As we descended into Dubai Airport I could see lots of lights, huge skyscrapers and a buzz of activity. Would Dubai live up to the images that I had in my head?
I was travelling with the independent tour operator Carrier on a familiarity trip to visit some of Dubai’s top hotels and find out for myself what it was like. We flew with Emirates Airlines in business class, which set the scene for the next few days. The onboard service was excellent, the cabin crew friendly and the food superb!
Our first port of call was the beautiful and luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel. Set right on the beach, the hotel has extensive gardens and a large tropical pool area. It has an intimate feel with just 138 rooms and suites spread across six floors – it is a place of high standards and understated luxury.
Near to the Ritz Carlton is the Burj Al Arab which has some of the greatest views across Dubai. It also has an excellent selection of bars and restaurants, including the underwater themed ‘Al Mahara’ located next to an 8 seater submarine simulator! The hotel is very opulent and all the suites are lavishly decorated. The hotel is famous for the use of gold throughout the building and its atrium, which is enormous and stretches for miles!
To stay in this hotel would be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, but even if you don’t stay there just visit – but make sure you pre-book for afternoon tea or Friday brunch like the locals do!
I managed to visit several other hotels while I was in Dubai, but I was most taken with the fantastic Madinal Jumeriah Complex which is in fact made up of three hotels in one! In addition there are over 45 shops, bars and restaurants. The whole complex is linked by a series waterways and the pool is the largest in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai is a shoppers paradise and I was lucky enough to visit the Gold Souk and the Mall of the Emirates, both full of shops of all sorts with some fantastic bargains. When you have had enough of shops why not visit the largest indoor ski centre in the world at Ski Dubai which boasts real snow in the middle of the desert.
My final experience and the most memorable of the trip was to the Al Mana retreat in the middle of the desert. Styled like a Bedouin encampment it stands in a 3,500 acre desert game reserve. Here there are 40 suites in traditional arabian style decorated with antiques and each suite has its own private pool and dining area.
There is plenty to do and enjoy here from superb health and wellbeing treats to a desert safari in a 4×4 jeep. But the final treat for me was the camel ride at dusk and enjoying a cold glass of champagne as the sun slowly sank behind the sand dunes.
It would be impossible to try and find one word to decribe Dubai, it is a place of so many contrasts, but all in all I thought it was fantastic!