Even before Tom Cruise smashed through the plate glass window on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa , Dubai was the next fantasy vacation for a lot of my friends. I’d respond, “Got cash?” Depending on your budget, you might want to make Dubai a lay-over rather than a destination.
Visitors are intrigued by Dubai’s amazing feats of engineering, like the Burj al Arab, the beautiful sail-shaped resort where Agassi and Federrer played tennis on the helipad. I'm a hotel junkies and one day I'd like to check out the lobby and experience the ambience. But surprisingly, there are no drop-bys. You can’t even cross the causeway without some kind of reservation. The basic two-story rooms start at $1220 a night. High tea is $100 a person. If this fits your budget, what an experience—seven-star luxury and service.
My girlfriend lives on The Palm, that amazing tree-shaped community built on reclaimed sand in the Persian Gulf. If a friend lives there you can drop by, but without one there is a drop-by fee. So get a reservation at the Atlantis Resort, or view it from the Burj Khalifa Observation Deck ($27).
The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo made the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s largest acrylic viewing panel. But the walking tunnel thirty feet below is also cool. Surrounded by 33,000 aquatic animals, you watch divers feed the 400 sharks and rays, and hear educators explain the secrets of marine life. If that’s not enough, you can dive or go cage snorkeling.
One of Dubai’s biggest draws is the Shopping Festival, where the engineering feat is the mall architecture. The Mall of the Emirates has downhill skiing. The Dubai Mall has the aquarium. As for the amazing Festival sales, you be the judge: A Gucci shoulder bag discounted to $1,500. Worth the trip?
For me, the draw is the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship. The top professionals (men and women) play this leg of the World Tour every February. In this intimate venue I’ve been up close and personal with Nadal, Federrer and, my favorite, Djokovic. A really funny guy, he sometimes banters with the audience. You’re that close. Outside is a charming food court where my friend and I stop before evening matches.
If you're a Spirited Woman, you most likely want to meet the locals. But you won’t find them in town. Oh you may see one Emirati speed by in his Maserati. But to experience Middle East culture, you must head to the Arabian Desert, where you can peek at Bedouin life against a backdrop of golden dunes and colorful desert sunsets. Most tours include a camel ride, a barbeque dinner and some belly dancing. Then you just enjoy the stars and the peace.
The ultramodern vertical city can be fascinating but spendy. If a tour company offers Dubai at all, it’s in a multi-country package with say, Oman, Jordan or Egypt because after a few days people want a destination with more tradition and less cost.
But if your pockets are full and your curiosity high, Dubai might be just the place for you. Be sure and let us know about your trip!