Known to many as the legendary City of Gold, famous for its high class shopping, cloud-kissing towers and manmade palm-shaped beaches, Dubai is one of the planet’s most prosperous and fastest growing cities, in which Western influence blends seamlessly with traditional Arabic customs and beliefs. Yet despite the wealth of sightseeing and entertainment opportunities, enjoying this bustling, vibrant city is certainly possible in a weekend, either as a destination in its own right or as a stopover en route to Asia and beyond.
Realistically, a weekend break to Dubai will only allow you to scratch the surface of the city but even during the shortest of stays you can be confident of favourable weather throughout the year (temperatures rarely dip below 19°C even in January), a party atmosphere on the city’s white sandy beaches and mesmerising architecture rising above (and below) sea level. But if time is precious and you can’t stay for longer than the weekend, there are several treats you cannot afford to miss.
Feast in the best restaurants in Dubai
Despite its reputation for opulence, Dubai’s population ranges from the excessively wealthy to the excessively poor and the city’s restaurants reflect this. The restaurants at the Hilton Dubai Creek and the Grosvenor House hotels are home to British celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gary Rhodes and offer the finest cuisine for the finest prices, making these establishments a favourite haunt for the super rich, along with the Noble House Chinese restaurant at the Raffles Hotel. For an unmissable dinnertime view of the city, take the elevator to the 27th floor of the Burj Al Arab. Here, in this excellent example of prime Dubai property, the Al Muntaha restaurant (Arabic for The Top), offers a superb dining experience befitting this exquisite piece of real estate which has been described as ‘the only 7 star hotel in the world’.
Alternatively, on Al Dhiyafah Road visitors can experience cuisine at the opposite end of the social spectrum, with a plentiful selection of restaurants offering dishes from across the Middle East including fresh seafood, lamb, curry and salads, which you can savour while mingling with the less wealthy locals who throng the streets during the evenings.
Fancy a spot of skiing while shopping?
Synonymous with the city, Dubai’s whopping number of shopping malls are an essential part of any visitor’s itinerary. The malls are mesmerising in size (try to imagine the 6.5 million square feet Mall of the Emirates) and, while you will probably recognise a very large number of the stores from elsewhere, many of the malls go out of their way to make the whole shopping experience unique. The Souk Madinat, for example, offers a waterway along which visitors can travel between the shops, bars and restaurants while, should you fancy an ski session on real snow to add a little adrenalin rush to your shopping expedition, then head to the indoor slopes at the Mall of the Emirates.
Explore Dubai’s forgotten history
Dubai’s reputation may be cemented on its iconic modern architecture but its origins as a tiny fishing village should not be ignored, especially as these are in danger of being forgotten in the continued development of the city. A weekend break is therefore the perfect opportunity to explore the remnants of the past, visible in the Bastakia Quarter which features a mind-boggling labyrinth of traditional Arabic architectural designs, peaceful courtyards, art galleries and quiet cafes. A riverboat ride is the perfect and affordable way to appreciate the scenery while the Dubai Museum illustrates how the oil industry transformed the original village into the modern day city.
A weekend in Dubai offers visitors only the slightest toe-dip into the shallow waters of this absorbing destination, yet even in limited time it is possible to immerse yourself in the culture and society that has made the city the gateway between East and West.