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Dubai & Abu Dhabi

Staff adventures in the Middle East


At first glance, it’s easy to forget that Dubai was once a desert, which is now a buzzing metropolis adorned with skyscrapers. A mere seven-hour flight away from the UK with the perfect combination of city and beach, Dubai is a pleasant escape from the tyranny of the 9-5.

One of the first things we noticed when we arrived in Dubai, was the heat. It is intense! Travelling in September is hot, so the air-conditioned hotels and malls as well as the shaded souks and refreshing swimming pools are very welcoming…as is the odd cocktail!

We have always loved the glitz & glamour of Dubai, it is a very exciting city. Having visited the Downtown area including the impressive Burj Khalifa on past trips, we decided to take a ride on the hop-on hop-off bus and see a different side of Dubai - ‘Old Dubai’. We loved sitting up on the open top deck and taking in the sights. We enjoyed the panoramic views of the city, authentic buildings and dramatic skyline whilst sitting back and listening to the commentary. We hopped off at the Dubai museum and took an Abra (small boat) across the creek. This was really good fun and only cost 1 Dirham…which is about 25p. We would have happily gone backwards & forwards a few times. Once we arrived on the other side of the creek, there was plenty to see and meandering avenues to explore. We took in the sights and smells of the gold & spice souks. The calls for prayer echoed over us and added to the authentic Arabic atmosphere. We did get a little lost, but this was part of the fun.

Whilst staying in the Downtown area, our home for the night was the Manzil Downtown.  The lobby of the hotel is adorned with vibrant Arabic paintings and a beautiful chandelier. The location is fabulous – just a short walk from the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall.  We made our way to our room and were wowed by the stunning view. Apart from the roof top pool, our favourite part of the hotel was the fabulous courtyard which came alive at night with locals and tourists. This is a well-known spot for cocktails, good food and flavourful shisha.

Another hotel we visited in the Downtown area was The Rove - we liked it here because it was stylish, affordable and media savvy. How many hotels have you stayed in that have a human sized hashtag at the door? The hotel is festooned with Instagram pictures that begin at the entrance and continue throughout the property with guests’ photographs displayed on large LCD screens in the lobby and social area.

Whilst in the Downtown area, we visited the spectacular dancing fountains. This is a ‘must see’ for everyone. We could have watched them all night. The fountains are simply incredible and are set on the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake. They dance and oscillate and are choreographed perfectly to music. We oohed and aahed as the undulating spray reached heights of up to 50 feet. The lights in the fountain also created a spectrum of colour against the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa. It was fabulous and any video / picture we took simply didn’t do it justice! We could have watched the fountains whilst indulging in some fine cuisine, or a traditional Arabic feast but instead we had a burger & milkshake – divine!

The next part of our itinerary bought us to the beach. We love this area, with the iconic hotels and gorgeous long beach. One of our favourites was the Fairmont. It has such a tranquil feel with its shaded pools and you just can’t beat the backdrop of the skyscrapers across the water. It is elegant and luxurious and the view from the club lounge was one of the best we experienced in Dubai.

Next, we were off to Abu Dhabi. As well as visiting the fabulous hotels Abu Dhabi has to offer, we were fortunate enough to visit to the Grand Mosque. Wow, what an experience! It was beautiful, and its sheer size is awe inspiring. The mosque contains seven chandeliers which are made up of millions of crystals. The dress code for entrance to the mosque is very strict, you must be covered from head to toe. We wore an Abaya, which is the traditional robe worn by women. I was a bit worried about over heating but needn’t have worried. Our guide from Arabian Adventures (Chubby- yes that is his name and for the record he wasn’t), was so informative and made the visit so enjoyable. It was so interesting to learn about the religion and customs and just take in the exquisite beauty of the mosque.

So, after a full-on itinerary, visiting fabulous hotels and taking in the vibrant atmosphere of the city, it was now home time. Shortly after landing in the UK, we learned that nothing stays still for long. Effervescent and exuberant we appreciate why it has become such a popular destination. Now when can we go back?