behold. Skirting it is the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world… I’d usually ‘say no more’ but it also houses an aquarium, ice-rink and theme-park. From 6pm, there’s also a water show in the lake!
- Eat, Eat and Eat some More (and Morah) – Dubai is a melting pot of so many different cultures as a result of its expat community, and each culture has brought with it the best of cuisine. Restaurants are each found within a hotel, due to liquor licensing laws in this Muslim country, so you’ll have to plan ahead and know where things are.
- See the Burj Al Arab + Hit the Beach – Jumeirah Beach is the best strip of beach in Dubai, and it’s also a short distance from 7 star hotel the Burj. Unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money at one of the restaurants, seeing the Burj from the beach may need to suffice.
- Experience Culture – Dubai is a balance of old and new, and though it’s best known for its rapid growth and as a place of extreme luxury, the city has been around a lot longer than the skyscrapers. Gold and spice souks, ‘The Creek’ of old Dubai, a simple local meal, or a tour like we experienced are a great way of getting a little more perspective.
- Go out on the town – Dubai’s long, warm nights are the perfect backdrop to a night out, and Dubai offers a multitude of top nightlife spots. While I hate karaoke, I even let myself be dragged to newcomer Lucky Voice, and as far as Karaoke goes, I have to admit it’s not a bad spot. However, the best nights begin with brunch, and the best brunches are on a Friday. Don’t let the English portmanteau fool you though, brunch begins at 1pm and could otherwise just be called ‘open bar’. You can brunch at top restaurants to experience unlimited dishes of their cuisine, or focus solely on drinking and head to more of a ‘party’ brunch.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time for either brunch, so I’ll be returning to Dubai very soon (for one of each!).
Of course, no article about Dubai would be complete without some very exciting news… a Dubai Stockist for the little white book! The Bridal Showroom Dubai is now the very first stockist in the Middle East, and I’m beyond excited!
The dress – I’ve had so many questions about this dress, it’s via elizoe (direct-message to purchase!)
Dolce Gabbana Filigrana + Gail Honeymoon’s latest book!
Oh, and P.S. if you’re reading this article because I got trolled on Facebook… he likes me a lot – look he even got me flowers and chocolate!