There’s no doubt that a skyline the size and scale of Dubai’s owes much to solid foundations. But it’s not just bricks and mortar that make this monument to the 21st century such a triumph. Also supporting its reputation are the ‘Eight Pillars’ of Dubai which cover gastronomy, shopping, family entertainment, culture, hotels, beaches, sport and festivals. This is where the destination really distinguishes itself as the Middle East’s number-one draw for tourists.
Our knowledge of Dubai here at Kenwood Travel is borne of a genuine admiration cultivated on frequent trips since the city’s holiday credentials first emerged back in the 90s. So let us inspire your next getaway with our summary of Dubai’s unique attractions as we discover the ‘Eight Pillars’.
Quality dining has the power to turn a good holiday into a sensational one. World-class restaurants, super stylish bars and chic clubs thrive in Dubai; it’s a city that genuinely values the pleasures of a great meal and fun night out. At last count there were 5,400 restaurants and cafes, and more are springing up every month. Spend your holiday in Dubai and prepare to embark on a gastronomical quest that visits the culinary crossroads of the world. 200 official nationalities call this emirate home, each with their own distinct cooking styles. Look forward to classic local dishes, homegrown and international eateries that cater to all price brackets and, more importantly, flavour palettes.
Barter with the friendly stallholders in the bustling souks or step into the haute couture world of a designer boutique. Shopping on a Dubai holiday is so much more than retail therapy: it’s a cultural experience of entertainment and sightseeing. Take your pick from 95 shopping malls, including the world’s largest (Dubai Mall). Dubai is listed second worldwide (behind London) for number of retailers represented, and the tantalising juxtaposition of historic souks and ultra-modern luxury malls is fascinating.
3. Family Entertainment
Family holidays to Dubai provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences, creating memories that last for generations. Where else can you hit the beach in the morning, snowboard at lunchtime, explore the desert in the afternoon and, in the evening, watch dancing fountains reach the skies beneath the world’s tallest skyscraper? Meet a colony of penguins at Ski Dubai; see a dinosaur exhibit, a giant octopus and a king crocodile at The Dubai Mall; explore the desert in a 4×4 (or on a camel) and cause a splash at two of the world’s top-ten waterparks – Aquaventure and Wild Wadi. Family life is the backbone of society, and nowhere is this more apparent than Dubai, one of the safest cities in the world.
4. Dubai Culture: The Arts and Heritage
A diverse emirate city where 200 nationalities rub shoulders, Dubai is known for a culture in which global traditions, attitudes, customs, religions and lifestyles have merged harmoniously, while still being rooted in Arabian heritage. When it comes to witnessing this cultural heritage firsthand, visitors are almost spoiled for choice, but some popular sites include Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding; Dhow Museum; Dubai Museum; Dubai Heritage Village; Dubai Creek; Dubai’s souks and Jumeirah Mosque. The art scene is big here too. Get inspired at Art Dubai (March); Sikka Art Fair (March); Dubai International Film Festival (Dec); Al Quoz Art District; Al Fahidi District and Dubai Museum.
5. Hotels & Spas
From five-star beach resorts to secluded desert retreats, and contemporary city luxury to quality three- and four-star properties, this destination caters to all holiday tastes and budgets at its 600-plus hotel establishments. Among its high-profile hoteliers, Dubai boasts an extensive portfolio of global hotel brands, including Hilton, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Fairmont, Raffles, Marriott, Intercontinental and Starwood properties. Homegrown brands such as Jumeirah – including Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Rotana; Meydan, Emaar – Address Hotels, Vida Hotels and Resorts and Manzil all join iconic hotels such as Burj Al Arab and Atlantis, The Palm in one of the finest luxury hotel selections anywhere in the world.
6. Outdoor – Beach and Marine
Dubai holidays enjoy a citywide proximity to the Arabian Gulf’s glistening coast. That means you’re never far from a beach and all the wonderful watersports and marine activities it provides. Year-round sunshine certainly adds to the appeal of a day spent on the water or the golden sands, and with both public and hotel beaches, sports beaches, ladies-only beaches and even retail beach promenades to choose from, it shouldn’t be a problem locating the perfect spot to unfurl your towel. Dubai Creek is the old heart of the city and where you can go pearl diving amid the ancient trade routes.
7. Outdoor – Sport and Adventure
Are you a daredevil adrenaline junkie, an adventure seeker or simply someone looking to enjoy the great outdoors? Welcome to a playground for all ages. Beneath a cloudless sky and flanked by endless desert, rugged mountains and the waters of the Arabian Gulf, this dynamic city provides unique sporting facilities like Ski Dubai, Skydive Dubai and iFLY Dubai. International sports tournaments to look out for are: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Dubai Marathon, Indian Premier League (Inaugural 2013), Omega Desert Classic and Dubai World Cup. Traditional sports such as camel racing, falconry, archery and equestrian are also much loved here.
8. Events and Festivals
Few weekends go by without a special event taking place. The city’s annual events calendar encompasses arts, literature, sport, food, music, dance, heritage, fashion and shopping. Read on for listings by category:
Citywide Festivals: Dubai Shopping Festival (Jan); Second Dubai Food Festival; Dubai Summer Surprises and Mhodesh World (July to Aug); Ramadan and Eid (Dates subject to change); Motor Festival (Nov) and National Day Celebrations (Dec).
Music: RedFest (Feb); Dubai Classics (Feb); Emirates International Jazz Festival (March); Gulf Music Festival (March); Blended (April) and Sandance Season (Oct-May). Sports Events: Dubai Desert Classic (Jan–Feb); Dubai Marathon (Jan); Dubai World Cup (March); Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (Feb-March); Dubai Camel Racing Festival (April); Dubai Rugby Sevens (Nov).
Art & Culture: Art Dubai (March); Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (March); Middle East Film and Comic Con (April); Dubai International Film Festival (Dec).