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Travel & Holiday

The pleasures of Dubai

From shopping and skiing to camel rides in the desert, it’s non-stop action in this Middle Eastern wonderland
The Straits Times - September 20, 2011
By: Suna and Rusi Kanga
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The pleasures of Dubai Wafi Mall -- Photo: Suna and Rusi Kanga

THE 4WD ahead of us shoots up a ridge, skims along two wheels and sweeps sideways across the sand. I shut my eyes when our turn comes for the “dune-bashing”  manoeuvre. Chills turn into thrills; then the desert safari culminates with camel rides, barbecue and belly dancing under the stars.

Welcome to Dubai, one of seven states of the United Arab Emirates, where Arab wealth and ingenuity have transformed a once sleepy port into a fun destination with  fantastical malls, innovative structures and safaris in the dust of an ancient desert.

A strategic location, tax incentives and state-of-art telecommunications draw savvy businessmen while tourism and financial services lend support to its oil, petroleum and natural gas economy.

Hip, high-end malls offer more than designer shopping. At the Dubai Mall, adrenaline propels shoppers through swanky stores such as Hermes, Prada, Bloomingdale’s and Galeries Lafayette. The shop-weary can unwind at the amazing  Dubai Aquarium or skate in an Olympic-sized ice rink within. For shoppers, The Address Dubai Mall hotel is convenient.

At the Mall of the Emirates, possibly the largest shopping centre outside North America, Ski Dubai’s graceful slopes draw enthusiasts. Wafi Mall is a hub for art-lovers while The Village Mall offers exciting local fashions.

Standing proud along the coast is the intriguing, sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, a symbol of New Dubai. Leisure options include Jumeirah Beach, the Dubai Museum, championship golf courses, art galleries and festivals.

The famous Atlantis—The Palm faces villas along a fanshaped landscape. Dubai’s dining options cater to its cosmopolitan lifestyle. Famous chefs’ restaurants include Pierre Gagnaire’s Reflets, Gordon Ramsay’s Verre  and Nobu Matsuhisa’s Nobu.

A glimpse of old Dubai

We, however, enjoy Arabic cuisine at street cafes and continental fare at The Boardwalk at the waterfront Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

Stroll along Dubai Creek, a natural inlet from the Arabian Sea, and take a trip back in time. Here, merchants board water taxis (abras) and porters load traditional boats (dhows) with merchandise. A smuggler’s gold could well be secreted within a boat’s deep belly.

Nearby, the Gold Souk is a glittering oasis. Arab women with designer bags slung over flowing black robes mingle with tourists. At the Spice Souk, redolent with exotic aromas,we buy sumak and other Arabic spices.

Across the water is the textile market, Meena Bazar, where models are draped in bejewelled saris and dress fabrics. The merchandise vies with that along Singapore’s Arab Street.

Returning, we glide past pleasure boats on dinner cruises and disembark near the gleaming buildings of modern Dubai.

TRAVELLER’S TIPS

The city has a metro transit system that runs along Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s busy main street — which is the longest road in the UAE.

■ Friday-Saturday is the weekend in the Muslim world. Clubbing is in full swing on Fridays.

■ At Village Mall, where socialites shop, check out local designer Ayesha Depala’s boutique. Art-lovers’ havens include Gallery Isabella van den Eynde, thejamjar and The Third Line.

 

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