With its towering skyscrapers, super-sized shopping malls and ultra-luxurious trappings, it’s easy to see why visitors can get swept away by the glitz and glamour of Dubai.
From a gold-plated welcome at the airport to the sight of sportscars zooming up and down Sheikh Zayed Road, there’s plenty of zing in the Gulf’s city of bling. And let’s not forget the indoor ski slope, dancing fountains and theme parks.
If it’s fast living you want, Dubai is a great place to embrace it. However, if you require some rest and relaxation, the emirate is also a destination where you can enjoy a slower pace of life.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
There’s more to Dubai than skyscrapers and shopping, you know...
The original ‘Burj’
Prior to the opening of the world’s tallest building in 2010 - the 828-metre-high Burj Khalifa - the only tower that residents and visitors spoke of in Dubai was the Burj Al Arab (“Tower of the Arabs”).
Located on Dubai’s coastline in the Jumeirah area of the city, the hotel has become one of the Middle East’s most famous buildings.
Although it has never actually been officially certified, the Burj Al Arab is renowned as “the world’s only seven-star hotel” and features a gold bar and a terrace to beat all terraces.
Remember the sky-high images of Tiger Woods hitting golf balls into the sea, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer having a rally on a tennis court, and David Coulthard doing donuts in a Red Bull Formula 1 car? These are just some of the memorable stunts that have taken place on the Burj Al Arab’s own helipad.
With its sail-like design and nightly illuminations, the Burj Al Arab is as good to look at from the outside as it is to experience on the inside. It’s also become one of Dubai’s must-take photo opportunities for travel bloggers and Instagrammers.
So it was for this very reason why we stayed at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel next door, which overlooks the Dubai icon.
We can ‘sea’ you
Sharing a private beach with the Burj Al Arab, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel is part of the same hospitality chain, Jumeirah. The Burj Al Arab has a design similar to a boat’s sail, and the coastal theme continues at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, which looks strikingly like a wave.
Staying in an adults-only Club Executive room on the 24th floor meant we didn’t just have a perfect sea view but also a perfect “Burj Al Arab view”. In fact, the striking next-door neighbour can be seen from all rooms and suites. The Club Executive room benefits include access to the executive pool and beach and return transfers to and from Dubai International Airport.
It’s not just its proximity to the Burj that makes the Jumeirah Beach Hotel a great place to stay - its resort-style facilities are perfect for leisure tourists, business visitors or families alike.
Food, drink and wild wadis
While many people will head to Dubai looking for a shopping fix, rounds of golf or nights out on the town, we were looking for some relaxation and down-time. And we didn’t need to leave the hotel grounds for that.
As well as 13 restaurants, cafes and bars - which serve a range of international cuisines - there’s also a kids club to keep younger visitors entertained.
It’s not just the rooms and suites that have great views but also the dining outlets. The 24th-floor Uptown Bar has spectacular vistas from its outside terrace, while the Villa Beach Restaurant also offers unobstructed views of the Burj Al Arab, as does the Beach Lounge.
One of the best features in a stay here, though, is the complimentary access to the Wild Wadi Waterpark, another neighbour. You don’t have to be a youngster to enjoy the waterslides or river rapids, so don’t forget to pack your swimming costume.
If waterslides aren’t your thing then maybe a game of tennis, squash or a spa treatment can help you relax. The Talise Fitness centre features the latest Technogym equipment and the Talise Spa has saunas, massage rooms, hot tubs, a Jacuzzi, steam room and plunge pool.
As its name suggests, the hotel’s real star turn is the beach. In fact, this stretch of golden sand is no doubt the finest in Dubai and there are plenty of beds and cabanas on offer.
The hotel has its private beach looking directly at the Burj Al Arab, but you can also head out of the grounds to the public beach next door, where there is a 14km (6.7-mile) running track down the coast.
Since opening in 2007, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel has welcomed more than a million guests. And to mark its 20th year of operations, the hotel underwent a major refurbishment this summer.
Re-opened in October, the hotel’s rooms and suites have been revamped, and there is new-look atrium, kids club and indoor and outdoor dining options.
About the Jumeirah Beach Hotel
How to book: rates start at £373 per room per night. See more at jumeirah.com
An evening with the stars
During our short trip to Dubai we wanted to experience something unique - we had done the shopping, the all-day brunches and the souks on previous visits - so we headed into the desert.
Although many visitors to Dubai opt for a desert safari in the daytime, we decided to do a private night safari.
Booked through Platinum Heritage, the experience featured a drive through the desert in a vintage Land Rover and a fantastic three-course dinner at a camp. The most memorable part of the safari, though, was a private lesson in stargazing with a professional astronomer.
The Platinum Heritage Private Night Safari and Astronomy tour cost Dhs2,180 (£455) for two people and includes pick-up and drop-off from the hotel.
Images: Jumeirah / Getty Images / Platinum Heritage.com
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.