Dubai is a city that never stops thinking of new ways to cater to its guests. It might already be home to theme parks, beaches, waterparks, deserts, shopping malls and traditional souks – but Dubai wants to make sure it has something for everyone. Below we’ve rounded up two new attractions as well as three events happening this month that will keep new visitors on their toes.
Dubai is already home to many exciting attractions (such as Dubai Mall and Dubai Parks and Resorts) but the city is still adding to its list. Below are two attractions that are newly opened.
Heritage district of Al Seef
Modern buildings might dominate the skyline but the city of Dubai actually goes back 1833. The best way to get a feel for the old Dubai is at the new Al Seef development, which blends old Arabian buildings into modern shops (which all have a strong Emirati focus). You’ll find this new tourist area of Dubai stretching along Dubai Creek.
Al Marmoom Desert Reserve
When you visit Dubai remember to step outside the city boundaries and enjoy a day out in the majestic sand dunes. At the new Al Marmoom Desert Reserve you’ll find an array of fascinating wildlife from onyx, gazelle, geckos, lizards and a whopping 170 bird species. You’ll also have the option to cycle through the dunes, book yourself a desert picnic and finish the evening with a spot of star gazing!
Dubai is also never short of an event (or ten). Here are just three events worth checking out if you’re visiting any time soon.
Art Dubai (21st – 24th March)
Back for its twelfth year, Art Dubai is a celebration of contemporary and modern art from across the globe. Aside from the main exhibition (held at Madinat Jumeirah) there are also workshops and lectures on offer.
Dubai World Cup 2018 (31st March)
This is considered to be the ‘world’s richest horse race’ with roughly 10 million USD going to the overall winner. So it’s no wonder that it draws in the crowds – including celebrities who mingle on the private terraces. The whole event concludes with an A-list concert and a larger-than-life fireworks display.
Van Gogh alive (11th March – 23rd April)
The Middle East isn’t where you’d expect to find an exhibition dedicated to the Netherland’s most famous painter – but Dubai isn’t most cities. The exhibition has already been around the world and is currently in Dubai until the 23rd of April. There will 3,000 images on display – some of them in full while others will have certain details highlighted via magnifying glass.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Dubai?
Hi Claire, tell us a little about yourself, what you do at Barrhead Travel and your trip to Dubai?
I work within the Business Development Team and I was given an amazing opportunity to see Dubai. I spent 4 nights in this amazing place and was literally blown away with every hotel and place I saw.
I had always wanted to visit Dubai but was always concerned that it may not be for me. I was wrong! Dubai has something for everyone. Whether you are looking for a family holiday, culture, city break, nightlife, beach Dubai has it covered. It really is one of the safest and cleanest places I have ever been.
What did you get up to while you were there? What attractions did you see?
There is so much to see in Dubai one of my favourites is the sundowner desert safari. Watch the sun go down as you drive through the dunes to arrive at our traditional Bedouin style camp where a delicious dinner awaits. The trip included:
Leave your hotel and the city behind, drive into the desert in a four-wheel drive Land Cruisers
Enjoy the fun of a dune drive in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Stop to watch a falcon display
At sunset, stop for photos from the top of a dune
Arrive at our Bedouin-style camp where desert activities and a bonfire await
Try a camel ride, mini sand-boarding, and henna hand painting or relax on large carpets and cushions with an aromatic shisha
Move to the seating area and sample an Arabic style, three-course buffet
Another must is Dubai Mall - Make sure you allow plenty time to see this place. You can do some serious spending here and you can access the Burj Khalifa and the Fountains from here so really is worth a visit.
What did you think of the hotels you stayed in?
Jumeirah Zabel Saray - Stunning luxury hotel on the palm. The infinity pool is beautiful and the spa is one of the best I have seen. Would suit families and couples. This hotel even has its own cinema room. Food is fantastic with a great choice of restaurants.
JA Ocean View - On Dubai Walk close to the Marina, smaller pool though great beach access hotel will even supply a beach bag and umbrella. Good location for eating out.
Shangri La Hotel - On Sheikh Zayed Rd so more of a city feel. Close to Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. Great pool area which is also home to Icandy which hosts a great brunch and is a great location for an evening drinks.
Jumeirah Beach - Great family hotel with Wild Wadi Water Park attached. Amazing views over the Burj hotel. I felt this hotel had more of a relaxed feel. Very bright and airy.
Jebal Ali Hotel - A great hotel which would suit families and couples. In a quiet location around 30 mins from the downtown Dubai. Has its very own 9-hole golf course and a wealth of activities. This hotel has an all-inclusive option and even a swim up bar.
Atlantis the Palm - Amazing huge hotel and a must see even if you aren't staying here. With so many facilities from its very own water park, aquarium and beach club it really has it all. The eating options in this hotel are fabulous.
What would you recommend someone packs when visiting Dubai?
I was surprised at how relaxed Dubai actually is in terms of dress code. Of course visiting any religious areas, malls, souks, eating places etc you are required to dress more respectfully elsewhere was like any other holiday destination that I have been too.
What are your top tips for someone visiting Dubai?
Look out for Ladies nights - It's usually a Tuesday night and ladies get free drinks in most places.
Dubai isn't cheap so I would recommend half board as eating out can be expensive.
Stay at the Jumeirah Hotels and get free access to the Wild Wadi water park.
Taxis are so cheap, safe and accessible.
If you have a passion for both travel and film, Dubai Parks and Resorts needs to be on your travel list. The world’s newest theme park is home to five existing parks, each with its own theme. Two of these parks – MOTIONGATE™ and Bollywood Parks™ Dubai – centre on films, bringing the biggest Hollywood and Bollywood motion pictures to life. Here’s just a selection of rides that were based off some of your favourite films.
1. Panem Aerial Tour and Capitol Bullet Train
See Panem like never before aboard this exhilarating 4D hovercraft motion simulator experience!
2. Ghostbusters: Battle for New York
Become a honourary Ghostbuster and blast as many ghosts as possible in this interactive ride!
3. Underworld 4D
Join the battle between the Vampires and the Lycans in this multi-sensory 4D theatre adventure.
4. Smurfs Village Playhouse
A unique live theatre show where guests can interact with an animated Brainy Smurf.
5. Shrek’s Merry Fairy Tale Journey
A fun, interactive ride which retells the story of how Shrek and Fiona met in a memorable way.
6. Madagascar Mad Pursuit
Join the Zoosters in a mad pursuit aboard the fastest roller coaster in the park!
7. Hotel Transylvania
Join Count Dracula, Mavis and friends in this fun ride inside the world's only hotel for monsters.
8. Kung Fu Panda: Unstoppable Awesomeness
Join the Dragon Warrior Po and Master Shifu aboard this 3D multi-sensory simulator ride!
9. Zombieland Blast Off
A 58m tower that will blast you up, down, then back up for more surprises!
10. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs: River Expedition
Take a journey through Swallow Falls aboard this family water rapids ride!
11. Sholay: The Hunt for Gabbar Singh
Aim and shoot dacoits led by the notorious bandit Gabbar Singh in this 3D interactive dark ride.
12. Lagaan: The Thrill of Victory
Join Bhuvan and his team in a celebration of the game of cricket in this motion simulator ride.
The Middle East is becoming a popular stop-over hub for anyone looking to travel to the furthest corners of the eastern hemisphere. There’s a good selection of cities to choose from, each of them with their own characteristics catering to different types of holiday makers. For Doha in Qatar, it’s definitely suited to holidaymakers after an authentic and relaxed Arabic experience. One of the best things about Doha is its balance between having plenty to do but being compact enough that you can get it all done in one day.
So what attractions should be at the top of your list when you only have 24 hours? Here is our top picks.
Walk along the Doha Corniche
A waterfront city in the Middle East is not complete without a sparkling promenade lined with skyscrapers. In Doha it is named the Corniche and can be found in the downtown area where it is a popular spot for families, couples and runners.
A few hours at The Pearl-Qatar
Another thing that all modern Middle East cities have is its own modern man-made archipelago. Pearl-Qatar is yet to be completed but when it is, it will boost 13 islands and its public attractions will include 2 million square feet of international retail, restaurants, cafes, and entertainment facilities.
Visit the Museum of Islamic Art
Doha’s chief cultural attraction is the Museum of Islamic Art – a distinctive pyramid shaped building on the waterfront. Inside, its physical design is just as impressive and sets the tone for its stunning collection of Islamic art that includes ceramics, carpets and beautiful calligraphy from old Korans that is split across four floors.
And also pop by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art
The modern day cousin to the Museum of Islamic Art, this museum provides Arabic commentary on modern and contemporary art. More than 9,000 works of art can be found here spanning a timeline that starts from 1440 and ends in the modern day. It is thought to be one of the largest collections of Arab-produced paintings and sculptures in the world and is considered one of the most important cultural attractions in the country.
Shop at the Souq Waqif
Not far away from the waterfront lies Doha’s main shopping district. Souq Waqif is noted for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs as well as being home to dozens of restaurants and Shisha lounges.
We imagine this list has provided you with plenty of activities to keep you busy during your one day layover, but there’s plenty more to do if you want to – such as the National Museum of Qatar, Al Wajbah Fort and Aspire Park. Let us know in the comments what your must-do in Doha would be if you only had one day.
Dubai is one of the most popular winter sun holiday destinations in the world. With its year-round golden sunshine and numerous flights from the UK it’s no wonder holidays-makers choose this city year on year as their winter getaway of choice. If you’re jetting off to this glittering Emirate gem during these cooler months, here’s just a taster of what you can get up to.
1. Watch a performance at the new Opera House
Dubai has always boasted a packed calendar of show performances. However the new Opera House is the first stage in the city that has the technical capabilities to compete with other world-famous stages. A first-class theatre that is architecturally inspired by an Arabian Dhow, it can host everything from opera, musicals, ballet – and even ice shows.
2. Time your visit with the Dubai Food Festival
Between the 23rd of February and 11th of March 2017, Dubai hosts the Middle East’s only gastronomically-themed festival. Across this fortnight some of Dubai’s finest restaurants will sell special offers on premium three-course meals. There will also be a plethora of food carts set up along Kite Beach for a tasty treat while exploring the city.
3. Join a foodie tour
While Dubai has become renowned as a glitzy capital of international flavours, those looking for traditional Middle Eastern flavours will find them off the beaten path on a foodie tour. Join Frying Pan Adventures and explore the hidden kitchens in the old-town of Dubai. Perfect for a winter evening.
4. Have fun at Dubai Parks and Resorts
Let out your inner child at one of Dubai’s newest attractions. Choose between three theme parks: Legoland® Dubai, MotionGate™ Dubai and Bollywood Parks™ Dubai. Or, if you want to cool down from the sunshine, head on over to the onsite Legoland® Waterpark.
5. Play in the snow at Dubai Ski
If your ideal winter break involves snow, then Dubai has this covered as well. Inside the Mall of the Emirates lies Ski Dubai: a mountain-theme indoor ski resort that is the first of its kind in the Middle East. Together you can experience skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and even make friends with some Snow Penguins!
Looking out onto the shimmering Arabian Gulf, the golden sands of the UAE’s coastline is home to some of the world’s most celebrated metropolitan hubs. The first of these emirates to greet visitors as they journey along the UAE shore is Ras Al Khaimah.
The UAE’s Northernmost Emirate – Ras Al Khaimah offers visitors a truly authentic Arabian experience where guests can expect to be fully immersed in a kaleidoscope of traditional architecture, food and entertainment as well as enjoy outdoor activities and luxury hotels. Here are 10 things you can do while on holiday in this stunning city.
1. Al Marjan Island
Al Marjan, a series of four connected man-made islands, is located in the west of Ras Al Khaimah. Extending a vast 4.5 kilometers into the sea, the island covers an area of 2.7 million square metres. With waterfront homes, quality hotels and resorts, marinas, private resident beaches, leisure, retail and recreational facilities, this ambitious development is a truly unique destination.
2. Explore historical sites
While most of Ras Al Khaimah is modern, the area of Jazirat al-Hamra is a peaceful historical site that provides a taste of peaceful Emirati life from before the 20th Century.
It’s here you’ll find the Ras Al-Khaimah National Museum, which is regarded as one of Ras Al Khaimah’s historical focal-points. Items of popular interest include a variety of documents, manuscripts and treaties passed between Ras Al Khaimah and the UK. To learn more about traditional Emirati life, pass through the museum’s ethnographic section where displays dedicated to architecture, pearl diving, date farming, agriculture and fishing can be found.
3. Jazirat Al Hamra
This abandoned fishing village, just outside Ras Al Khaimah city, with its coral-block architecture is a reminder of the simple local life before the oil boom. Three distinct types of 20th century Gulf architecture can be found in the village, all of which are in stark contrast to the lively cities of the UAE. And watch out for ghosts – some of the abandoned buildings are believed to be haunted.
Ras Al Khaimah boasts two world-class golf courses. The first of these is Al Hamra Golf Club, home to an 18-hole course which also offers a floodlit course to play in after sunset. The second is Tower Links, an 18-hole course that stretches for 7,199 yards against the backdrop of the beautiful Hajar Mountains.
5. Drive into the desert
Hop on board an organised tour to the authentic Arabic village of Bassata. Surrounded by desert, this traditional village will introduce visitors to dune bashing, belly dancing and Arabic barbecue. Or for an indulgent experience visit the Bedouin Oasis, a desert safari where drumming lessons, star-lit dinners, and horse riding are just some of the activities available.
6. Water sports
For travellers who enjoy water-sports, a holiday in Ras Al Khaimah has to be on the list. Along the 64 kilometre coastline you’ll find high-adrenaline jet-skiing, flyboarding, wakeboarding, parasailing and banana boat rides.
7. Dhaya Fort
The Dhaya Fort played an important role in the history of Ras al Khaimah. Overlooking the Gulf from a strategic hilltop position, this 16th century mud-brick fort offers stunning views of the city below. Plus, other ruined fortifications and watchtowers can be seen to the south of the hill.
8. Dine on authentic Arabic cuisine
Foodies won’t go hungry in Ras Al Khaimah. If you’re looking to discover Arabic flavours, visit one of the cafeterias along the Corniche or try the famous Emirati restaurant, Al Fanar. If you fancy something international, you’ll find restaurants specialising in Asian, Italian and Brazilian cuisine.
9. Mountain Activities at Jais
Ras Al Khaimah is home to the UAE’s highest peak, Jebel Jais, which stands at 1934m high. Organised hikes take place regularly where hikers will be introduced to abandoned villages, traditional houses and water wells, alongside exploring beautiful natural scenery.
10. Relax in the Khatt Springs
Amid idyllic palm trees lies relaxing mineral-rich hot pools. These *****-pools are known for their therapeutic properties, and are a great way to relax after a day exploring Ras Al Khaimah. Also nearby are 170 archaeological sites that include prehistoric tombs and 19th century mud-brick fortification towers.
With its shimmering coastline, striking blue skies and cosmopolitan lights, Dubai is one of the most romantic cities in the world. It’s the perfect place to treat your special someone – or even plan an unforgettable proposal! Here are our five favourite romantic activities for couples in this remarkable city.
1. Plan a romantic dinner
Dubai is home to many exquisite restaurants, perfect for foodie couples wanting to treat themselves. Watch the sun set into the Arabian Gulf over dinner from the landmark Pierchi seafood restaurant on the Al Qasr’s jetty, or enjoy some Thai food at Thiptara at The Palace Downtown while surrounded by the dancing water fountains of Burj Lake.
2. Treat your partner to an Arabian gift
Dubai is famous for its shopping. So there’s no better place to treat your partner to a new piece of jewellery, clothing or some unique interiors. Al Jazeera Perfumes is home to distinctive Arabic fragrances with a private seating area so shoppers can select the perfect perfume for their partner. Or stop by Bateel, a luxury sweet-shop selling dates filled with delicacies like caramelized nuts, candied ginger, lemon or orange peel.
3. Explore the traditional Arabian desert
The original Dubai holiday activity. For active couples, dune bashing, quad biking and sandboarding are all available on the iconic desert safaris. But for something really special, book you and your love a Heritage Dinner Safari and dine under the stars. There’s also a Private Dune Dinner, where you will be served an Arabic dinner in a private Bedouin-style tent following a day touring the desert including falcon spotting and a camel ride.
4.Stroll along secluded beaches
Dubai is home to some spectacular beaches. But if you’re looking for somewhere a bit more out-the-way to admire the stars, we’ve got a small tip. Known as the Hidden Beach, this peaceful stretch of sand lives up to its name. To find it follow The Walk all the way to the south, turn right at the roundabout and continue driving or walking until you meet the sandy coastline.
5. Splash out on a luxury hotel
If there’s anywhere in the world where you should choose luxury – it’s Dubai. Whether it’s the romantic underwater suites at Atlantis the Palm or the relaxing couples’ VIP spa at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray. Then there’s the option of staying at the Burj Al Arab itself – and booking their moonlight swim package for two.
For many, Dubai is synonymous with luxury. And there are immeasurable layers of truth to this statement. Anyone looking for a holiday dripping in opulence will love the attractions lining the streets of this metropolitan playground. Plus, countless luxury hotels call the city their home, with the The Madinat one of the most extravagant. This glittering resort on the Arabian Gulf is exactly what holidaymakers after a lavish holiday are looking for.
1. 40 world-class restaurants, bars and lounges
Whatever cuisine you find yourself craving you’ll discover it while staying at the The Madinat. Foodies wishing to taste some traditional Arabic flavours can dine in the upmarket Hanaaya or enjoy an authentic Middle Eastern Afternoon Tea at Al Samar Lounge. But if you’re looking for well-known international favourites you’ll find American, Greek, Italian, Thai and Japanese restaurants within the resort.
2. Fitness Centre with high-altitude chamber
For fitness-fanatics, Talise Fitness at Madinat Jumeirah offers a brand-new exercise experience. The high altitude suite (aka LOWOXYGEN® chamber) creates hypoxic atmospheres without changing the air pressure, and your body will react the same way it would at high altitude. This increases your mass of red blood cells, enhances your aerobic capacity and alters muscle metabolism.
3. Secluded private beach
Madinat Jumeirah boasts two kilometres of private pristine beach. Use of the beach is complimentary for hotel guests.
4. On-site theatre
While staying at the Madinat Jumeirah, guests don’t have to wander very far for high-quality entertainment. The Madinat Theatre has graced the performances of classically trained ballerinas to side-splitting comedians.
5. Private couples only dinners
Madinat Jumeirah is the perfect romantic resort for couples looking to relax and unwind together. Treat your other-half to a romantic meal at Shimmer where couples can reserve a majlis or private tent to enjoy an exquisite Greek dinner.
6. The largest hotel event space in the United Arab Emirates
If Dubai is on your travel list because you’re organising a wedding or business conference, the Madinat Jumeirah offers an unbeatable venue. The conference centre is a unique outdoor area that can accommodate 1,400 guests and is expansive enough for marquees, cars and music concerts.
7. An on-site traditional souk
Dubai is famous for its souks that sell authentic Arabian souvenirs, and Madinat Jumeirah has one of its very own. Here guests will find winding pathways home to Middle Eastern style open-shuttered shops selling traditional wares as well as designer labels.
8. A luxury room type or villa to suit you
Jumeirah is home to two grand boutique hotels offering a range of room types, including adjoining family rooms and luxury suites (with landscaped gardens and cinema rooms). However the resort also boasts 29 traditional summer houses and 7 Jumeirah Malakiya Villas.
9. They work closely with the Jumeirah Turtle Rehabilitation Project
The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (DTRP) is based at Burj Al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah. So far the project has facilitated the release 560 sea turtles back into Dubai’s waters, and in 2011 they provided veterinary support to 350 sick or injured sea turtles.
10. Its location
If Madinat Jumeirah’s own amenities weren’t generous enough, the nearby attractions are sure to grab attention. Located on the shimmering Arabian coast, the resort is a stone-throw away from Widi Wild Waterpark, Jumeirah Beach, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and The Palm Jumeriah.
Opening in October 2016, Dubai Parks and Resorts is set to become one of the biggest theme park destinations in the world and the biggest in the Middle East. Set to become a must see attraction for any holiday to Dubai, it will be home to three parks, a water park, an extensive entrance plaza and a luxury resort hotel. So far, details of the park have been kept under wraps but with the doors due to open soon, we can finally reveal what is waiting for you at the newest Middle East attraction.
1. It will be to home to the first Hunger Games theme park experience
While MOTIONGATE™ Dubai will be bringing several blockbusters to life, it’s The Hunger Games that has everyone talking. In the park you’ll find a real-life replica of Katniss’s home town of District 12, and a mega-coaster that transports its brave passengers to the Capitol (as fast as possible with plenty of adrenaline-rushing loops).
2. MOTIONGATE Dubai will feature rides inspired by another 13 blockbusters
Aside from The Hunger Games, MOTIONGATE™ Dubai will be home to replica films sets based on the Smurfs, Underworld, Zombieland, Madagascar and more. The attractions will include small play-parks for kids such as Camp Viking (based on How to Train Your Dragon) and white-knuckle rides, such as High Speed Chase (from the film Green Hornet).
3. You can earn a LEGOLAND® Driving License
In the Middle East’s first LEGOLAND®, you’ll find LEGO® City. Here you can fly a plane, steer a boat and, yes, earn a LEGOLAND® Driving License.
4. Dubai MINILAND
As with any LEGOLAND theme park, MINILAND is at the heart of LEGOLAND DUBAI. This indoor and air-conditioned land will feature iconic landmarks from the Middle East as well as a 10m play table for you and your family to create your very own city.
5. A family only water-park
Water parks are fun, but can be boisterous. The LEGOLAND Water Park in Dubai Parks and Resorts is specifically designed for kids aged 2-12 and their families. Smaller members of the family can choose between 20 water slides to splash around and play.
6. An entrance plaza that takes you through different eras
In Riverland™ Dubai - a uniquely themed retail and dining destination at the heart of Dubai Parks and Resorts - you can freely walk between different eras. Start off with The French Village and immerse yourself in medieval France of 1600’s. Continue to India Gate and dance along to the rhythm and colours of colonial India of the 1930’s.A bit further on you’ll find 1950’s America, with all the glitz, glamour and lights that await you at Boardwalk. Finish your night at The Peninsula, inspired by turn of the century Europe. Events, street entertainment and over 50 restaurants and retail shops await you.
7. The world’s first Bollywood themed park
Bollywood fans: this is for you. For the first time ever, the world will get to experience a Bollywood themed park. With Action, Adventure, Dance and Romance, this one of a kind theme park will have exhilarating rides, heart thumping live performances and of course mouth-watering treats across 5 themed zones.
Start your adventure at Bollywood Boulevard with shopping and live entertainment, then stroll through the streets of Mumbai and join the chase for the mafia boss Don, in a fast paced immersion tunnel ride. From here, journey to Middle India for a motion coaster simulator experience, a dark ride to shoot bandits and a live stunt show that is sure to pack a punch! Take a break with a meal fit for Royalty at the Royal Plaza before heading back into the action at the Hall of Heroes, with the region’s first flying theatre and an epic 4D experience. From Don’s and Diva’s to Superheroes and Bandits, immersion tunnels to a flying theatre, this family friendly park even contains a Bollywood Film Studio where you can learn the dramatic art of film making.
To complete the perfect Bollywood experience, don’t miss the Middle East’s first separately ticketed Broadway-style Bollywood musical at the stunning Rajmahal Theatre.
8. Fine dining
Across Dubai Parks and Resorts you will find plenty of places to grab a quick but tasty snack. However, guests who want to stop for a luxurious dinner will not be left hungry. In the Royal Plaza of Bollywood Parks™ Dubai, sits Mughal-e-Azam: a regal Bollywood restaurant offering Mughlai delicacies with white-tablecloth service.
9. A luxury family-friendly hotel
Just like all good theme park resorts, Dubai Parks and Resorts comes with a luxury resort hotel. This one is Polynesian themed and aptly named Lapita™ Hotel Dubai, part of the Marriot Autograph collection. The exotic resort offers 504 rooms including 3 stunning villas, 5 restaurants and bars, a relaxing Spa, Kids & Teens Club as well as a family pool with lazy river and water playground. Lapita is the perfect relaxation point after a day of adventures and fun.
10. And everything else you could ever want from a theme park
This list only covers a tiny fraction of what you’ll find at Dubai Parks and Resorts. This new theme park destination is set to become the biggest attraction in the Middle East, and one of the most impressive theme park destinations in the world. Located just outside of Dubai, the destination also benefits from the year-round toasty sunshine of the UAE. This is a theme park destination for families to make memories in the sun, for film buffs to immerse themselves in their fandoms, and for theme park enthusiasts to test their adrenaline levels.
Abu Dhabi is a world of uncompromised luxury that in recent years has risen to become a must-visit destination of the Middle East. Their national airline, Etihad Airways, lives up to the expectations of Middle Eastern opulence with the high-end hospitality on board their aircrafts and in their departure lounges. Flying directly from the UK to Abu Dhabi - including their route from Edinburgh that opened last year – passengers can choose from Economy, Business and First-class. Whether you're flying to Abu Dhabi for business, a family trip or a stop over to another exotic destination, the facilities on board Etihad Airways will ensure your flight offers an unparalleled level of comfort, service and luxury.
1. First class...apartments
Etihad Airways offers the high-end comfort you'd expect from a first-class compartment but with the additional privacy of a front door. Each apartment is fitted with a spacious armchair and separate bed making it easy to switch between catching up with work or beauty sleep. Before you're due to land freshen up in the First Class bathroom and re-do your make-up and hair in the light-up vanity unit found in your private apartment.
2. The Residence, the only three-room suite in the sky
Start your holiday while you fly and book yourself into the Residence, the only three-room suite in the sky. The luxury area offers unbeatable privacy with separate living room, bedroom and en-suite shower room. A Savoy-trained Etihad Butler is on-hand to assist with anything during the flight while the in-flight chef will ensure that your taste-buds are catered to.
3. A helping hand to keep kids entertained
Flying is an unfamiliar experience for young flyers, and is stressful for their parents. The Ethidad Experience includes a nanny service to sooth restless children who aren't accustomed to flying and provides parents with some time to relax. The specially trained Nannies are all equipped with a goody bag of games and activities including hand-puppets, face-painting and magic tricks.
4. Space to socialise in The Lobby
Located between First and Business class, The Lobby provides an intimate meeting area similar to those found in boutique hotels. The area can seat up to six guests - the power supply and connectivity ports make it a setting for an in-flight business meeting but the wide-screen TV allows it turn into a socialising space afterwards.
5. Relax in the Etihad Airways First Class Lounge & Spa
For nervous flyers especially, a bit of pre-plane pampering can help sooth any worries. Etihad's Six Senses Spa is available in the First Class Lounge and Premium Lounge to unwind with facials and massages. There's also a Relax and Recline Room creating a sensory ambience with comfortable leather chairs, soothing sounds and relaxing imagery on the video wall.
6. Fitness fanatics can work-out before they fly
Any gym-buddies who don't like missing their daily work-out due to travelling can keep up their regime in the first-class lounge before their flight. The Fitness Room is fitted with Technogym equipment, yoga and weights, as well as showers to freshen up afterwards.
7. Freshen up after landing at the exclusive Arrivals Lounge
If your hotel check-in time is a few hours after you land or you need to freshen up before a business meeting, stop by the only Arrivals Lounge in the UAE (exclusive to Etihad Airways). Located after Terminals 1 and 3 of the Abu Dhabi International Airport, passengers can freshen up with a shower, smarten up at the exclusive barbers, relax in the library, satisfy any hunger in the buffet or catch up with work in the business centre.
8. Luxury Etihad Airways transport waiting in Abu Dhabi
If you're travelling on to Dubai or Al Ain after you arrive, take the stress out of finding your way there with the Etihad Luxury Coach. This is a free service for all Etihad Airways passengers. First-class and Business Class passengers can also book a personal chauffeur to their destination, a service that is available in over 40 cities that Etihad flies to.
9. Economy class doesn't scrimp on comfortable extras
If you've been shaking your head and assuming the kind of comforts found on Etihad Airways are outwith your budget, the luxury airline offers an affordable economy class that integrates their signature experience. Prices for an economy seat to Abu Dhabi start at £367 per person and includes a three-course meal, Café Service with hot beverages, 750 hours of on-demand entertainment plus the aforementioned nanny and luxury coach service.
10. Plan your dream round-the-world-trip
In the UK Etihad Airways offers direct flights to Abu Dhabi from Edinburgh, Manchester and London and connecting flights through their partners from most UK airports. Once you're in Abu Dhabi you'll be able to take advantage of their massive global network and create your dream round-the-world trip. Make use of their Multi-City booking service and continue your holiday in another exciting destination, from down-under in Sydney to the Far East in Vietnam. You can combine four cities into any booking and with Etihad's expansive global network, the itineraries for a multi-country trip are endless.
Dubai is a city that blends modern-life and traditional beauty: 21st Century skyscrapers dominate the skyline while traditional etiquette warms the streets and beaches. The balance between old and the new can sway depending on the time of year your going to be visiting Dubai.
Travel on a budget during Ramadan
Holidays to Dubai can be more affordable than you may imagine. During Ramadan it's the low tourist season and many places offer special discounts making it a more budget friendly time to travel.
Children are exempt from fasting traditions
Ramadan is a time when the Muslim population fasts throughout the day, and the non-Muslim population can't be seen eating or drinking in public during the day either, even if they do so in private. Children (as well as pregnant women) can be exempt from this rule as long as they are discreet.
Hotel restaurants will serve meals as usual and waterparks and many other tourist attractions will remain open during the daytime.
Experience Dubai's World Class Shopping in the Evening
Shopping is world-renowned in Dubai and even though many shopping malls and markets will adjust their hours for Ramadan, shopping-loving tourists can still hit the malls at night. An extra bonus is that the crowds will be smaller and there might be discounts on hand.
Sample traditional Ramadan dishes
For foodies, Ramadan is an excellent time of year to visit Dubai. While eating is prohibited in public during the day, the fast ends every night with an Iftar. Grand Ramadan tents can be found across the city where Muslims and non-Muslims congregate for an extravagant evening meal with traditional Emirati foods such as luqaimat (sweet dumplings), Assidat al-Boubar (a pumpkin pudding) and Ranjina (a flour-and-date baked dessert). Also held in the Ramadan tents is breakfast before sunrise, known as Suhur, before the daily fast begins.
Finish it off at Eid al-Fitr
If you're planning to visit Dubai near the end of Ramadan, you might get to stay long enough to experience Eid al-Fitr, the festival that takes place to mark the end of the fast. Dubai comes alive as the fast ends with stage shows, discounts and other family attractions.
Some cultural reminders about Ramadan
While not everyone is expected to take part in Ramadan, it is expected that Ramadan is respected by everyone in Dubai, including visitors. Even if visitors eat in the private restaurants of hotels or in the privacy of their own apartments, when in public during daylight hours they are required to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking. Some of the tourist resorts are more relaxed than other areas of Dubai, but guests should just always keep the traditions in mind while visiting Dubai.
Along the northern coast of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is ready to greet visitors along the Arabian Gulf. A city split between the mainland and a cluster of islands, it's a playground of attractions, shopping and entertainment where no visitor ever complained of boredom. A popular destination all year round due to its golden sands and glistening sun, the summer months however are welcomed by an Emirate-wide itinerary of entertainment, perfect for all members of the family.
1. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
The world's largest indoor theme park is home to an eclectic mix of Ferrari-themed rides and attractions. Under its eye-catching roof lies both the world's fastest rollercoaster and highest rollercoaster loop – not for the faint-hearted. For calmer family-members who aren't into adrenaline-rushing rides, there is instead the massive Ferrari-branded shop and authentic Italian restaurants.
2. Yas Waterworld
Ever been on a 550m water-coaster with laser-effects? Or a hydromagnetic-powered, six-person tornado waterslide? Probably not as the latter is a world first at Yas Waterworld, a must for any waterpark fan. Aside from the water slides, Yas Waterworld is also one of the best places to pick up an Arabic souvenir, with shops ranging from custom pearl jewellery to spices.
3. Al Ain Zoo
Al Ain Zoo is home to 180 animal species, 30% of which are considered endangered. Children and the rest of the family can get up close to the animals through the giraffe feeding and camel riding programmes in the grounds that are designed to reflect the animals' natural habitats.
4. Marina Eye
Dominating the skyline of the Corniche and located alongside one of Abu Dhabi's most-visited shopping centres, this eye-catching Ferris wheel has 42 capsules that provide unbeatable views of the city. Afterwards, head into the Marina Mall for some fashion-conscious shopping, eclectic dining, and some bowling.
5. Observation deck at 300
Take in the sights of Abu Dhabi and the surrounding islands from the 300m above sea level observation deck in Tower 2 at the Etihad Towers complex. Visitors can also sip on refreshments and even treat themselves to a High Tea while enjoying the views.
6. Live shows
This summer watch your kids' favourite characters come to life in live performances throughout Abu Dhabi. Hello Kitty will be gracing the city with the world-premier of her new Fashion and Friends show during July plus Alvin and the Chipmunks will be performing their stage debut in August. If there's a young dinosaur fan in your family, take them along to the interactive exhibition featuring life-sized replicas of these prehistoric creatures running in the second week of July.
7. Mother of the Nation Park
The Abu Dhabi landscape is home to a stretch of tranquil parks, with Mother of the Nation Park being the largest and oldest. It is located right in the heart of the city and features a Shade House, Animal Barn, Amphitheatre, Great Lawn, Botanic Garden, Children’s Garden and Evening Garden.
8. Al Ain National Museum
To learn more about the history of the emirate, head to the Al Ain National Museum with some displays dating back to the third millennium BC. Outside is Al Ain Oasis, a hub of walkways decorated by palm plantations with streams of water feeding into the tropical paradise.
9. Behind the Scenes at Yas Marina Circuit
Abu Dhabi is a hub for motorsports racing and fans would be hard pressed to pin-point a better holiday experience than this. Receive a behind the scenes tour inside the Yas Marina Circuit, one of the world's most advanced motorsports centres.
10. Hili Fun City
The Gulf's very first theme park still remains a firm family-favourite to this day. Located in Al Ain, Kili Fun City boasts over 30 attractions with plenty of gentle rides for small kids and a few fast adrenalin-rushing rides for adults. The park has also been newly renovated and is home to an Olympic-sized ice rink, picnic areas and plenty of cafés to grab some lunch.
Our port today while visiting Oman was a little place called Khasab. Having researched things a bit before we left home, it seemed that the town itself didn't have an awful lot of "touristy" things to do - but what it did have was a very close proximity to fjord-like waterways, and crystal clear azure waters framed by jutting, majestic cliffs.
We had chosen a tour on a traditional dhow boat, where you take off your shoes on entry and lounge in comfort on carpets and cushions. Our two young Omani sailors took us through spectacular scenery before they slowed the dhow and started looking over the side. They powered it up again and started whistling loudly, pointing to some grey, fast-moving creatures beside us on both sides...dolphins! At least ten of them in total, from parents to youngsters, all swimming effortlessly beside us and leaping out every so often. They must have kept us company for almost ten minutes, so plenty of pictures were snapped trying to capture them on camera. This was THE best moment of a fabulous holiday, no contest.
Traditional Dhow in Khasab, Oman
We stopped further on to let everyone have the chance to have a swim and snorkel, with towels and after-swim refreshments provided. On our way back, our Flipper friends returned for a brief encore. Show-offs!
Handy tip - take your swimming gear if you go on this trip! But there's a bit of walking/getting on and off boats, so is not recommended for any one with limited mobility.
Today was around 35 degrees, and to sunbathe up on deck was to get rather hot! The tans are progressing well though, and it's hard to believe that it's only February. If winter sun and seeing some unusual places are what floats your boat, literally, holiday-wise, it doesn't get better than a cruise from Dubai. Everyone we have spoken to here has been very happy with the whole experience.
Another gala dinner tonight, so the glad rags were on again. As previous MSC customers, we were invited to the Captain's cocktail party just before dinner, where he made a short speech and introduced some of the crew. A lovely gesture.
Dinner was fun as well, with flaming baked Alaskas being paraded around by the waiters. All the staff on board, from the cabin steward to the lovely Made, our table waiter, have been so good and attentive throughout, and it's obvious how hard they work. A credit to the cruise line.
Tonight we had a drink at the disco at the top of the ship as a nightcap. We only recognised one song, sadly... whether that is a reflection of the DJ's lack of skills, or of our age, though, is up for debate!
Souk in Muscat
Muscat is a destination that we were really looking forward to, and happily, it didn't disappoint.
We had pre-booked the Mystical Muscat tour with MSC back in the UK, so were up early to get on board the bus and head off with an English-speaking guide. Oman's capital is completely different to the main cities we'd seen in the UAE, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi - no high rise building is allowed, and the houses, offices, hotels etc are mainly white. It's a place that's very pleasing on the eye.
Our first stop on the tour was the Grand Mosque, built over 6 years and completed in 2001. At first glance, though it is fabulously grand, perhaps it's not quite as visually - stunning as Abu Dhabi's. Step inside (especially the men's side!) and it's a different matter. The
Grand Mosque Muscat
chandeliers are spectacular, the carpets took 600 women 3 years to complete by hand...you really can see the devotion that has gone into every aspect of the mosque. 5 minarets represent the 5 holy vows that every devout Muslim makes to reinforce his faith. The focus from every Omani person we met there was to help us understand their faith and it was a very interesting and calming experience, rounded off with Omani coffee, water and dates. Our guide was keen to emphasise that women and men in Oman have equal rights and we were served by both men and women here, as well as being offered a booklet on Islam and the Koran to give us a greater insight into it.
Our next stop couldn't have been more of a contrast - the Muttrah Souk in the old part of Muscat, near the port where we were berthed. This was full-on, with shops selling an array of different goods. It was
Grand Mosque Muscat
our first real shopping experience since Dubai and couldn't have been further from its upscale malls. Bartering was all part of the experience. Handy tip - never take their first price, and be prepared for the shopkeepers to set the edge of your potential scarf purchase on fire to prove it's cashmere!
4 scarves and many rials later, we trooped back on the bus for stop number 3 - the Bait Al Zubair Museum, a small townhouse which helps inform visitors about Omani traditions.
And finally, we spent some time outside the Sultan's Palace, flanked on either side by the Miran and Jalali Forts, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
All in all, this was the perfect tour to get an insight into Oman, a place that we new little about before the cruise. A half day was just right, giving us time to have lunch and catch some rays in the afternoon too.
Dinner was a fun affair, with the waiters playing a practical joke on one of our fellow diners which was hilarious - but I won't spoil it for you by describing it, in case you're on an MSC cruise anytime soon!
We finished the night at the pool bar, where a White Party was being held, with the ship's dancers giving it their all. While we only stayed for one drink, there were lots of fellow guests who were definitely up for a party - and possibly some rather sore heads in prospect next morning...
Exploring UAE is exciting with MSC cruises
Next stop exploring UAE is Khor Al Fakkan - still in the UAE. We'd chosen not to book an excursion, but there were trips on offer from MSC, such as Discover the Desert in a 4x4, Relax at the Beach, and Fujairah East Coast Tour.
A leisurely morning on deck was followed by the decision to take the complimentary shuttle bus to outside the port. Handy tip - each port on the cruise so far has provided this. It seems to be more to abide by the rules of the port than to help cruise passengers, but it works well if you're occasionally a free spirit who prefers to do your own thing.
We strolled the promenade and had a walk along the beach. While the Daily Program told us that there was a lively souk in the town, we sadly didn't find it - possibly a good thing for our wallets! It's obvious that Khor Al Fakkan is starting to build up its infrastructure in preparation for increased cruise business, which will enhance its appeal in future.
Today was designated Italian Day by MSC, and activities included a Nutella party for the kids - we can only imagine how their clothes looked after this chocolate-fest! - and a Decorate Your Own Ice Cream demo for gelato-lovers. And as you would expect on an Italian cruise line, that gelato is pretty tasty (and cups and cones are included in our drinks package too.) It's no wonder that the Italians are renowned for their cuisine, and it's a source of great pride on MSC. And it's also no wonder that many cruisers go on strict diets after their return home to the stark reality of clothing that no longer fits. Just as well it's still winter in the UK...baggy jumpers, here we come!
Dinner was also Italian-themed, with the waiters wearing red, white and green cummerbunds and our napkins in the same colours. We were encouraged by the Daily Program to wear these colours too - I wore green, The Better Half wore a white shirt, and we figured the bright bits of sunburn we had counted as red.
Dinner was great fun, thanks to the parading of the tiramisu desserts as we all sang Volare and waved our napkins to encourage the waiters. Our table companions are wonderful, and conversation flows freely every night - so bonus points to whoever plans this a MSC, you're a genius! The tiramisu was voted the best ever when it got to our plates, where it didn't last long at all, and we followed it in true Italian style with a glass of limoncello. Buon appetito! Then we squeezed in a post-dinner drink at the Shake Lounge, watching the Italians strut their stuff on the dancefloor.