Nobody could accuse Dubai of hiding its lights under a bushel, and some features of the desert kingdom – like a miniature world map made out of artificial islands – might seem kitsch. But that is also part of the appeal. There are loads of great Dubai holiday packages out there, and if you go for one, why not just embrace the pleasures on offer in this most unlikely of places. Here’s a top three of things to see and do if you get a chance.
Wild Wadi Water Park
Wadi means valley or dry river bed in Arabic, but there is nothing dry about the Wild Wadi Water Park, one of Dubai’s best active holiday destinations. Located just in front of the luxurious Burj Al Arab hotel, the park is one of the largest and most sophisticated of its kind anywhere in the world. There are thirty rides, all themed around a tale from Arabian folklore. Among them is the Wipeout Flowrider, a surfing experience that blasts out more than seven tonnes of water per second in a thin stream across a moulded foam sheet – perfect for body boarding without having to worry about the timing to catch the wave.
Dubai Gold Souk
There are many souks (traditional street markets) in the downtown area of the city, selling goods such as spices, textiles and fish. However the most amazing is probably the gold souk. With every trader competing to offer the most glittering display, it feels like walking through a true Aladdin’s cave of treasures. Arab countries have a well-known tradition of bartering, and nowhere is this more in evidence than in the gold souk of Dubai. If you are used to paying the price on the label, it can feel strange at first to come in with a lower offer, but soon you will get used to it and be bargaining with the best of them.
Alongside the wealth and hedonism, Dubai has a fascinating culture that’s crying out to be explored. The beautiful Jumeirah Mosque is a good place to start. They operate an open-doors policy meaning you don’t have to be Muslim to go inside, though modest dress is recommended. Combining the 75 minute tour with a meal hosted by an Emirati guide is a superb way to get to know more about how Dubai has preserved its traditions amidst the boom of the past decade.
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