Sunday, 5 February 2012

Dubai - Intro

The Burj Al Arab
Where? Dubai, UAE
Exactly? The One and Only Royal Mirage
Date: October 2011
Reason for travel: Birthday weekend break
Local knowledge thanks to: My friend Alicja Jasnikovska, TV stylist and fashion editor, who lived in Dubai for two years.

Try and get good deals on package trips on Virgin holidays or in the Sunday Times.

The Atlantis Hotel
Me at 360 Degrees Bar

Street Style and Packing

No matter what time of year you go, Dubai is hot hot hot. In the winter average temperature is 30 degrees and in summer it can reach up to 50. So the best time to go is between September and April.

The look? Blingtastic. Most Emerati women have the latest designer handbag, Louboutin heels and full designer catwalk looks on underneath their burkas, believe what you saw in sex and the city, it's true. Watches and jewellery are jewelled and embellished to the max. For the more discerning tourist pack your white linens and natural fibres clothes, the heat is unbearable. Don't forget you're highest heels for a night on the town. No one walks anywhere in Dubai so 'car to bar' heels are ideal.

Do you need to cover up? Not really in tourist areas but if venturing into Dubai Old Town respectful attire is essential, try to cover legs and shoulders.

What to wear when you're there

Clockwise from left: Sandals - Office, Bikini - Missoni, Dress - Cameo, Concealer - Bobbi Brown, Blue clutch - Bought in India, bracelet - from India, Nutridefense protective spray for hair - Kerastase, Sun wrinkle control cream for face factor 15 - Clarins, Sunglasses - Prada at David Clulow.

Clockwise from left to right: Metallic bikini - Asos, Armour ring - LowLuv, Navy and neon dress - All Saints, Deco clutch - Lara Bohinc, Blush Sole 15 - Dolce and Gabbana, 340 Coconut crush nail polish - Revlon, Bronze shimmer pot - Black up Paris, Manhunt lipstick - Nars, Chakra friendship bracelet - Daisy.

Clockwise from left: Bronze swimsuit - Liza Bruce, Sunglasses - Fendi, Embroidered kaftan - Lotus London, Factor 15 sun screen - Piz Buin, 990 One Perfect Coral Nail polish - Revlon, crystal covered i-pad clutch - Karen Millen, Maroon enamel bracelet - Raoul, Neon pink friendship bracelet - Monica Vinadar at Astley Clark, Bronze toroiseshell eye palette - Bobbi Brown, Make up bag - Louis Vuitton.

Clockwise from left: Hamza print scarf on ground - Yaelle,  Deco clutch - Lara Bohinc, Double strand turquoise necklace - vintage shop in New York, Hamza necklace and paisley poison ring - Zoe & Morgan, Pink friendship bracelet - Links of London.

Dubai Shopping and Sightseeing

Dubai is a great holiday destination if you enjoy shopping, sunbathing and souks. Most of the entertainment in town revolves around the malls and hotels. The Dubai Mall is famed for its spectacular water fountain display, and the Mall of the Emirates for the indoor ski slope. 

jewelled slippers in the souk

The Authentic Souks
The gold souk, silver souk and spice souk are all located in Old Dubai just to the west of the city. The most interesting way to get there is on an abra boat from Bur Dubai boat station, it only costs 1AED (20p).

If you've been to the medinas and souks in Egypt and Morrocco, Dubai souk unfortunately pales in comparison, but it does offer an authentic view of the old city. There isn't a great deal for tourists to buy here apart from slippers and kaftans, but it is an interesting afternoon or morning out. You can get good deals on Gold if you're looking for something special.

An abra boat

To be honest the best souk for shopping is Souk Madinat but, as is the case with most things in Dubai, it's modern and not authentic. Best things to buy here are jewelled slippers, jewelled kaftans (of better quality than in the Old Town), trinkets and ethnic jewellery. Much of it is imported from India and surrounding countries.
Souk Madinat

The Malls
Dubai is famous for its huge sprawling malls and sky scrapers. The two main malls worth visiting are:

Burj Khalifa
Across the way from the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) Dubai Mall houses hundreds of international stores and boutiques as varied as Bloomingdales, Mulberry and Waitrose, as well as an enormous food hall.

Inside the Burj Khalifa is the Armani Hotel. Decorated with a chic minimal beige interior, as you'd expect from Mr Armani. It's a good place to stop off for a post-shopping, pre-dinner aperitif.

The other attraction Dubai Mall is known for is the Water Fountain display. The creators went to Vegas, studied the fountains at the Bellagio and did it better! The spectacular displays take place every half hour and are indeed a sight to behold.

Souk Al Bahar across the bridge from Dubai Mall is full of restaurants, I recommend High Thai.

The Aquarium at Dubai Mall

Best known for its indoor ski slope – I know, skiing in Dubai sounds crazy, but it's a lot of fun.
The best shops in the mall are Boutique 1 and Vera Moda housing designer labels such as Missoni and Alexander McQueen.

Other Highlights
If you fancy something different after all the sun bathing and shopping, why not try the desert safari Go driving over the sand dunes in 4x4's, then have dinner in a bedouin camp whilst being entertained by belly dancers. Alternatively there are two great water parks, The Wild Wadi and Aquaventure at The Atlantis.

The sand dunes
Or if you fancy a real adventure take a hot air balloon ride over the desert.

Dubai - After Dark

After Dark
The main hub of night life in Dubai revolves around the 5 star hotels.
Make sure you know the name of the hotel the bar is within, before getting in a taxi, most drivers aren't familiar with the bars. Dress code: glam it up, the more bling the better. As a tourist you can pretty much get into any bar or club, door policies are relaxed and as long you spend money, you're welcome.

Rooftop bar at One & Only

The weekend in Dubai is Friday and Saturday, so saturday evening is usually quiet, the equivalent of Sunday in the UK. Best nights to go out are Thursday and Friday. Outdoor bars like the One and Only Rooftop are seasonal too. In the summer months it's unbearably hot outdoors, party season is during winter when it's much more comfortable to be outside.


Ronda Locatelli
Ronda Locatelli in The Atlantis is one of Dubai's best restaurants. Owned by celebrity TV chef Giorgio Locatelli, this rustic Italian restaurant is laid out in a circle formation around a central wood-fired, brick, Pizza oven.

Also at the Atlantis Hotel is Nobu. I recommend the Black Cod in Miso and the lobster tempura at the internationally renowned Japanese restaurant.

Buddha Bar
Buddha Bar
Buddha Bar at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Dubai Marina is part of the international chain of bars and restaurants. Start with dinner, then drink cocktails into the early hours, as resident DJ's spin house and chill out tunes.

Rooftop Bar
The Rooftop Bar
The Rooftop Bar at the The One & Only Royal Mirage is one of Dubai's best loved bars in the winter months. The in-crowd head here for sunset cocktails al fresco. The vibe? dressed up, chilled out and super fun.

360 Degrees
360 Degrees Bar
Get chauffeured in a hotel buggy out to 360 Degrees Bar at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. The bar in the round stands on its own little island, so you get spectacular 360 degree views of the sunset with the Burj Al Arab in the background. Head over for about 8pm to get an outdoor table.

At.mosphere Bar
At.mosphere Lounge
On the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, is the At.mosphere Lounge. This restaurant and bar is Dubai's latest celebrity hang out. Make sure you wear your most glitzy outfit and  your wallet is full, it will be a lot lighter when you leave.

101 Lounge
101 Dining Lounge Bar
Also try the 101 Dining Lounge and Bar at the incredible new The One and Only The Palm. The chicest eating establishment in Dubai.

Souk Madinat
Souk Madinat
As mentioned earlier most bars are located within hotels due to licensing issues, however some malls and shopping areas have restaurant and bar sections.

Souk Madinat fondly known as Dubai's Little Venice is full of restaurants and bars, many of which are chains you'll find back at home. The atmosphere is lively and many Dubai expats come here for after work drinks. Head to the bar area over looking the water for great views of the Burj Al Arab.

After Dark - Clubs

The Cavalli Club
The Cavalli Club 
Owned by Roberto Cavalli, the club at the Fairmont Hotel is every bit as exuberant as you'd expect from the Italian fashion designer. The interior is uber-camp and ostentatious. The party gets going at around midnight and Thursday and Friday are the best nights to go.

Voda Bar
Voda Bar
At the Jumeirah Zameel Saray is not the most lively bar in Dubai, but it does have a stunning interior.

I stayed at The One & Only Royal Mirage which was amazing. The service was fantastic, the hotel looks incredible and it makes the guest feel special, from the towel sculptures left on your bed at evening turn down service, through to the cake and flowers they delivered to my room on my birthday. There are three main sections, The Palace, The Arabian Court, which are both impeccably decorated in a chic elegant style and The Spa and Residence which is blissfully serene and more like a luxury retreat.

Towel sculptures at the One and Only
The One and Only The Palm
West Cresent
Palm Jumeirah

We also visited the new One & Only The Palm resort on the hotel yacht. It is without a doubt, one of the most immaculately designed hotels, with every inch of it picture perfect.