When telling my friends I’m going to Dubai there were only two reactions: Yeahy or nay, meaning you either love or hate it. And many are more on the dislike side…
I was going to Dubai mainly because it was cold at home and warm over there, flights were cheap and hotels luxurious but still a bargain. I didn’t expect much: Malls, chilling at the pool, maybe some nice food. But I was surprised by the atmosphere – Sure, sometimes it’s over the top, kitschy and just too shiny – but there are corners and places where you feel that oriental beauty, see those graceful men and women, most of them tastefully dressed, with some extra perfume that’s in the air almost everywhere. Everyone speaks english, everyone is polite and it was super easy getting around (as a woman and by myself). I loved to go here with my mother, doing extensive spa-treatments, chilling and yes, enjoying the great food.
- Stay in Deira
Most fancy hotels are near the beach in Jumeirah, it’s a luxe ghetto and the bling is real. This is not a bad thing for everyone, if big names are important to you, you can go there of course.But we loved to stay in Deira. It’s not polished, a little rough (yes it exists in Dubai) in some corner but feels more authentic. Our hotel Al Ghurair Rotanta had a beautiful interior – yes, golden – but in a good way. There are many indian vegetarian restaurants around. Needless to say, it’s a little cheaper here. At first we were stared at a lot because not many tourists seem to go here and people get really excited about our visit. But that’s good sign, right?
- Take the metro
The train system is great. Always on time, convenient, safe, clean, fast and cheap. There even wagons for women only – They are usually a little less crowded, but men might get up for you so you can sit. So it’s your choice. So if your destinations is reachable via train (and the main attraction points are) take the train and just take the taxi if necessary.
- Embrace its attractions
So if you googled attractions in Dubai, you surely read about the Dubai Fountain. Now you might think: Hello, seriously? The fountain? I was thinking the same – I mean, how interesting can illuminated water be? And yes, it is not that interesting. But go with the flow – Take a seat at Social House (they do delicious salads) and just enjoy the excitement around you. Even locals go here and just enjoy the music, colors and vibe, it feels like a mini version of New Years Eve. As soon as you’ll settle with it, you’ll feel it, too! I went here with a local (Thank you Marina!) and she totally made me unterstand and enjoy this simple but beautiful event.
- Go on board
Just crusing Dubai creek from the new to the old part of the city is fun – the best time is sunset, the light is beautiful and on the way back you’ll see the beautiful illuminated yachts and boats. Either take one of the cheap abras, which are water taxis used by the locals or the metro boats which belong to the train-system – those do also have a little ac if you are in Dubai during a super hot time. There are also many local couples and I loved this slightly romantic atmosphere – even though I was going with my mother.
- Treat yourself
Every spa treatment I had in Dubai was great – and intense. Women do a lot for their beauty here and that’s why the standard at the Spas is very high. You don’t need super fancy brands, the magic is done by the therapists not the products. On mothers day I got my mom and myself a full body treatment for elasticity. We were wrapped in foil, they kind of “clapped” on your skin – I was afraid my mother got hurt be cause of the high pressure. Then they put us in chocolate-mud. Sounds strange, but we left with super tight and soft skin – for days! This was also at the Spa at our hotel Al Ghurair Rotanta. So look for something intense and skin-tightening – at the beginning of our trip to be your bounciest self all the time.
- Feel on top
Actually, be on top! Not doing something fancy is not an option, but you can do it in a good way, too. Sunset or nighttime on 40 kong is my choice of fanciness. Put on the nice shoes you packed (and usually won’t wear because they are a just bit too much), go to this rooftop terrace and order one of the signature cocktails (Lucky Victims maybe? A gin-elderflower-apple-mix). Enjoy the sparkling lights around you, music is ok too (I’m very picky with it and nearly no spot in Dubai will make me a 100% happy music-wise, but this was on the lounge-y side which fit the location) and it’s not too big.One Sheik Zayed Road
- Get into art
Experiencing an overdose of everything gold and shiny? Then go to Alserkal Avenue. It reminds me of the hip areas you’d find in many big cities – thanks to its industrial charm which is very unusual for Dubai. Concrete, clear lines – Give your eyes a little rest here. I like the mix of international artists, bigger and smaller names, cafés and hang outs. It’s not a super big area but very different from the typical Dubai spots.
- Buy beauty stuff
The more exotic the country, the better the beauty shopping experience! The specialty in Dubai is perfume – you can get a very big selection in all the malls, cheaper shops and souqs. The oud-trend came from here – it’s one of the most popular ingredients. Big designer brands create special editions for Dubai, often heavier and quite intense, especially the selection for men is much bigger than it is in Europe. Of course I bought some of some oriental oils too – Back home, I found them way too heavy and well – oriental. Still when sniffing at it I reminds me of Dubai instantly, because this frankincense, wood, oud mix is always in the air. A perfect souvenir!What’s also really special are the khol eyeliner – if you want the real thing, stop by the cheap shops (those that look like the 1 Dollar kind of stores) and those little tubes. They are often infused with some kind of peppermint (i assume) so they make your eyes more watery and appear whiter. Nothing for the sensitive, though.
- Do tea time
…like an arabian of course. The Arabian Tea House is a perfect place for that. Authentic, very Emirati – but welcoming, so you don’t feel like the looked-at tourist trying to be soooo local (although you are, what should you do?). This courtyard-café feels like an oasis, located in the historic Bastakiya area behind thick walls, with a little green, big cushions. Cosy meets cultural – perfect, right?Al Fahidi Street Bur Dubai
- Surviving the mall
There’s no way not going to the mall – it’s the place where most of the emirati life happens. No matter how much you hate shopping centers, it will be impossible not going there. I find shopping quite boring (and expensive, unless you are coming during sale season) here, you get all the stuff you get home or online anyway. So make the best of it! Means: Pick some shops you find interesting, explore the restaurants (the variety is huge! Fron cheaper to luxurious to any kind of origin), the bars, cinemas. Treat it like a big playground – because that’s what it is. It’s not like a mall in the US or Europe – So adjust your expectations.My favorite one is Dubai Mall: the most modern one and with lovely restaurants.