Dubai – the Pearl of the Middle East. Since the discovery of oil off the emirates’ shores in 1966, it has rapidly developed into a popular destination for tourism, thanks to its record-breaking skyline, artificial islands, luxury shopping, desert climate and lavish shows of wealth. The second largest of the United Arab Emirates, it is also the most populated city, with one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Today this is less dependent on oil and is being gradually replaced by real estate and financial services, which are bigger contributors to Dubai’s economy.
But enough about history and finance, what about Dubai as a holiday destination? Glad you asked!
Getting to Dubai couldn’t be easier, Emirates have flights directly from Dublin. The neighbouring emirates of Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah are both within a couple of hours drive, giving you the option to take a trip there or even fly into one and out of another.
The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Dubai are the towering skyscrapers, including the iconic Burj Khalifa; at 829.9m it’s the tallest structure in the world. Also, home to the highest observation deck in the world, standing at 555m, Dubai is not great for those with a fear of heights! Even so, it does attract many tourists each year and is the most popular tourist attraction Dubai has to offer. The tower also has residential floors, hotel suites and restaurants.
Situated in the desert, you can expect a hot, dry climate with temperatures frequently reaching a scorching 41 degrees in summer. Because of the heat, spring and autumn months tend to be more popular with Irish tourists, with temperatures sitting in the slightly more comfortable high thirties.
Cooling down shouldn’t be a problem when you’re relaxing poolside at some of the world’s finest luxury hotels. Dubai is renowned for its luxury resorts and 5-star hospitality, some of which are found on artificial islands shaped like a palm tree!
The Palm Jumeirah is just one of a few artificial islands off the coast of Dubai. The island is home to nearly 20 hotels, hundreds of homes and a waterpark. To make the biggest splash though, you’re going to need to head to Wild Wadi Waterpark, which has 30 rides, attractions for all ages and is easily the most popular waterpark in Dubai – it has many thrilling water slides and a wave machine which produces waves for surfing! But if a relaxed pace is more your style, you can enjoy Juha’s Journey, a 360-meter lazy river.
The waterpark is well equipped for a full day out, with restaurants, snack stands and two gift shops! It’s located right next to Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the latter of which offers unlimited access to the waterpark.
There are considerations every traveller should take on board when deciding whether to visit Dubai or not. As an Islamic state, there are laws which limit drinking alcohol and public displays of affection.
However, if you do fancy a tipple, you’ll simply need to head to a hotel which has an alcohol permit. Alternatively, it is possible to obtain a license to buy alcohol, though this should be enjoyed in private. Be mindful as well during Ramadan, as eating in public is prohibited.
One more thing worth mentioning is that the weekend in Dubai runs from Friday to Saturday (Sunday is a working day), with the Friday being a popular day to enjoy the famous brunches of unlimited food and champagne!
It may surprise you that even though Dubai is a huge city, it is also a strong contender as a beach holiday destination. The Gulf Sea is that idyllic shade of blue and stays warm throughout the year. It’s worth noting that many beaches are private, and you will either need to stay at a hotel which has access, or pay the daily fee in order to use them.
There are public beaches though, one of the most popular being Jumeirah Public Beach, not far from downtown Dubai. The beach here is lively, so don’t expect peace and quiet. That being said, if watersports and activities are your thing, you’re well catered for. Despite stricter rules within the city, it’s perfectly okay to wear swimwear on the beach, so you can make the most of that desert sun and top up your tan.
We can’t talk about Dubai without mentioning the shopping. With 96 shopping malls, including The Dubai Mall, which is the largest in the world, you really can shop until you drop, and get this; it also has an Olympic-sized skate rink and an aquarium! There is everything from high street favourites to department stores, plus high-end luxury retailers, if you feel like splashing out. The local currency is the Arab Emirate Dirham (AED).
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but already there’s enough here to keep you busy in Dubai for at least a week! Desert sun, lavish luxury, white sandy beaches, waterparks and architectural wonders, it’s no surprise why this emirate is so popular!