.The United Arab Emirates are artificial, fake, one big fair and there is nothing to see. That's about the cliché that prevails with most people. When my husband and I could take a week off in November we were looking what destination met the criteria "not too far away, '' little time difference 'and 'guaranteed good weather’, we ended up with Dubai. So we decided to give it a try.
Al Maha Desert Resort
After a pleasant flight we are greeted in Dubai by a driver who brings us straight to the ‘Al Maha Desert Resort’. We arrive in the middle of the night (unfortunately without luggage, because it was still in Brussels), but we see immediately that it's a fabulous setting. 42 Bedouin tents are arranged so that you have undisturbed views from your terrace into the desert. A small private plunge pool completes the picture.
The next morning we get up early to fully enjoy our short stay in the desert. After a great breakfast we leave with a driver to explore the desert by terrain vehicle during a dune drive. During one of the stops we stand on top of a beautiful orange-red dune. The only thing we see is gently rippling sand. Words fail to describe how breathtakingly beautiful it is here.
In the evening we go back into the desert, but now by camel. At sunset we again enjoy the view while sipping a glass of champagne.
After a refreshing shower in our tent (which is really an understatement) we enjoy the view from our terrace and look forward to the next day.
When they came to ask us if we wanted to be woken up on time the next morning to see the sunrise, we said yes. We had not anticipated that,just before dawn, two men stepped inside our tent to slide open the front of our tent. That way we could lie in our bed to enjoy the most spectacular sunrise ever. Near the terrace of our tent are two beautiful oryx nibbling quietly at the plants that grow here. We are quiet and enjoy this unique moment.
The rest of the day is more active because we go out with a real falconer. He teaches us the basics of the falcon hunting. I still find it a mystery that such a bird returns to his trainer over and over again.
There are so many things to do in Dubai that we decided to stay a few days in the city too. After our desert trip, we are brought back to the city where we stay at The One & Only Royal Mirage. Of course it is all a little 'fake' and the luxury is over the top, but it still has a certain charm.
It immediately strikes us that people park their cars and leave the key. We have rarely felt as safe as in Dubai.
We rent a car because you can easily explore Dubai on your own. One building is even more megalomaniac than the other, the desert is a big construction site
10 years later
10 years later we arrive in Dubai for a second visit and, as expected, it is unrecognizable. This time we were traveling with two young children as Dubai is a super family destination. There are so many things to do in Dubai with kids. We stay in the Emirate of Fujairah in Hotel Miramar Al Aqah Beach. In the UAE around Dubai are wonderful hotels that are a little more budget friendly. We enjoy the nice weather and the quietness and plan trips with the children every day.
In Dubai we will visit the Burj Al Arab, I think the most decadent hotel in the world. It is all (leaf) gold that glitters.
Our children are quite impressed by the gigantic aquariums in Atlantis. The hotel is inspired by the drowned city of Atlantas and it seems like you're at Disney World. We are happy to escape the chaos after an hour because this is not really our thing. One day before the official opening, we stand in front of the Burj Dubai (now renamed Burj Khalifa). The world's tallest building. 818 meters high, 162 floors. Cost 1 billion. What could be more decadent?
If you are in Dubai you must ofcourse visit a shopping center. The Mall of the Emirates is known for its indoor ski slope. The Dubai Mall is the newest and largest shopping mecca.
The highlight is a flight by helicopter or seaplane. We book a Seawings seaplane and fly over the Palm Islands and The World. Only from the air you get a good picture of these artificial islands. You also see very clearly that The World is slowly sinking.
Last winter we made a brief stop-over in Dubai and stayed at the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa. The area around the Burj is now a very cozy outlet center. Tons of restaurants, nice terraces, shops .... Every 30 minutes there resounds music, first Eastern than Western and there's a beautiful show with dancing fountains.
We can therefore conclude that Dubai is obviously the country of artificial kitsch, but we nevertheless enjoyed it. Especially the desert has made a lasting impression on us. We find it a fantastic destination to escape the cold during the winter months. If you love luxury and sun and still want to do a few trips, Dubai is certainly worth considering.
Looking for fun and aventure in Dubai? Don't forget to read about the 10 things you must know before you travel to Dubai.