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About the author: The HRC team have a sound, collective knowledge of holiday destinations around the world. They have pooled their holiday experiences, ideas, travel facts, other resources including available public information, for the benefit of visitors to this website.

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Dubai – A great holiday destination

by Holiday Rental Centre Team
June 2007

Is it exciting or just a building site?

Contrary to some reports, Dubai is not just a building site with masses of cranes. You’ve probably heard this from someone that’s briefly visited Dubai, but it’s definitely wrong. Yes, there is an extensive building programme, which is ongoing, but local residents, UAE nationals and ex-pats alike just accept this as part of their daily lives and business.

Over the last 75 years, Dubai has transformed itself from a being a simple ‘pearl-diving centre’ into a powerful international trading hub with impressive worldwide links and an ever changing ethnic identity. With a huge contingent of foreign manual workers from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan and service industry employees mostly from the Philippines, Middle East, Europe and Australasia, it’s not difficult to see why the changing population is increasing so rapidly.

Much of the Gulf region is experiencing extraordinary levels of growth, with the city of Dubai currently being at the fore-front. Although Dubai is intent on creating masses of future development projects for many years to come, it continues to provide the infrastructure to run in parallel. One of the newest development projects is the prestigious Tiger Woods Golf Complex – Al Ruwaya, which is due to open in September  2009. (See more about Tiger Woods Dubai). In reality, the expansion of Dubai is generally geared to causing the minimum of disruption to business, services, residents and tourists as much as possible. Experts seem to agree that Dubai is a unique fusion of both the old and new, and is a leading inspiration for others to ensue.

Dubai Highlights - What it’s really like.

If you arrive late at night at Dubai Airport from, say a UK airport, getting through the Arrivals area could well be ‘manic’ with waiting friends and relatives gathered around the main entrance in vast numbers. At least until your taxi finally gets you away. Book an overnight flight to arrive at breakfast-time and you’ll probably find it a very civilised experience and easy to spot those greeting you. First impressions usually count, and on the way to your chosen holiday accommodation or hotel, you’ll see lines of impressive glass panelled hotels and office blocks glistening in the sunshine. During spring and early summer you’re sure to pass some amazing floral gardens that border the interchanges along the Sheikh Zayed Road, their colours will astound you. In the heat of the Dubai desert, you’ll wonder how they can produce such wonderful sights. Get yourself settled in your chosen accommodation and you’ll soon be ready to explore the city, either by taxi or driving your own rental car. As a general guide for getting your bearings, road signs showing Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi are to the south of the city and signs showing Deira, Bur Dubai, and Sharja are all to the north. There are 3 main city roads that run almost parallel. First there is the Beach road running from a point adjacent to Port Rachid through Jumeirah to the Dubai Marina. The next is the Al Wasl Road which links the Al Bada district to Al Wasl, close to Jumeirah. The biggest and widest road in Dubai, the Sheikh Zayed Road, runs through Dubai right to Abu Dhabi with only a simple name-change to worry about. This busy road is still undergoing upgrading work and some modifications to the existing layout, which is partly due to the current development and construction of the new Dubai Metro system which runs alongside Sheikh Zayed Road with a number of stations en-route.

Where to stay – Desert Hotel, Beach Resort or Private Villa?

You’ll find plenty of modern classy beach resorts to choose from, but Dubai is creating an enormous demand for an exceptional new range of ‘sky-rise’ city hotels, that are being built mainly around the business and trade centre areas of the Sheikh Zayed Road. You will need to remember that, because only licensed hotel restaurants are permitted to serve alcohol, they attract business people, tourists and local residents who enjoy the western-style culture of social drinking hours. The popular Shangri-La provides a nightly buffet with an option price that includes alcohol. The Crowne Plaza, Dusit, Emirates Towers and The Fairmont hotels are just a few examples that can boast some individual and ‘stunning’ architectural or design features, whilst also providing several restaurants that offer authentic cuisines from around the globe. Prior booking is always recommended.

In Jumeirah, the Madinat Al Qasar, Jumeirah Beach and the One & Only-Royal Mirage hotels are all firm favourites with previous guests and beach lovers alike. They offer guest rooms with stylish décor and quality finishes combining superb luxury amid ostentatious surroundings. Guests requiring larger suites can opt for a choice of quality room upgrades.

Then, there is the famous hotel, The Burj Al Arab. This is the world’s first proclaimed 7-star hotel, a sail-shaped building that’s also the world’s tallest dedicated hotel. It’s Dubai’s iconic symbol, a major landmark. Being set slightly off-shore, with its own private security- controlled bridge for access, this magnificent hotel enjoys fabulous views over Dubai city, the Arabian Gulf, and now, the first purpose built off-shore Island, called Palm Jumeirah. The Burj Al Arab, meaning Arabian Tower, is an all-suite hotel with cascading waterfalls and computerised water displays that greet you on various levels. All areas exude opulence and boast palatial surroundings, sumptuous furnishings and beautiful Arabic décor. There are numerous lavish gold structures and matching colourful ornamental displays throughout, plus the largest atrium you’ll ever see. Guests are provided with their own personal butler who will tend to your every need. Without even a restaurant reservation, non residents will pay an entry fee to look around, but it’s an absolute must to book a Friday brunch at the hotel’s highest restaurant-Al Muntaha where you’ll see views to die for! Reached by an amazing high speed lift, this wonderful restaurant seems perched like a wedge, but has the most spectacular views over Dubai City and Arabian Gulf. Controversially, a full-height symbol of the cross features in the design at the rear of the hotel. This is only viewable from the sea or if you take a private boat trip around the Palm Jumeirah. Nightly illuminations with changing coloured lasers create a spectacular display for the nearby hotel and Madinat guests. Don’t forget to take the camera!

The nearest desert hotel would be Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa – a luxury spot out among the sand dunes, or Jebel Ali Golf and Beach Resort on the outer fringes of the desert. This resort overlooks Palm Jebel Ali just off-shore, which is currently under construction. It’s much nearer to Dubai, but equally a great place to stay.
For sheer unadulterated luxury try a visit to the Al-Maha Desert Resort & Spa. It’s located part way between Dubai and Al-Ain and has magnificent views of the Hajar Mountains and the surrounding dunes. This elegant and luxurious resort offers a unique and personalised Arabian nature experience. With the focus being on pure nature watching and conservation, it boasts a personal desert guide for your holiday duration, and a personal, heated infinity pool with fantastic views across the open desert. Animals, wildlife and guests all secluded and protected in over 80 square miles of desert conservation. No day visitors and probably no probably no non-guests allowed, this exclusive resort is the ultimate retreat, providing maximum privacy.

Privately owned holiday villas available to rent, are located around the southern and outer fringes of the city. Residential areas such as The Springs, The Meadows, Jumeirah Islands and Arabian Ranches are all well served with plenty of semi and detached villas for short and long term rent. You’ll find many of these are private villas with pools but each of the newly built residential developments cater for those without pools by providing several ‘local’ outdoor swimming pools with children’s play areas. Often located in pleasant landscaped gardens and surroundings, they are closely monitored on a daily basis with adequate security staff and lifeguards in attendance.

Beaches & Parks and the Environment

Whether you stay in hotels or residential accommodation, you will probably want to go to the beach sometime. If you are more interested in Arabic culture and heritage or want to shop in souqs, then Bur Dubai or Deira have city hotels that are ideally located. The Dubai Museum is very interesting, and there are opportunities to take an open top bus tour of the city with an information guide on board. The number one beach choice would have to be Jumeriah. It covers the best location from almost any point you can find along the coast. There are some fantastic views of Palm Jumeirah from The Madinat and Jumeirah Beach hotels own beaches, along with those of the famous hotel, Burj Al Arab.
There are several ‘Public’ beaches - Umm Suqeim beach, Kite beach and other stretches of beach around the The Oasis, Dubai Hilton and Le Meridien Mina Seyahi hotels that are nearest to the Dubai Marina.

Jumeirah Beach Park – being a favourite, gets very busy at weekends, but has a long stretch of sandy beach. It has excellent facilities for children, picnic tables, barbecues and several shop kiosks. Lifeguards are in attendance.
Safa Park – has excellent facilities for all the family. There’s a lake with paddleboats, barbecues, football pitch, waterfall and tennis courts.
Dubai Wildlife & Water-Park Sanctuary – has newly installed viewing platforms for bird-watchers. You may see hordes of pink flamingos which flock to the end of the Creek during winter months.
Creekside Park – has Children’s City, a themed activity centre and children’s museum that kids will love. There is plenty to do for all ages, both educational and creative, where all children can really join in.
Wild Wadi WaterPark – is an excellent water-park that caters for all, plus has some interesting, interconnecting rides. Safety lessons are on offer, and there are gentle rides for small children and nervous parents. With some awesome and scary rides for the bravest, you and your family could be in here quite a while. You’ll be surprised how food and drinks are soon acquired and paid for. It’s all great fun and not to be missed by anyone!

Dubai is generally a very clean city and litter has not become a problem, although the city employs plenty of workers to keep it that way. With increased building work reshaping the original desert and increasing levels of traffic congestion, air pollution has become a major concern. Citizens of Dubai create huge volumes of waste, but new recycling centres have now opened around the city to help cope with it. Off-shore oil spillages have forced government agencies to act, monitor and control sea pollution which threatens marine life and could also seriously damage essential desalination plants that the city depends on..

Shopping in brief

Dubai has a wealth of shopping facilities that you will find hard to beat almost anywhere else on the planet. During June is when the stores start their sales, usually lasting for a month, and all with massive reductions.
The Mall of the Emirates – adjoins the 5-star Kempinski Hotel. It’s a huge Mall with escalators to all floors. There are excellent facilities and plenty of restaurants on all levels. Parking is easy, safe and well illuminated. The Mall is also home to Ski-Dubai, one of the worlds largest indoor ski resorts.
Ibn Battuta – named after the 14th century discoverer, is a large single storey Mall with individually Arabian themed areas including lots of facilities, restaurants and a multi-screen cinema.
Wafi City - provides top-of the- range stylish designer stores and products, plus some home furnishing outlets. Excellent facilities are provided throughout.
The BurJuman Centre – a newly transformed Mall with exclusive designer shops and boutiques.
Souqs - Bustling Souqs in Bur Dubai and Deira, offer gold, jewellery and Arabian antiques along with clothing, textiles and designer souvenirs, often sold at a fraction of normal retail cost. A selection of souqs can also be found at Karama and the Madinat.


Dubai has no real public transport system in place yet, so the best way to travel is usually by car. Although the traffic is increasing rapidly and hold-ups do occur, it’s generally the easy way to navigate your way around the city. Visitors must now obtain a current International Driving Permit (IDP) which is a strict requirement for all car rentals. They are available throughout the UK, from main post offices. Renting a car in Dubai does carry certain restrictions, so driving to or through other Emirates may not be possible and it is therefore best to confirm this when booking.

Religion & Culture

Dubai is still a Sheikh-dom and the Al-Maktoum family rulers are treated with total and utmost respect. Being an Islamic society, the UAE places certain restrictions on what can be displayed in public and what can not.  Baring some parts of your flesh is strictly forbidden, and public displays of affection may also be frowned upon, so it’s best to always dress conservatively and to familiarize yourself with Arab etiquette before you travel. Muslims take their religion very seriously and needing to pray up to 5 times a day is not uncommon, even if it means stopping their lorry on the roadside to find a place to kneel. It is widely believed that anywhere in the city, you are rarely more than 500 metres from a Mosque, from where you may regularly hear the Muezzin’s familiar call to prayer.

Dubai’s tolerant and modern life-style helps promote it as a safe and exciting destination for tourists. It blends well with society in general and is where both nationals and visitors co-exist quite amicably. Religion and tradition dictate much of the Emiratis way of life, like daily routines, personal relations and even what and where they eat and drink.

Best time to go

The United Arab Emirates lies directly across the Tropic of Cancer, meaning warm and sunny winters, but hot and humid summer months. Although everywhere is air-conditioned, sound advice is for families with young children to holiday during the cooler months from October through to April. Visit anytime from November to March and you’ll be sure of beautiful sunny weather most days. There is some rainfall in winter, but it would probably be very little, no more than just a short brief shower that quickly clears up. During the summer, Dubai hotels offer some exceptionally attractive accommodation rates, especially for June, July and August when many foreign workers return home for their holidays. To prevent dehydration, it's recommended to drink plenty of bottled water and at regular intervals – 2 to 3 litres per day is quite normal, and keep in the shade as much as possible. Remember the sun is very powerful even if you can’t see it, so wear a hat when outside and use lots of high factor sun creams. For up to date weather in Dubai, see BBC Weather reports.

Dubai is a dream holiday destination. There’s lot’s to see and do, with stylish hotels and resorts, luxury villas and apartments to rent, great restaurants to dine in and numerous shops and local attractions to visit. Enjoy it, Emiratis do.

View all holiday apartments in Dubai. Written by: Holiday Rental Centre team and local Dubaians.

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