Desert Adventures in Dubai

Rising up out of the desert, the glittering oasis of Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, fantastical man-made islands and lavish 5-star hotels. It is a shoppers’ paradise, playground to the rich and one of the most visited cities in the world.

Recently Raffaella took her first trip to the United Arab Emirates, for a taste of what Dubai has to offer. She flew on Emirates, a smooth flight accompanied by the excellent service that this airline is known for.

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Catching an abra (traditional boat) to the souk (bazaar)

“During my three days in Dubai I experienced so much more than expected. For example, on our first day there we took part in an Arabian Race organised by Arabian Adventures. The setup is similar to the Amazing Race in that we were divided into two teams and then set tasks such as going to the souks to find out the best price of gold for the day or bargaining for spices. It was great fun and a fantastic way to get a feel for the city.

“Another way to get an overall impression of the city is to take in the views from Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world. There’s an observation deck on the 124th floor, and the elevator takes just a minute to whisk you up to that dizzying height.”

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Burj Khalifa and the view from the observation deck
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The aquarium, waterfall sculpture and ice rink inside Dubai Mall

“Of course, Dubai is famous for its shopping, and we spent some time in the Dubai Mall which has over 1,000 stalls as well as an aquarium and an ice skating rink. Another popular shopping centre, Mall of the Emirates, has an indoor ski resort with five ski slopes of varying difficulty including the world’s first indoor black diamond run.

“We stayed at Atlantis, The Palm in its spectacular location on Dubai’s man-made island. It’s an amazing resort, especially their signature suites such as the underwater suites and Royal Bridge Suite – which are truly something special. I was impressed by the level of service and personal touches, as well as by the food. We were spoiled wherever we went, but a real treat was dinner at Nobu where they just kept bringing us plates of delicious Japanese cuisine.”

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Atlantis, The Palm and its Grand Lobby with a glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly
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The Royal Bridge suite at Atlantis, The Palm

“There’s so much to see and do around Atlantis, The Palm. We spent a fun few hours at the Aquaventure Waterpark – which is huge! We got a chance to hand feed Cownose Rays, and visited the aquarium which is home to over 65,000 fish. We also had dinner at another of the Atlantis restaurants, Nasimi Beach, which has a more relaxed feel with sun loungers, dining tables and a stage on the beach.

“Another real highlight was a trip out into the dunes, again organised by Arabian Adventures. We got to drive dune buggies out to a location in the desert where they’d set up a Bedouin tent with drinks and snack. We could go sand boarding, ride fat tired bikes or just relax.”

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Underwater suite at Atlantis, feeding rays and the waterpark
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A drive into the dunes is not for the faint-hearted!

“From there we were taken in a 4×4 to the next location. The drive over these huge sand dunes was a real roller coaster ride! Again everything was set up with comfortable seating, lanterns and carpets. We had a falcon talk to learn more about these beautiful birds of prey, and toasted the sunset with a glass of champagne.

“On our way to the last stop we had a 10-minute camel ride under the clear night sky. We arrived to champagne and then sat down to a feast of barbecued chicken and lamb, prawns and lobster. There was a belly dancer to entertain us, and we lounged on cushions around a bonfire smoking sheeshas (water pipes). It was an incredible evening out in the desert.”

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Dune buggies and learning about falcons
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An incredible evening rounded off with dinner in the desert

“All in all I had a fantastic time in Dubai. It’s a clean and slick city where everything works. The hospitality, food and accommodation were all first rate, and there are fantastic experiences to be had both in the city and out in the surrounding desert.”

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After a game of polo, played on the back of a camel.