Travel blogger Nadia El Ferdaoussi (@Nadia_DailySelf) is an expert on the most Insta-perfect destinations around the world...
Dubai is one of those destinations that can be a bit overwhelming for first-timers. It’s an adults’ playground, if you can imagine it, they’ll provide it. With that in mind, it makes sense to let the experts do the planning, so I used Emirates Holidays who create tailor-made packages in four and five-star hotels. On touch down in Dubai after a direct 7ish hour Emirates flight from Dublin as part of the package, transport was waiting for me at the arrivals. I motioned to the sky outside asking the driver was it just early morning fog, or something I’m more familiar with that falls from Irish skies.
Turns out it does in fact rain in the desert, the locals were delighted of course, luckily for holidaymakers though there’s plenty to keep you occupied rain or shine. In fact, during the summer months, you might want to take shelter in air-conditioned bliss for an hour or two, either way, you’ll almost certainly never have a chance to be bored.
To say I stayed in a palace while in Dubai wouldn’t even be an exaggeration. Emerald Palace Kempinski hotel on The Palm certainly lives up to its name. The entrance foyer is inspired by the Palace of Versailles and comes complete with the most expensive rose marble in the world, a chandelier made from 40,000 individual pieces of Swarovski crystal and 24k gold leaf adorning surfaces as far as the eye can see.
Don’t judge a book by its cover though, this hotel is far from stuffy, the cinema plays classic movies and kids’ favourites, the decor in the bars could easily be found in cool Manhattan neighbourhoods and chilled beers, chips and dips by the pool or private beach are the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.
As blissful as the hotel was, I managed to peel myself away to see how Dubai has changed since my last visit, eleven years ago. I remember spending lots of time in taxis travelling between specific, purpose-built attractions back in 2008. This time, there’s much more of a community feel. ’The Walk’ at JBR (Jumeriah Beach Residence) is an outdoor promenade lined with market stalls and food vendors, the Dubai Water Canal from the Creek provides another perfect stroll and the Dubai Metro all combine to give you more time outside, walking and looking around rather than sitting in traffic.
There’s not enough space to list all the ways the city has changed in recent years, but one thing has remained and that’s Dubai’s desire to break records and do everything bigger and better.
Top of my list when arranging the holiday was to make sure a desert safari was on the itinerary. Emirates Holidays organised a sunset trip with Arabian Adventures who picked me up from the hotel in a 4×4 to set off into the sand. My guide was able to tell me (and point out) all about Dubai’s records, from the tallest and longest buildings in the world to the new theme parks and airport.
After letting some air out of the tyres and passing the UAE’s national animal, the Oryx as we entered the desert, we held onto our seats for a spot of dune bashing before stopping for sunset pics. You arrive at the Bedouin style camp after dark where you can try your hand at falconry, have some traditional henna hand painting and watch a belly dancing show after an Arabian three-course feast. Definitely a trip highlight and must-do for your first time in Dubai.
Coincide your trip with ladies night (usually Tuesdays, but there are deals most nights) where you can get free drinks, or for infamous weekend brunch (mainly Fridays), where you pay one all-inclusive fee for a set amount of hours – arrive hungry!
Perfect for a girls getaway or a romantic break
How to book:
Emirates Holidays accept low booking deposits of €100.
Stay at the 5* Emerald Palace Kempinski Palm Jumeirah, 3 nights from €935pp half board
Pricing subject to availability based on 2 adults sharing. See emiratesholidays.com for details.