Dubai. Decadent, opulent, unashamedly blingtastic, bigger, taller, more expensive than anywhere I’ve ever been before. I loved it!
Before going to Dubai in June, I was warned by numerous people that this time of year it’s so unbearably hot ,we wouldn’t even be able to step outside. Well readers that was total Arabian poppycock. It was perfect! Let me start at the very beginning…..
We wanted a quick break, so booked 4 days and traveled by Emirates Airlines. I can honestly say that after swearing allegiance to Virgin Atlantic for 3 decades, I am jumping ship- it’s a wrap Virgin. I have a new sky love. Emirates are as close to heaven I’m going to get whilst still on earth. How have I been so tragically late to this?
The plane was like one huge hotel suite with more than ample spacey seating in economy. Unlike the usual plane map documenting where we were on our journey, there were 3 live cameras outside the plane, which show you everything live as you fly over it. It was like a visual flyby tour all across Europe and the Middle East from the comfort of my seat.
Emirates breakfast was akin to one I’ve had regularly at The Wolesly. Nothing was too much trouble for the very friendly and polite staff. Then the piece de resistance….the bathrooms are like the ones at a Park Lane Hotel, full with complimentary lotions, potions and fragrances! Matched with totally modern furniture and state of the art in-house media systems, it made Virgin look like Easy Jet!
On landing at the airport, (which was our first experience of just how extravagant the city was with its gigantic waterfalls and hologram airport info assistants), the swift exit process was easy, well conducted and welcoming.
In case you’re thinking of going to Dubai I’m going to fill this column with all my observations and tips so you know what to expect. First tip; on exiting the airport try and hail a regular New York looking yellow taxi. The red roofed ones are VIP and cost more, and the pink roof taxis are driven by ladies for ladies but we realized that the ladies don’t seem to know the city as well as the male taxi drivers, so ended up driving loops before she found our friends apartment on the newly built Palm.
It was the perfect time to exit the airport ,as the sun was setting a burnt orange all glowing 180 degree spread across the sky, making the perfect backdrop to the cities very New York-esque skyline..
We were staying with our friends Julian and Aina who had emigrated to Dubai years ago and were now bringing up their very young, adorable children out there with an amazing lifestyle where education and quality of life is akin to an uber celebrity’s life.
After catching up and freshening up ,we were taken just up the road to the over- the- top 6 star Atlantis hotel ,where we dined al fresco on Nassimi Beach on the marina facing the sea. The food was world class ,but no alcohol was served that day, as it was a religious feast. This wasn’t a problem as I’m not a big drinker anyway, but if you are, you might want to plan your trip outside of these days. After dinner we strolled around the hotel ,taking in the giant aquarium full of sand sharks and stingray and palatial bars made of gold leaf and Venetian Murano chandeliers ,before hitting the sack.
AT DUBAI FOUNTAIN, SIDE OF DUBAI MALL AND BURJ KHALIFA!
The next day was Thursday and our first full day. We had been advised that if taking a short trip we should ensure it included a Thursday and Friday as that is their weekend. (In Dubai the working week isn’t Monday to Friday like ours- it’s Sunday to Thursday. All the action takes place during their weekends).
After spending the morning poolside, we went to explore the Dubai Mall area late afternoon and evening. (If you’re not dressed decently in the mall they hand you a red card asking you to respect their tradition and rules). I noted many sleeveless dresses and strappy tops and mini dresses which seemed to go unmarked, but then a lady with a totally backless dress was handed the card! Hilarity!
The mall is the biggest in the world, and yes I walked around as much as possible before realizing id never get through it unless I had at least 3 days. However its not essential visiting, as its full of every store in the western world like Macy’s, Dune, designer stores and even a Waitrose. Also their prices are much more than the UK due to importing costs. (Also if you’re tempted to visit a souk, imagining it will be an exotic market experience like the one Carrie and friends had in Sex and the City 2, you will be disappointed. Their souks are mini stores within mall like venues- akin to Southall Broadway).
IF I CAN TOUCH THE TOP OF THE HIGHEST BUILDING IN THE WORLD, I CAN DO ANYTHING! (BURG KHALIFA!)
Good reasons to visit the mall however are aplenty. The famous Dubai fountain is on site as is the world’s tallest building the Burg Khalifa. ‘’Burj’’ means tower and ‘’Khalifa is pronounced with a silent ‘’k’’ so its ‘’halifa’’ after the country’s big wig Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, head of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, which came to debt-laden Dubai’s financial rescue during its financial crash a few years ago.
We decided to have dinner at one of the exterior restaurants so we could watch the fountains as they sprang into action every half hour.
If you’ve witnessed the original Vegas Bellagio fountains, it’s similar. The actual fountain choreography is not as good but still as magical. The Vegas one goes every 15 minutes and the jets are perfectly choreographed to a diverse list of music from classical to rock to pop which makes you gasp in amazement as jets hits a crescendo. The Dubai one is very pretty but in a way, what gives it that slight edge over Vegas overall ,is the adjacent attractions like the Burg Khalifa which gives it a more magical background.
After watching 3 consecutive fountain shows whilst eating, my partner and I took our friends 3-year-old son for a quick walk. I am a marketing mans dream client. I buy up tourist nick-nacks and the one that enticed me, was a photographer taking pictures in front of the Burj Khalifa. Had my own camera been able to cope with the drama, or I had understood how to set my camera menu in order to capture it, I wouldn’t have been £30 lighter but hey ho we smiled and posed as the very camp cameraman directed us in a variety of poses to choose from. As we went inside the mall to pick our photo we passed an ice cream vendor. My partner noted adorable 3 year olds expression and asked whether he would like one? Adorable 3 year old nodded enthusiastically so we went in. Alarm bells should’ve rung when 3 year old didn’t know what flavor he wanted. We settled on vanilla and strawberry. As we carried him back to his parents they informed us stony faced that ‘’he doesn’t eat ice cream, he’s never tasted it, we’re trying to manage his junk food levels and sugar’’. Awkward.com much? We felt like the serpent in the bible that corrupted Eve. Oops. Luckily we were forgiven and still had a roof over our heads for our stay.
JASMINE WITH ROZAN AHMED ON THE ”FREE” SIDE OF DUBAI AQUARIUM.
Straight afterwards we met our friend Rozan Ahmed, who also moved to Dubai from London years ago. Rozan was an established journalist for music mags like RWD whilst in London and now in Dubai runs her own company called Bougi and also does PR for Saudi royalty and the United Nations. She’s been called…“One of the Middle East’s most inspirational women” by Dubai’s VIVA. “The Queen of Soirees” by Bahrain’s GRAZIA. “Invaluable” by the United Nations Mission in Sudan. “The Woman who can” by the BBC’s Radio 1Xtra and “Formidable” by Kenya’s DRUM.. Rozan accompanied us to the world famous Dubai aquarium. Now my second tip is, you can see the aquarium from the main mall and there’s no need to pay £20 per person to walk through its infamous underwater tunnel. I –being the PR persons dream client- decided I had to experience it, so off we went.
ON THE ”PAID FOR” INSIDE OF DUBAI’S INFAMOUS AQUARIUM.
My other half stood at the entrance to the tunnel on entry and rounded on me furiously ‘’you mean to tell me that we have paid £40 to walk 20 meters through that tunnel? I can see the exit from here!’’ oops. You don’t need the tunnel- in fact after seeing the free aquarium at the Atlantis this was less enchanting as it was full of hundreds of tourists whilst the Atlantis was quiet and serene. We completed day 1 with a walk through the plush Palace Hotel and more drinks with ice cream!
MARINA IN BETWEEN JUMERIAH BEACH HOTEL AND BURG AL ARAB.
Day 2 was a Friday, and we were informed that when in Dubai on a Friday, it’s all about their traditional brunch. So we were scooped off to the affluent Jumeriah beach hotel with friends, where the lobby which has a huge pond in which the centre, house’s a podium with piano and classical pianist tinkling away 24-7. Pretty swanky! The brunch was spectacular. It deserved applause, a Grammy, an Oscar and a tummy tuck for me after I’d eaten my own body weight in sushi, oysters and duck and every other foodstuff existent in A List circles. Afterwards we sauntered next door, to the vision that is the Hotel Burj Al Arab –the visually striking image of the Dubai hotel, that resembles a sail, and took copious photos of the hotel that we’d never afford due to its 7* rating.
That night I was persuaded to go to the infamous Blue marlin party at the showy Tulip Hotel in Ghantoot where they party until the early hours on the open beach. White leather sofa’s are covered in skimpy chic’s and mostly topless handsome sexy men showing off their Adonis like gym bodies. Even though I don’t usually like house music I danced until the end and had fun. Can’t imagine why? Smile.
WITH THE PRINCE OF DUBAI-MASTERSTEPZ- AT BLUE MARLIN.
Actually I know it was because we were with DJ Masterstepz aka Ian Thompson – former CHOICEFM DJ and now Dubai big DJ don! Ian and his lady Naomi took good care of us on their VIP table, and passers by greeted Ian with reverence all evening. After the party we all had an after party at Ian’s pad, which is a gorgeous monochrome duplex that belongs in an architecture brochure. We ordered naughty fried chicken and fries at 3am and debated lots of crazy political conspiracy theories, which Ian is the master of believing!
DESSERT SAFARI ADVENTURE!
Day 3 Saturday after some more pool action, we were picked up by our dessert safari guide ‘Amjed’ ,who drove us miles out into the hot Arabian dessert ,where we had an hour of what can only be described as a dessert roller-coaster, aka dune bashing. Our caged jeep climbed sand dunes and skid across them sideways at speed, making us all shriek in fear until we were used to it.
ROZAN AND I ARE TAUGHT HOW TO WRAP A HEADWRAP ON THE DESSERT SAFARI.
Next we were taken to a dessert village where we had the option of quad biking, camel rides, chicken shawarma’s and an evening BBQ feast with belly dancer.
THE BOYS GET THEIR JODECI VIDEO MOMENT CROONING IN THE DESSERT!
The boys raced around the sand on the quad bikes, before I persuaded them to join me for a camel ride. I had dreamt of this moment. The camels walking us off across acres of bronze sand, as I dramatically pondered the meaning of life whilst disappearing on the exotic animal into the distant sunset. We climbed atop the agitated camel, were led around in a small circle- (circumference 5 meters max I kid you not), before being plonked down again and told ‘’ride finished’’? Totally tragic! Tip- don’t bother with camel rides. They’re horrid for you and the poor camel. Also the men in your life wont thank you for their sore, crushed groin after the camel has bumped us literally and physically!
That night we went straight from the dessert to the Crystal club at the luxurious Raffles Hotel, where Masterstepz was DJ-ing for DJ Bliss birthday party. Apparently DJ Bliss is a pretty big deal out there. The club was like every central London hip-hop club you’ve been to, with skimpy frocked, stripper heeled ladies, men wanting to be big pimpers and regular Champagne Jeroboams being walked across the men with more money than sense LOL. Thankfully Ian played a great set and I danced till the end.
JASMINE WITH THE GIRLS AT CRYSTAL NIGHTCLUB-DUBAI
(L-R ROZAN, JASMINE, NAOMI, NORA)
I’m embarrassed to confess that our last day -Day 4 I had great intentions of visiting a gold and diamond souk and travel on a water taxi along the old Dubai creek. In my head I did do it, but in reality straight after our morning pool antics back flipping in and out of the water, and having lunch at the Riva beach club, sleep hit me hard and I slept all afternoon!
We wanted to finish our stay with a bang and so went to have drinks at the Atmosphere Bar in the tallest building in the world- the Burg Khalifa. We dressed up, rode the elevator 123 floors, stepped into the bar ready to witness the stunningly high colossal ariel view. The reality was, that every window in the 360-degree bar looked like my shower after a really hot one. Apparently the extra hot temperature outside, coupled with the icy air conditioning inside, meant that every window was covered in steamy condensation, so we could see absolutely nothing. We had to laugh. Especially since each person needed to spend 400 dirhams (just under £100) at the bar!
Tip- look at the tower from down below, the inside is only worth it if you can guarantee the view is clear.
JASMINE WITH FORMER CAPITAL RADIO DJ SIMON ”SCHOOL BOY” PHILLIPS, NOW DUBAI BROADCASTING BIGWIG!
After that we went into town to surprise former Capital Radio Dj Simon ‘Schoolboy’ Phillips, who now also lives in Dubai ,and works as a big shot in the music media world. He was pleasantly surprised and revealed life out there was top quality and couldn’t even dream of returning to London again.
Our final drink was had in an African club called Kiza where Rozan took us. We had peppered beef, jollof rice and peppered gizzard! Yep- I didn’t know what gizzards were pre Dubai either! Music was brilliant with them playing afrobeats as well as Chipmunk, Mavado, Donaeo and more! Good times!
In summary, there are many English people living a very high quality life in Dubai. The pay is approximately 3 times what it is in the UK and promotion opportunities are plentiful and rising to the top is a lot quicker. However, the government does put sanctions in place to pay indigenous Emirate’s more ,and Emirate female quotas for company boards are in place. The weather is always good and the lifestyle is flossy. It attracts the big names. Whilst we were in town David Haye, Busta Rhymes, The Game and more were there too. Whilst alcohol is tolerated at certain more western establishments its not the main focus of fun, the way it can be in western countries, and drugs are totally prohibited- which all in all, makes it my absolute perfect destination. It’s as if all the things that are great about various locations across the globe have been nicked to make a very man made Dubai. The hotels and fountains of Vegas, the chic fashion of the French, the beaches of the Caribbean, homes like Monte Carlo, skyscrapers like New York and more. I don’t need a legacy of history to enjoy a city. Dubai is everything you could want in a vacation and like Arnie once said ‘’I’ll be back!’’