Dubai in December

As I looked down at the view before me from the 40th floor of the tallest hotel in the world in Dubai (Gevora), the first thought that crossed my mind was, “How can a modern city be so beautiful?”

I have never been a fan of the urban jungle-type setting, so I was delightfully surprised at my reaction.

Dubai, the most populous emirate in the whole of the United Arab Emirates, started as a small fishing village in the 18th century. It has now successfully reinvented itself as the “tourism and luxury capital” of sorts in this part of the world.

The focus seems to be on building everything on a grander scale—like the Burj Khalifa, which stands at 828 meters. It is the tallest man-made structure in the world. The Dubai Miracle Garden is also the world’s largest-of-its-kind with 50 million flowers on display from November to April. It is hard to imagine how they can pull this off in a country with barely any rain but they solved the problem with a drip irrigation system for watering.

We chose the best time of the year to visit. Daytime temperatures averaged at 25 degrees Celsius, and at night, it would go as low as 15 degrees. It is a bad idea to visit during summer, unless you intend to spend all your time indoors, because it is just impossible to enjoy anything in the sweltering heat with temperatures over 40 degrees.

A quick tour of the city takes us to the Dubai Frame (also the world’s largest frame) where from the glass-bottomed observation deck, you can see the “old” Dubai to the north and the “new” Dubai to the south. I did not go up because I would never step on anything glass-bottomed by choice.

Dubbed the “most beautiful” building in the world, the Museum of the Future that opened on Feb. 22, 2022, and is made up of three main elements: Green hill, building and void. It was built to promote technological innovations, especially in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence. I could not help but be impressed as I saw this building with no corners, up close. Hard to miss in the daytime, more so at night, its façade comprises windows with calligraphy fonts by Emirati artist Mattar bin Lahej.

Three quotes from an Arabic poem written by Dubai’s ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashin Al Maktoum, are featured on this one-of-a-kind facade, one of which reads: “We won’t live for hundreds of years but we can create something that will live for hundreds of years.”

This edifice has seven floors of exhibition space but, unfortunately, tickets needed advance reservation, so we were not able to explore this futuristic spectacle.

Later in the day, we went dune bashing, a very popular tourist activity which I was hesitant to try at first. Land Cruisers fetched our group from the hotel and we went through the process of letting the air out of the tires to reduce pressure and give the vehicle more traction for it to move with ease in increasing and decreasing speeds over the sand dunes. It was so much fun! I did not feel sick at all and actually wanted more of it when it was over. The usual practice in this activity includes a stop midway for a view of the desert sunset and the last stop which is a barbeque dinner at a camp with an option to try a camel ride.

The setup for this dinner is a free-for-all, queueing for your food buffet that may not be enjoyable for everyone; sort of like a fiesta atmosphere. The stage in the middle was for the fire dancer, the belly dancer, and my personal favorite, the tanoura dancer—a Sufi man, who spinned continuously in attractive multicolored, layered skirts. It was fascinating how one person could just spin and spin like he was in some sort of daze; I was the one who got dizzy looking at his performance.

The next evening, while cruising in the Dubai Creek (a tentative Unesco World Heritage Site), the entertainment after dinner included a tanoura dance again—this seems to be a staple here. On a Dhow dinner cruise, you leave the Marina and its spectacular backdrop for a leisurely ride that lasts about four hours. The boat goes all the way to the famous Atlantis, The Palm resort before it turns and heads back, passing famous landmarks along the way. I would have preferred to do this at sunset, because I could probably appreciate the scenery in the golden hour more.

If my children were with me, I would have had a different itinerary. I opted to visit Musandam and Abu Dhabi on two different days, instead of checking out their famous malls—the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates. I know there are fabulous theme and water parks here, including the famous Ski Dubai. So that is a must-do for next time, and I will make sure that I will be holding tickets to the Museum of the Future when that happens. S