01 To market
Take an abra (ferry boat) along Dubai Creek to Deira’s spice, fish and gold markets. The journey is an experience in itself, an antidote to the brash and bling of modern Dubai, where you’ll pass countless dhow (traditional wooden sailing boats) laden with goods. The markets don’t match Turkey’s or North Africa’s for hubbub but they do give a taste of old Arabia, piled high with pungent spices, tentacle-trailing displays of fishermen’s catches and rows of gold rings, necklaces and bridal accoutrements.
02 Changing faces
The Dubai Museum offers an in-depth and fascinating look at the transformation of Dubai, from a former fishing hamlet and pearl industry hub, to the Vegas of the Middle East. Al-Fahidi Street, opposite the Grand Mosque.
03 Into the deep
A family favourite, the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo is home to more than 150 aquatic species from around the globe. Take a trip in a glass-bottomed boat to glimpse the creatures of the deep and have a go at the interactive exhibits for an insight into ocean ecology. www.thedubaiaquarium.com
04 Spend, spend, spend
When the heat of the day becomes too much, hit the Mall of The Emirates where you can ski, snowboard and shop all under one roof. Not to mention visit theme park Magic Planet, complete with thrill rides, XD and 3D cinemas, as well as a huge theatre and arts centre. Shopping ranges from pricey antiques and exclusive souvenirs to good deals on the latest gadgets, gizmos and designer fashion. www.malloftheemirates.com
05 High life
There’s no missing the 2,715ft man-made mountain that is the Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest building houses offices, apartments and the Armani Hotel Dubai but it’s the view from the 124th-floor observation deck that’s the main draw. Sundowners are traditionally taken at 360, a rooftop bar overlooking the Gulf. www.burjkhalifa.ae www.jumeirah.com
06 By the beach
Head to Barasti Bar, a beachfront bar that gets packed on Thursdays and Fridays, when the posing is as pronounced as the drinking. A classier act, with great waterfront views,
is the roof terrace at Sho Cho, a modern Japanese restaurant and lounge. Finish up at club Plastik Beach Club where you can, if you have the money, arrive by helicopter and smoke a sheesha in the whirlpool bath. www.sho-cho.com
£ Kan Zman: Near the Heritage Village, this has a pretty, faux-rustic outdoor patio overlooking the Creek and a menu of mezzes, grills and fresh saj manakish — pastries topped with herby cheese or spiced meat. Dubai Creek, 37137. T: 00 971 4 393 9913.
££ Table 9: New in Dubai, it’s headed up by double-act chefs Scott Price and Nick Alvis who serve inventive dishes like deep-fried hen’s egg with sherry vinegar and caramel. Hilton Dubai Creek, Baniyas Road, Deira. T: 00 971 4 227 1111. www.hilton.com
£££ Khan Murjan: Modern Middle Eastern dining at its best, with dishes spanning Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish and Moroccan cuisines, as well as local Gulf grills. Set in the Wafi City Mall, it has an old-fashioned, Persian-style feel. Khan Murjan Souk, Oud Metha. T: 00 971 4 327 9795.
Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House, near the mouth of the Creek, was once the home of Dubai’s rulers, the Al-Maktoum family. Today, it sports a rather faded glamour, housing an engaging exhibition of photographs from pre-oil times.
Did you know: A relatively unspoilt mountainous exclave of Oman, the Musandam Peninusla faces the Strait of Hormuz and is just a couple of hours’ drive through the desert from Dubai. The deep fjords here offer a wealth of diving, sailing and trekking activities. Many of its coastal villages can only be reached by boat.
Published in the May/June 2012 National Geographic Traveller (UK)