Dubai city tour
My adventure in the Emirates began with an early morning arrival into Dubai. An early check-in at the lovely Fairmont The Palm afforded us an opportunity to freshen up, before embarking on a guided tour of the city. We explored the atmospheric souks, from the enticing aromas of the spice market to shop windows bulging with bling, and craned our necks to take in the iconic skyline, including the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and the Burj Al Arab, the self-styled world’s first ‘seven star’ hotel. We also stopped off at the downtown Dubai Museum, where we learnt about the origins of this sparkling city on the Persian Gulf.
Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa
The Dubai Mall is a shopaholic’s dream, with every outlet you could possibly want. From the Mall we then took the lift to the top of the Burj Khalifa, which takes just 54 seconds, and once the doors open you are presented with the most breathtaking views of Dubai. You can see the whole of The Palm Jumeirah, as well as ‘The World’ islands out in the ocean, which are yet to be developed. The day ended with a seat at one of the Mall’s restaurants to enjoy the Fountain Show, where the fountains dance around to dramatic music, a beautiful sight and definitely not to be missed. Overnight we stayed at the beautiful One&Only Royal Mirage – Arabian Court, an elegant retreat that provided a real haven away from the bustle of the city.
The Palm Jumeirah
We also had the opportunity to visit Atlantis, The Palm, a fun filled hotel that you will just love no matter what age you are. With its aquarium and water park, and a whole host of restaurants, you wouldn’t even need to leave the hotel during your stay if you didn’t want to. Also on The Palm is the tranquil oasis of One&Only the Palm, where the elegant cabanas on the powdery white sand are the perfect place to spend a very chilled day. The hotel also has easy access by boat to One&Only Royal Mirage just across the water.
Islands of Abu Dhabi
After three nights in Dubai it was time for the short drive to Abu Dhabi, which took about an hour. Abu Dhabi is quite different from Dubai, and I hadn’t realised that the city is made up of many small islands, which are connected together by bridges. I was also surprised to find that the majority of the landscape we passed through on the drive from Dubai was reclaimed marshland - I had assumed it would just be desert, desert and more desert!
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a huge building, capable of holding 40,000 people at a time, and the architecture is just stunning: the chandeliers alone are worth an estimated £25 million, and they are simply jaw dropping. We also got to enjoy stunning views of the mosque when we stayed at The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, which is located just a 20 minute walk away. The hotel boasts a very grand entrance, a great range of dining facilities and a good beach, although personally I spent more time around their pool as it is just huge.
Yas Island brought an altogether different experience in the shape of Ferrari World, an indoor theme park that is home to the world’s fastest roller coaster, the white knuckle Formula Rossa. There is also a water park on the island, and the Formula One race track that plays host to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Emirates Palace and the Corniche
Last but not least, a real highlight of my time in Abu Dhabi was our visit to the Emirates Palace hotel. The high ceilings and opulent furnishings really give it the feel of a sheikh’s palace, and it’s also a fantastic choice for families, with a great adventure pool with a lazy river and water slide, as well as bikes that kids can ride around on. I can also recommend the nearby Corniche, a lovely beachfront promenade with a European feel to it, which has some nice areas where children can play during the day.