Where in the name of Benjamin Siegel did Dubai come from? The slain gangster known as Bugsy who had a dream to build a city oasis in the middle of the Nevada desert would feel right at home in the United Arab Emirates today. The Las Vegas pioneer would simply marvel at the hubristic ambition of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. For better or for worse, and he certainly has his detractors, the Prince has helped engineer a veritable urban play land out of sand and procure billions of dollars in foreign investment.
Dubai is now the foremost expat city in the world and daily, thousands apply for countless jobs to aid in the development of this new megalopolis. It boggles the mind to see how far Dubai has come in so short a time. From skyscrapers that smash records, hotels that redefine luxury and manmade islands in the shape of continents, the city is a strange and seductive amusement park. Which is where our countdown comes in. Here are the top 10 things to do in Dubai.
Only in Dubai can you ski in the middle of the desert. On real snow. Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort with 22,500 square meters of snow that never melts. There are 5 runs of divergent difficulty levels, equipment rental available and professional instructors, no doubt from Alpine nations, on hand to assist. If parents want to ski or snowboard while the kids play, they can drop them off at the adjacent 3,000 square meter snow park. Of course, this being Dubai, it dwarfs every other snow park on the planet.
9. Go to the Movies
The temperature in Dubai can reach a deadly 40 degrees Celsius. So for those who do not ski and want to cool off, perhaps a movie would be in order. At the extraordinary Mall of the Emirates, the Cinestar theatre offers an experience quite unlike any other cinema. While their regular theatres are posh enough, one can rent a Gold Class theatre with leather recliners, private tables, adjustable foot rests and dedicated lounges with special food and beverage services.
8. Afternoon Tea at the Burj
The vast majority of us will never be able to afford the stratospheric rates at the bazillion-star Burj-al-Arab hotel. It costs a mint to even tour the grandiose facility. But certain special occasions may call for the sophisticated elegance of their afternoon tea service. No regular afternoon tea experience mind you, the Burj offers only the best in cakes and teas from around the world. At a price of course. Couples can indulge in their chocolate fountain for two, if they have the appetite and pocketbook for it.
7. See Hydropolis
This mega-luxury underwater hotel, built by German engineers and the size of Hyde Park in London. Visitors can gape at the hotel off Jumeira Beach, which was the last piece of free Dubai beachfront property and possession of the Crown Prince. The hotel is a Jules Verne meets Atlantis wet dream, with actual suites at least 20 meters below the surface area of the Arabian Gulf. Anyone with irrational fears of aquariums is advised to stay elsewhere while in Dubai.
6. Watch a Horse Race
The proverbial Sport of Kings has firm roots in the Middle East. No surprise then that Dubai boasts the most impressive racecourse in the world, as well as a number of world class races for thoroughbreds. Even for newcomers to the sport, the races are quite the spectacle to behold. And we refer not to the horses even, but to the crowds themselves, populated as they are with the cream of world equestrian society. It’s all quite a scene.
5. Desert Safari
Despite present appearances, Dubai is amid a desert. With all this sand around, intrepid entrepreneurs have found a way to cash in. Two words: desert safari. While the price is high, the experience may well be worth it. Highlights include a stay with Bedouins and a peek into their traditional way of life, replete with desert cookouts, bonfires and belly dancers. So the authenticity may get a little lost in translation but still, good fun awaits. For most, the best part of the safari is the chance to careen among the dunes on open four-wheel vehicles. Without any traffic cops around, you can really go wild.
4. Tour the Grand Mosque
On a less secular note, the Grand Mosque harkens back to the pre-urban-development-on-steroids days of Dubai. Oh yes, there was a Dubai before there was a Dubai, if you catch our drift. The Mosque, built around the turn of the last century, is the most attractive in the city and reminds us that yes, despite the excess and Western-style influences of late, this is a Muslim land. Reports are that non-Muslims are not permitted entry, although there are some testimonies to the contrary. Come with an open and sincere heart and let the chips fall where they may.
3. Hit the Links
It may sound odd, but golf and Dubai have become synonymous of late. Typical of the city’s intent to become a capital for all the world’s most popular recreations, clubs and courses in Dubai are first-class. It really is quite an experience to tee it up in this desert oasis. Night golf has become huge here, with floodlights all along the fairways and greens. The city hosts the best golfers in the world, Tiger Woods chief among them, every February at the Dubai Desert Classic. It came as no shock when Woods made the announcement that his inaugural course design would debut in Dubai, with a private residential community built around it.
2. Get a Spa Treatment
But not just any spa treatment. At the Madinat Jumeirah, Arabian Resort of Dubai, the in-house Talise spa offers one of the most expensive treatments in the world. At six hours long, it may just be one of the longest as well. The spa’s website describes the elaborate treatment in these terms: Pampering foot ritual. Cleansing hammam signature scrub. Awakening aromatic body mask. Talise fingerprint massage. Sodashi Anti Age Indulgence. Energy balancing foot reflexology & mint foot refresher.
No word on whether water or even lunch comes with the experience. Given the length of time, you may want to eat in advance. Oh and the price? AED 2,640. But don’t bother with the currency conversion. It will just hurt too much.
It sounds hilarious but Dubailand is serious business. The concept for this family playground is the result of an effort to transform Dubai into the pre-eminent luxury entertainment destination in the world. To become the international hub of family tourism, you would have to build an ambitious theme park with enough variety and choice for everyone. Well that is pretty much what Dubailand offers - the project is ambitious in scope and will take some time to complete - with sports complexes – from golf courses to a polo and equestrian club, amusement park rides, hotels, shops, restaurants and of course, residential units. Developers anticipate that between visitors, workers and residents, over 2.5 million people will inhabit this quasi-city within a city.