I spent the days leading up to Christmas in Dubai, visiting the city for the first time. And oh lord, it was by far not enough time to do everything I’ve been wanting do. I have to say, it’s like no other city I’ve ever been to. The place full of luxurious skyscrapers and large shopping malls in the middle of the desert is definitely about so much more than man-made islands and buildings. Dubai’s a city where traditional culture and city life seem to be so close to each other. The downtown area might be extremely modern, but there are still areas where one can appreciate the “old Dubai”. I’ve done the best of both worlds during my recent trip, and wanted to give you an overview of what I’ve been up to during my stay. It was a though decision what to do during my 2 and a half day stay, but from dune bashing and camel riding to shopping and discovering the delicious Middle Eastern cuisine, I’ve compiled an itinerary including a bit of everything.
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WHAT I WORE
Visiting the Middle East for the first time, it was quite a challenge for me deciding how to dress. And I feel like it’s a source of stress for many people traveling to the United Arab Emirates.
I didn’t want to get any unnecessary attention by wearing anything deamed inappropriate, yet I did not want to go full on covered head to toe, given the heat experienced during the day (And I don’t even want to imagine “summer” temperatures in the city. So for most of my stay, I decided to just stick to lightweight blouses and skirts covering my knees. But I’ve come across people wearing typical holiday attire, which is absolutely fine. The only time I wore a traditional hijab and abaya was to try it on while on my Safari through the desert. Just make sure you don’t go over the top when it comes to cleavage and you’ll be fine.
WHERE I STAYED
I had the pleasure of being hosted by the Manzil Downtown during my stay. Finding itself in Downtown Dubai, with stunning views overlooking the Burj Khalifa, the upscale boutique hotel was easy to reach and could not be located any better. There are quite a few hotels in (downtown) Dubai, but the Manzil gave me a true homey feel of a cozy oasis in the heart of the city. Combining traditional Arabic flair with modern decor, the style of the hotel presents a perfect fusion of new and old.
I stayed in a deluxe room overlooking Dubai’s skyline. The breakfast was on point, with everything I could have only wished for.From traditional Middle Eastern items to a continental choice, there’s really nothing the buffet was lacking of. Paired with impeccable service and warm Arabian hospitality, it’s the perfect choice in Dubai, being it for a business trip or family vacation. The staff is so friendly and caring, making sure you’re fully satisfied and add special touches going far beyond your needs.
WHAT I DID
Old Dubai is often overlooked in favour of glossier venues, but I knew I wanted to get a glance into the city’s past. The traditional souks, in the heart of Old Dubai offer an authentic Arabic market scene and gives you a chance to do some good old-fashioned bargaining.
The Top of Burj Khalifa
Although crowded and a typical tourist attraction, The Top at the Burj Khalifa, the viewing platform on the skyscraper’s 124th and 125th floor, was a well run operation and did not feel all too busy. There is some queuing involved, but it’s fairly fast moving. Once up there, I was not all too impressed with the views from the top. While the panorama itself is spectacular, even though it was a bit foggy that day, and most of what I saw was the desert, as well as the skyscrapers closeby, one of the best views in Dubai is definitely of the Burj Khalifa itself.
Dubai Design District
Dedicated to the fashion industry and other forms of design, the so called d3, Dubai’s relatively new but up and coming creative neighbourhood was a must on my to-do list. Local inspiration interacts with international influencers, mixing office space, small boutiques and galleries, workshops and artists’ studios. The neighbourhood is made to attract global fashion houses to set up headquarters alongside new businesses. D3 consists of 10 buildings just East of Dubai Downtown, and while it was still a relatively quiet and empty area, aims to provide a future hub for fashion.
Right when I knew I was going to Dubai I also knew I would want to go on a desert safari. So I booked a Sundowner safari, was picked up at my hotel and driven to the desert.
After some adrenaline pumping dune bashing through the red dunes, I rode on a camel and wore a caftan to our traditional Arabic dinner under the stars at the Bedouin-style camp. A belly dancer covered the evening entertainment, and with a Shisha lounge and henna tattooing, there was no lack of things to make time go by fast.
This blog post was written in collaboration with the Manzil Downtown, but all opinions are my own. Pictures were taken by Sam Coran.