Last April, I headed to Dubai for a week with a friend of mine. I had seen a sharp rise in the number of enquiries for this destination and really had to see what it was all about. I couldn’t make up my mind whether to stay in Dubai ‘Downtown’ or out by the beach and so I solved the problem by splitting the holiday between 2 hotels.
We started off at the beach hotel ‘The One and Only Royal Mirage’. We spent our 3 days here just chilling, lying by the pool and being pampered by the very attentive staff. We headed off one afternoon for afternoon tea at the Atlantis out on the Palm. This was a very ‘english’ affair – cups of tea, lots of bite size sandwiches and an incredible array of pastries. The hotel itself was huge and full of families. The waterpark and the aquarium attached to the hotel would be the main attractions for the kids. We ate at our hotel one night and headed to the Madinat Jumeirah for dinner on another evening. Here there was a buzzing marketplace and outside the market, by the waters edge, were a string of restaurants. We opted for an Iranian restaurant and the food was excellent. Now I have to say that Dubai is not cheap. The cost of a meal would be similar to the cost of eating out here in Ireland. But the wine.......a bottle of Oyster Bay which costs €10 here in Ireland costs anything from €40 - €50 in Dubai!!! By comparison, an excellent G&T cost approx €11 – expensive enough but relative to the cost of the wine, was definitely better value.
Of course, we had to have lunch at the Burj al Arab – Dubai’s first 7 star hotel (The Hotel Armani opened the week after we left). The concierge at our hotel made the booking for us and we went to the Asian Buffet restaurant. The cost of lunch was €65.00 per person. The hotel was a very recognisable landmark out in the sea in the shape of a sail. Inside it was really bright – everything was blue just like the sea. I couldn’t believe how busy it was. We were shown to the restaurant and allocated a great table by the window. The Maitre ‘d gave us a tour of the buffet and then to our surprise, brought each of the course to our table cooked exactly as we had ordered them. We did not have to budge from our seats and we spent a fantastic afternoon chatting with the very friendly staff and fellow diners. Mind you, the Oyster Bay here cost €130.00!!!
We then booked into ‘The Palace Downtown’ which was the complete opposite to our beach hotel. We just loved this place. The situation could not have been better. The hotel was linked to the Dubai Mall – the largest shopping mall in the world. Every single shop you have ever seen on the high street either here or in the UK was represented along with all the top designers. They also had an aquarium, ice skating rink and cinema. Right in front of the hotel was the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world over 170 storeys high. We visited by night and the lift whisked us up to the 142nd floor in less than 1 minute and our ears didn’t even pop. The view was AMAZING. When we came down from the tower, we spent some time watching the Dubai fountains which played every 15 minutes from 5 until 11pm. They were spectacular. After that, we spent the time people watching marvelling at how white the robes of the Arabic gentlemen were and wondering what sort of designer gear their many wives were wearing under their black robes.
Then the Ash Cloud arrived and we were stranded! Now Dubai is not the best place to have to spend a few unscheduled days. It is an expensive destination and we had pulled out all the stops for our weeks holiday and the budget was shot. We stayed an extra 2 nights at The Palace and just relaxed by the pool. The weather was great and we just enjoyed our hotel. After the two days however, we decided to make a stab at getting home and that is a story for another journal! We left on Monday evening and after flying from Dubai to Muscat to Istanbul to Athens, overnight in Athens and from there to London, we finally landed back in Cork on the first flight in from Heathrow on the Wednesday evening. What an adventure.
Dubai is definitely a great winter destination. It has superb weather, great hotels and service and lots of attractions. We had a ball here and will definitely return.