There used to be a catchy slogan promoting Dubai, back in the days when it was little more than a shopping paradise.
“Fly buy Dubai.”
Then, the idea was to break your journey from, say Europe to Asia with a stopover in Dubai, where you could shop, shop, shop to your heart’s content, and be on your way. Because, back then, there wasn’t honestly much else to do in this city-state.
Fast forward to Dubai today, a fabulous holiday destination in its own right, regardless of whether one shops or not. (Though you probably will, let’s be honest).
An ever-expanding oasis in the desert, Dubai is now a place of über-glittering malls, marinas, a super-efficient transit system, and enough attractions to keep you busy for several days (even without the shopping…)
Many of the ‘other’ non-shopping attractions in Dubai are actually located within the malls, so in addition to miles of retail therapy, these huge complexes also house restaurants, cinemas, ice rink, aquarium, ski slope – yes that’s right, you can ski in the desert.
There is a hugely popular indoor ski slope right there in the huge Mall of the Emirates, which now comes complete with penguins. The ‘mountain’ inside Ski Dubai is only 60 meters high, but has five slopes of varying difficulty, including the world’s first indoor black run. You can toboggan, snowball, snowboard, meet the penguins, or just hang out in the unnaturally freezing cold.
And if you feel like ice skating?
Well, in that case, head off to yet another amazing mall, the Dubai Mall. The ice rink is on one of the lower floors of the mall, surrounded by balconies lined with cafés and restaurants. If you’re not skating, head for a café, and sit and watch the show going on below you. Lots of giggly beginners toppling all over the place, and the inevitable teenage girl having a private lesson, executing ridiculously complicated sequences.
This same mall also houses the Dubai Aquarium, which truly is a marvel of technology: in a country of superlatives, it will come as no surprise that this is the largest suspended aquarium in the world. You can see the fish and sharks as you walk around the Mall, but there are also glass-bottomed boat rides inside the Aquarium, a walk through tunnel and you can dive with the sharks – the ultimate adrenalin rush. If you are not quite up to diving with sharks, then you can go for the softer option and cage snorkel, where you swim inside a cage that’s suspended above the sharks and thousands of fish.
Dubai never seems to stop growing, and most of it is upwards, with amazingly innovative tower blocks making the skyline a technological marvel. The most unmissable of them all is, of course, the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. It is an elegant, beautiful tapering tower, with seriously fabulous views from the observation deck.
As a fitting counterpoint to modern Dubai, it is great fun to take a stroll along Dubai creek, which is at the heart of the original city. Much sensitive restoration has been done of the old buildings, such as the charming Dubai Museum, housed in the restored Al Fahidi Fort, which was erected around 1799.
Oh, and by the way.
When you have skied, and skated, and scuba dived, and been up the tallest building in the world, and wandered through the eighteenth century old city, don’t forget to shop. The shops in Dubai are beyond world class, so you have a real treat in store.