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Dreaming of Dubai: 5 top experiences for my next trip

I’ve been to Dubai a couple of times, but each trip was rather brief. Yet I had enough time to appreciate the amazing contrasts in a city where sheikhs have fulfilled their dreams, but ancient traditions live on. I spent time in the opulent Burj al Arab, filming the incredible palatial surroundings of the Royal Suite, which is a must for any visiting VIP. Burj Al Arab Royal Suite But I equally enjoyed the authentic experience of attending an iftar in Dubai. An iftar is the evening meal that families enjoy together after a day of fasting during Ramadan. It was a wonderful opportunity to understand the local culture better and to sample the flavours of authentic Emirati cuisine. Iftar Dubai These brief experiences have left me with a hunger for more. So I’ve been dreaming of my next trip to Dubai and planning some of the top authentic experiences I wish to have. I’ve been researching myself and also getting advice from the experts at Emirates Holidays.  Here are the top 5 ideas for my next trip: 1. Dubai desert safari Right up at the top of this list is to go on a desert safari. You’re taken out of the city into the wilds of the desert in a 4×4. Before sunset you can go camel-riding or dune ‘bashing’. As the sun sets over the desert a magical glow takes over the landscape, it looks amazing in the photos I’ve seen. Some safaris include falconry as well, and after the activity you get a delicious dinner in a Bedouin-style camp. I plan to do one of the overnight safaris, so I can stay under the stars in the desert. Dubai desert safari 2. A hands-on lesson in falconry I have discovered a company that offer a hands-on lesson in falconry. The falcon is the UAE‘s national bird, and is highly respected. In fact Sheikh Zayed has set up a Falcon Release Project for hunting birds to be re-released into the wild each year. Private-Falconry-Experience-1 The private hands-on falconry experience is with one of the world’s top falcon trainers. After teaching guests some falconry history, he then educates students in both ancient and modern falconry training techniques. So I’ll be able to handle and feed the falcons, naturally under his very close supervision! 3. The old quarter of Dubai – Al Fahidi, Bur Dubai To really soak up the history and culture, I plan to spend time in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in Bur Dubai. Minarets mingle with sandy-coloured buildings and museums. It’s also home to the last remaining Arabic wind-tower houses, constructed by wealthy pearly merchants and traders. I know my wife will love the rainbow of colours in the Textile Souk, and no doubt she’ll end up struggling to fit all of her purchases in the suitcase. Al Fahidi historical area Dubai 4. Visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) I will re-visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), which is where I enjoyed my iftar experience a couple of years ago. I think this should be on everyone’s list, as it is a non-profit organisation, which gives a super opportunity to visitors to understand the culture and meet local people. Entrance to SMCCU 5. Authentic Emirati food and sophisticated glamour I really enjoyed the authentic Emirati food on my previous visits, so I am currently compiling a list of tempting restaurants to visit. We’re very much looking forward to going to Al Fanar, which is a “Dubai in the 1960s” themed restaurant. Al Fanar And just in case you’re wondering, I will of course be soaking up the glitzy glamourous essence of Dubai, re-visiting its buzzing, sophisticated highlights. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Emirates Holidays.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Telegraph.

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  1. I used to live in Dubai and still visit regularly and everything you describe sounds fantastic!

    I did a private falconry experience with Dubai’s most upmarket desert safari company and it was one of the highlights of my five years living there. Two hours of handling the magnificent birds and then lunch at the very luxurious Al Maha resort was unforgettable.

    I really recommend that you hop on an abra across Dubai Creek while you are in the old part of town. Abras are the traditional wooden boats and the ply the waters of the Creek all day long and can take you between the souqs on each side. Just jump on board with the local commuters and enjoy soaking up the atmosphere of this working waterway. It’s the best 1 dirham you can spend in Dubai!

  2. Thanks, Courtney! My trips to date have been all too brief (generally just passing through) – next time I hope I can spend a little longer.

  3. Every time I return to Dubai I wonder at the growth and expansion. People head to Dubai for a long weekend but that must be really frustrating. Even if we’re talking Friday to Monday you would barely scratch the surface. There’s just so much on offer now. A week would barely be enough.

    I think I first visited in 1999 on business. Back in those days Dubai was relatively small and as I was a rare British visitor I got invited to the British Consulate for drinks! I’m going again next week and all I’ve got so far is an invite from a friend to call in for a cup of coffee.

    1. A long weekend is rarely enough to do justice anywhere, I find… but yes, in the case of Dubai, there is so much to see and do, particularly for a city break. And it’s very varied too – for instance, who would have thought you could go snow skiing in what should really be a desert? Enjoy your trip, Roger, and thank you for stopping by…

  4. From what I’ve been reading – and that prompted me to watch a couple of short films online too – the old part of Dubai called Al Seef on the south bank of the Creek has undergone a major redevelopment project. And it’s been done very sympathetically too from the look of things. The architects have managed to build in the spirit and design of Old Dubai. Time to add yet another reason for visiting Dubai.

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