Dubai is a city that must be seen to be believed. Record-breaking architecture such as the world’s tallest building, stands alongside traditional quarters like Bastakiya, while man-made islands jut out of the coastline and the edge of the city is home to rolling sand dunes. Over 200 nationalities call Dubai home, bringing with it a mix of cultures and cuisines, creating an energy in the city like no other.
Only 44 years old, this cosmopolitan city has grown exponentially, with new hotels and attractions launching each year to cater for the growing number of visitors to the destination. 2016 has been a great year for growth and development, with the launch of four theme parks and Dubai Opera, as well as a range of hotels, making it a city for everyone.
For Australian travellers, visiting Dubai, here is our must-do’s:
Soaring at over 828 metres tall with more than 160 stories, Burj Khalifa is not only the world’s tallest building, but an engineering masterpiece of modern architecture. The structure dominates the skyline and a visit to Dubai without seeing the building, would not be complete. Visitors can take in the views across the desert city from the observation deck on Floor 125, or for those wanting a VIP experience, the At The Top SKY lounge is on floor 148, offering guests an outdoor deck and complimentary refreshments.
The UAE’s cultural scene took another step forward in August 2016 when Dubai Opera opened its doors with a sold-out performance by Plácido Domingo. The iconic dhow-shaped building of Dubai Opera is a masterpiece of contemporary design, and a stylish tribute to Dubai’s maritime history. Designed by architect Janus Rostock, Dubai Opera gives the exceptional ability to transform into three modes; from a theatre into a concert hall, and into a ‘flat floor’ mode becoming a banquet or event hall and will be host to a wide variety of performances and events including theatre, opera, ballet, orchestras, concerts, fashion shows, live entertainment, conferences, galleries and art exhibitions.
IMG World of Adventures and Dubai Parks and Resorts
For families visiting Dubai, the launch of four new theme parks in 2016 gives more choice to families of all ages. IMG Worlds of Adventure opened in August and will be home to five adventure zones including Marvel comics and Cartoon Network. The World’s largest indoor theme park has rides, movies, shows and a range of dining options.
In Q4, Dubai Parks and Resorts opens its doors to the public, with the world’s first Bollywood Park, the region’s first Legoland and Motiongate – filled with attractions on themes like Hunger Games and the Smurfs. The Dubai Parks and Resorts complex will also have a central family-friendly hotel, for guests wanting to wake up to theme park views each day.
Al Fahidi District (Bastakiya)
Escape the skyscrapers of the city centre and travel back in time with a trip to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, also known as Bastakiya. This atmospheric area in Bur Dubai is one of the oldest heritage sites in the city, with a neighbourhood that dates back to the early 1900s. A tour of the area offers a beguiling glimpse into the Dubai of a bygone era including traditional wind towers, courtyards and maze of winding alleyways. You can learn about the culture and heritage of the region at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and enjoy a traditional breakfast, or wander into some of the courtyard cafes that have made Bastakiya home, such as the Arabian Tea House (with over 100 teas to choose from), or XVA Café with its own art gallery and boutique hotel.
The largest shopping mall in the world and home to over 1,200 stores, Dubai Mall is an attraction in itself with its own aquarium and ice-rink among others. The mall has every brand you can think of, from high-street to high-end and dining outlets for all budgets. It is situated in downtown and should be combined with the Dubai Fountains, a water display that happens every evening, accompanied by a light show at Burj Khalifa.
A trip to the city emerging from the desert, is not complete without a visit to the desert. Visitors to Dubai can experience the desert on one of many desert safaris, taking in the landscape at sunset with camel rides, falconry displays, dune drives, traditional dinners and entertainment.
With so many nationalities living in Dubai, it is a melting pot for cuisine in Dubai, whether it is cheap eats at Ravi’s, a long-time favourite with all travellers wanting great quality Pakistani food, or fine-dining in one of the many celebrity chef restaurants such as Marco Pierre White’s Wheelers of London.