Dubai was a very last minute decision for me. I was in situation where I felt like I had to just press pause on my everyday routine and go somewhere, by myself. So, I booked my flights three day prior to me going and just hoped for the best. I had no fixed plans as such – I just packed my bags, brought my passport and boarded a flight. There was so much to discover in Dubai but I just wanted to go with the flow.
Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of Dubai. I never liked how superficial it all seemed and how it lacked culture and history – the two things I adore most about travelling. But I was pleasantly surprised. My cousin Hassan showed me the beauty of Dubai in a way I never quite appreciated before. Its quite easy to forget that this place is actually a desert that has been reclaimed and built over, with structures that are as grand and sprawling as any of the sheikh’s palaces. Hassan showed me that even though the main city is extremely modern, there are still areas where one can appreciate the “old Dubai”. These are some of the most mesmerising locations where every traveller to Dubai should visit.
- Burj Khalifa
Of course, the first thing people think of Dubai is the Burj Khalifa – the tallest structure in the world. You could ride the elevator to the 124th floor for breath-taking city views extending to all the way to the Persian Gulf. There are also special telescopes that shows scenes of the city from different points in time, which is really cool as it allows you to experience every stage of Dubai’s history. I just walked around the structure and appreciated the view from the outside.
- Jumeriah Beach
My cousin took me here at the break of dawn to appreciate the beach while its quite and to view the sunrise. Ancient Dubai was deprived from water but modern Dubai has beaches all around. There are plenty of water sports you could do here and it is also equipped with a children’s playground. This was one of my most favourite days in Dubai as I just spent the morning swimming, walking on the beach and reading my book, while my cousin went to work. There is also Jumeirah Mosque close by, but I didn’t go there as I didn’t adhere to the traditional dress code. However, I would strongly recommend a visit here for its educational value and cultural significance.
- Burj Al Arab
Between Jumeriah Beach and the Palm Islands, there lies an architectural beauty called the Burj Al Arab which opened in 1999. I didn’t realise before I went that its actually one of the tallest hotels in the world and houses the tallest atrium at nearly 600 feet high. I didn’t go inside, but for those of you who aren’t staying in the hotel itself, you could still gain entry by grabbing a bit at one of the on-site restaurants. Whether you go inside or not, get a snap of one of Dubai’s most photographed structure.
- Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall is the largest shopping centre in the world and houses 1200 stores and 800 brands in one roof – CRAZY. I spent half a day just shopping in here and people watching! There are other attractions in the mall including an ice-rink, a movie theatre and an aquarium that houses more than 33,000 underwater creatures. Hassan took me to Reel Cinema, located in Dubai Mall and this took the cinema experience to a whole new level! The VIP experience allows visitors to be pampered with upscale amenities, personalised butler service and never seen before luxurious seats with a private lounge. It was amazing but WAY over the top haha.
- Dubai Fountain
The Dubai Fountain is located at the Dubai Mall and was designed by the same architects of the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. My cousin and I passed by this walking to Dubai Festival City and just managed to catch the 3 minutes fountain show. It was quick and not very elaborate – which is surprising for Dubai. I was disappointed but maybe because I wasn’t feeling the song. There were restaurants with outdoor patios located around the fountains too but we just carried on walking.
- Festival City
We went to Dubai Festival City which is a shopping mall with over 500 brands and stores. It’s the home of Ikea and Zara flagship store! Hassan took me for a quick wonder around here but then we passed a sign for the Helipad Cinema. It was such a great coincidence as it was showing a free open air movie by the Festival Bay in the condition that you buy something from the mall. We went to buy a few snacks from the shop and came back to get the free tickets! We ended up watching Florence Foster Jenkins movie which was about New York socialite (Meryl Streep) dreams of becoming a great opera singer even though she couldn’t sing. It was just such a great evening, lounging on bean bags, watching a movie with the best views and company!
- Atlantis, The Palm
There is actually more than one palm-shaped island in Dubai, but the famous one has to be The Palm where the grand Atlantis Hotel is at. We drove to The Palm but you can’t really tell thats its palm-shaped when you are on it. It does look pretty cool though when you’re tracking location on an offline map app.
- Dubai Miracle Garden
This is a huge botanical garden in Dubai and is one of the most visited tourist attraction – especially by nature lovers. I’ve written about my experience of visiting this here.
- Global Village
This is also another popular tourist destination. We just drove past here but it is a collection of different pavilions each offering a cultural attraction of varied countries. My mother bought my Palestinian henna party thobe from here! There are also different stage shows you can attend and different country’s cuisine.
- La Mer
La Mer is a relatively new development in Dubai and consists of 2.5km strip of white sands, eclectic promenade bustling restaurants, colourful graffiti and wall art. It has a very laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. This promenade is inspired by marine décor like timber and ropes, rusted metal tapes, barrels, pirate chests etc. Hassan and I actually came here in the evening to meet with our cousin Ragheb and it was so chilled – I cant even explain guys… the music, ambiance, service was just perfect.
- Go to a beach club/shisha lounge
We went to Barasati Beach on the first night I arrived. I was actually planning on staying home and have an early night, but my cousin had other plans for me – and boy im glad he did! I absolutely loved this beach bar from its Caribbean feel to the crowd that it attracted. We just chilled near the beach smoking shisha and catching up as it was a few years since we last saw each other. The place seemed like the ultimate hang out spot for party goers.
SO, WAS DUBAI WORTH VISITING?
As a traveler that craves visiting different places, then the answer for me is yes. It gave me plenty of content to write about which was good. Of course, i have family living in Dubai so i would love to go back to see them again. However, Dubai would not be my top choice if i needed to get away from London – it just didn’t have much culture for my liking.
Do you have any questions about travelling to Dubai that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂