It’s that time of year when another year full of essays, exams, and the need for increasingly inventive procrastination techniques, is nearly over. Amongst the last minute cramming, and battling to find any spare surface to work on in the Forum, the hot topic of conversation has turned to summer plans. From festivals to internships, it seems everyone is bragging about the incredible summer antics they’re looking forward to. Still haven’t got your summer sorted? If your idea of a perfect summer is a mix of beautiful beaches, plenty of sunshine (and an insane amount of glamour), all interspersed with Middle Eastern culture and plenty of opportunity for adventure, then Dubai is the summer holiday for you.
Dubai promises to provide visitors with a city that is like no other, and it certainly delivers! If it’s a spot of shopping you’re after, then this tax free haven is a dream come true, filled to the brim with shopping centres that make Westfield look tiny in comparison. Dubai is a city brimming with aesthetic flamboyance and its shopping centres are no different. The Mercato Shopping Mall is most certainly a feast for the eyes, full of grandeur, with its 6ft tall water features and spectacular Venetian architecture, which whisks you away from the Middle Eastern metropolis to Renaissance Italy. This, however, is purely the tip of Dubai’s shopping iceberg. The Mall of the Emirates classes itself as not just a centre full of the top high street and designer brands, but a shopping resort, complete with an indoor ski slope, a hotel, cinema and enough rides to rival a theme park!
Although notorious for its overt metropolitan vibe if, like me, you want to experience a unique Middle Eastern culture, Dubai, despite popular belief, has this in abundance too if you take the time to look for it. The city is brimming with vibrant souks selling everything from Gold to spices, all at incredibly competitive prices if you’re brave enough to engage in some strenuous haggling (they know you’re a tourist so keep persevering to get the best price and avoid being ripped off). Naif Souk is a must go to if you want to come away with beautiful silk and textiles, most of which are hand embroidered in such incredible detail and stunning colours. It would also be a massive mistake to visit the souks and not take a trip to the appropriately named Gold Souk, which is an Aladdin’s cave brimming with incredibly affordable gold and platinum jewellery.
Shopping aside (let’s be honest, as much as I love a good shop you’re in Dubai) go explore! Among the insane amounts of glamour the city has to offer, budget allowing, go to the Burj Al Arab’s Al Mahara underwater restaurant – the views out of the glass walls are incredible. My favourite activity by far was a desert jeep safari… If you thought Dubai’s Wild Wadi water slide (the highest outside North America with speeds up to 50MPH and well worth a go) was terrifying, then think again. These jeeps go at break neck speed over the desert’s sand dunes and are certain to get your adrenaline pumping.
In true Dubai style these trips to the surrounding desert promise to be one of a kind with plenty of optional activities to take part in. These range from sand skiing/boarding (I’m not exactly a pro skier at the best of times, but this really was worth a try) to a more traditional camel ride, which is the perfect way to admire the surrounding scenery and marvel at the sun setting over the dunes. The evening offers an eclectic mix of Middle Eastern cuisine, belly dancing performances and the option of beautiful henna tattoos. This really was a fantastic break from the hustle and bustle of the city and provides an authentic insight into the roots of a country, which actually started as a fishing village, sometimes overshadowed by the huge expansion it has seen over the past few decades.
That being said, the truly unique quality that Dubai holds is its ability to mix its industrial master pieces, such as the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa which offers stunning panoramic views of Dubai’s skyline from its observation deck (I would recommend going at night, it’s amazing), and the countries natural beauty and heritage. Dubai creek is fantastic to absorb the beauty of Dubai… This salt water waterway starts from the Persian Gulf and extends inland to the beautiful Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to thousands of gorgeous pink flamingos.
If your idea of appreciating nature’s beauty, however, involves sunning yourself with a mojito or two, Dubai’s beaches won’t disappoint. Despite the incredible amounts of building work the coast has seen of late, the beaches have still retained their exotic beauty with stretches of golden sands and clear waters. My personal recommendation would be the Jumeriah Beach Park which is maintained to a very high standard, and for a tiny entrance fee (equivalent to a few pounds), you’re free to while away those long sunny days kidding yourself that you’re on one of the many multi million pound man made islands that scatter the landscape.
Dubai is a fantastic holiday destination that provides an experience to suit everyone’s needs. However, despite it being a country built on tourism you have to remember that this is still a deeply religious country with certain customs that you should adhere to, especially around the time of Ramadan (don’t let this time of year put you off visiting, I visited during the religious festival and it was amazing to learn more about their culture and the Muslim religion). So if you want a country that never ceases to amaze with its versatility, Dubai should certainly be at the top of your summer holiday lust list.