Great travel challenges your view point; it excites and surprises you; it introduces you to experiences you didn’t know existed.
Dubai is a culturally and technologically forward thinking part of the UAE. Their motto is practically “If you build it, they will come”. The city is constantly constructing hotels, high end shopping complexes, night clubs, amusement parks, and architecturally creative buildings that break world records for height. All the while, they manage to keep their culture and history alive with desert conservation, preserved ancient sites, and gold/ spice souks providing the best of both modern and traditional worlds.I didn’t know a ski slope could exist in the middle of the desert, I didn’t realize that camels are so terrifyingly TALL, and I certainly didn’t consider how much I had to learn about a culture different from my own.
Dubai, is the definition of great travel. These are my Top Five Things Not to Miss in Dubai!
1. At the Top SKY, Burj Khalifa
At an astounding 2,716.5 feet, Burj Khalifa takes the world record for tallest building in the world. Stepping off the special elevator taking us from the 125th the 148th floor, I was greeted to a luxurious contemporary lounge with a variety of juice and chocolates, and a view from the highest outdoor observation deck in the world. I had to stop to catch my breath. Aside from bragging rights, standing on the deck allows you to truly see the dichotomy of growth that Dubai boasts. From this bird’s eye view, I could see the patches of modernized architecture and omnipresent construction cranes amongst neighborhoods, desert and water. It felt like I was witnessing history in the making of Dubai.
2. SMCCU (Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding)
Prejudice happens when we don’t understand another culture. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, located in a wind tower house in the historical Al Fahidi District, works to educate and create conversation about local culture, traditions, and religion. There are many cultures represented in Dubai, and SMCCU works to preserve the knowledge of how many of their traditions originated. I respectfully took my shoes off as I entered the house and took my seat on a pillow. Laid on the floor before me was an array of traditional Emirati foods which we shared for lunch. As I sipped on Arabic coffee and enjoyed the popular date, the Managing Director gave us an enlightening lecture on Arabic culture and traditions. He constantly referenced their motto of “Open Doors. Open Minds.” and between laughing, because he was hysterically entertaining, I found myself recognizing that it is never okay to question a culture I know so little about.
3. Ski Dubai
Located within Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates, Ski Dubai consists of 5 ski slopes equipped with ski lift, tube slides, toboggan runs, and everything else you could wish for in an indoor winter wonderland. (In case you forgot, Dubai is a desert! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they have managed to bring snow activities to the desert.) Whether you are an experienced skier, snowboarder, master sled-er or all around lover of snow activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy. As someone who does not ski or snow board, I found myself climbing into a giant inflatable ball and rolling down a snow hill. This activity is also known as “Zorbing,” and it left me laughing the whole way down the hill. Definitely an experience for the more adventurous type and a total ball. (Pun intended)
4. Desert Safari Experience with Platinum Heritage
For an exciting, authentic and traditional Arab experience, I highly recommend a Desert Safari. We drove through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in Land Rovers with very professional and friendly guides. Any time our land rover didn’t make it up a hill on the first try our guide would start a chant and we would all cheer until we made it up the hill, it was such an adventure! We were at the reserve for a dinner experience, so when we arrived at the camp the sun was setting, there was a man training us in falconry, and the whole camp was lit with lamps. At each turn there was someone giving henna tattoos, someone wrapping your head in a scarf, offers of Arabic coffee, camel rides, and dancers galore. The dinner is buffet style and included not only the typical hummus and salads, but lamb and camel meat! After the dinner everyone was welcome to sit on blankets and pillows and kick back with some shisha aka hookah. It was unreal. Platinum Heritage is a luxury product and offers an overnight safari option in a tent which I would have done in a heartbeat. Plus a portion of your fee goes towards local conservation!
5. Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
When you think Dubai, you think of the sail structure, Burj Al Arab. It was such an honor to just step foot into the only 7 star property in the world. The moment I entered the lobby, I was drawn to the geometric design of colors and imaginative architecture overhead. In typical Arab fashion the hotel is very colorful, themed with gold, reds, purples, blues, and greens, filling the grandiose lobby and rooms. With only suites, private reception on each floor, and personal butlers, I felt like I was in a palace, a palace that had some of the best views of the beach. The Burj Al Arab is not just a hotel, it is a luxury experience unlike any other.
Picking the top five things not to miss in Dubai is incredibly difficult. There is much to see and experience that will appease every kind of traveler. Personally, I look for challenge, excitement, and surprise. Between the cultural discussions, camel rides and indoor ski slopes, I found exactly what I wanted. An Avenue Two Travel Advisor can help you find exactly what you’re looking for in Dubai. As an added bonus, Avenue Two Travel is part of Jumeirah’s Passport to Luxury preferred partnership program which means you get added amenities when you stay at any Jumeirah property! Ask your advisor for more details!