So Dubai, then. What springs to mind when you think of the place? For most of us I’d guess it’s that whole millionaire’s playground thing: fast cars, enormous luxury malls… oh and maybe you’d also worry about covering yourself up? Being arrested for kissing in the street?
Well that was more or less my view anyway. And I’m happy to admit that I couldn’t have been more wrong. I didn’t wear any of the stuff I’d packed to cover myself up, and the people are absolutely lovely – kind, respectful and courteous. And yes, you can hold hands (it’s pretty common for male friends to hold hands) and kiss your kids in the street, or your other half, with no problem at all. Real, full-on Public Displays of Affection (PDAs) would be considered pretty rude, but I don’t think many people anywhere would really want to pass people on the street full-on snogging would they? The Emirati are a peaceful, respectful bunch – they encourage tolerance (I was surprised to hear that every religion is encouraged here – you’ll find Hindu temples, Christian churches, everything you can think of) and we were welcomed inside the Jumeirah Mosque and encouraged to ask any questions we wanted (more of this later).
So what did we get up to? We had a packed schedule – we visited quite a few different hotels and apartments, all at different budgets – we went to a mosque, to an aquarium… an ice rink… on a desert jeep safari… an amazing variety. I really wanted to approach the trip with a view to bringing my family.
At the risk of boring the pants off you all, I thought I’d split this into sections. Here’s what I discovered:
We visited the whole gamut of accommodation, from self catering apartments to the amazing luxury of the Burj Al Arab (the one shaped like a sail).
Our hotel was at the Madinat Jumeirah – an enormous resort containing two hotels, villas, tons of restaurants, a souk and masses more. It’s all linked together by an amazing waterway system so you can get everywhere you like by just hailing an Abra (water taxi). We stayed in the Mina A’Salam – a beautiful boutique hotel with views over the Burj Al Arab.
Check out my room!
Here’s the view from my balcony:
There’s a great kids’ club there – with all-day facilities should you wish to leave your little ones. Their attention to safety is amazing – we counted three lifeguards around the baby pool alone:
They’re also in the process of building a climbing wall and a kids’ gym too.
This fabulous, wave-shaped hotel would be a great choice for anyone with school-aged kids, as the hotel is attached to the Wild Wadi water park and guests get free access (you can also access the water park from the Jumeirah Madinat by hailing one of the golf buggies that take people around the resorts). They’ve also got loads of amazing themed restaurants (wild west dining, anyone?) and the manager, Margaret Paul, was very keen to tell me that they’re not just a ‘chicken nuggets and chips’ kind of place (although of course you’ll find that on the menu too!).
This is the view from one of the rooms at the Jumeirah Beach overlooking the Wild Wadi water park – how cool is that?!
If you fancy going self-catering, a great affordable (but still luxe) option is to head to the Oasis Beach Tower (right next to Frankie’s – Marco Pierre White and Frankie Dettori’s joint venture restaurant) in the Jumeirah Beach area, very close to the lovely Dubai Marina area:
The apartments are huge, with two, three, or even four big bedrooms (each with a bathroom), a really well appointed kitchen (you can have a chef come in and cook for you if you’re feeling lazy – or of course there’s the miriad restaurants in the marina area):
We ate in the Thyme Mediterranean restaurant in the tower, and I have to say it was one of my favourite meals – a lovely mezze starter with tons of lovely Arabian bread to dip in was followed by a huge slab of beef from the carvery:
We all loved the creamy cabbage accompaniment so much that we had to ask the chef for the recipe, and the roasted herby pumpkin was just delicious. Finished off with a gooey chocolate fondant, we waddled out of the place replete and delighted. I’d go back tomorrow.
Of course if you want luxe luxe, then look no further than the beautiful, spectacular, amazing Burj Al Arab. Designed to look like the sail of a dow, it is luxe on such a major scale that some journalists have declared it 7 star (although they’re far too polite to actually say that themselves). We felt like such interlopers looking around – it was amazing. Each suite is a duplex, with living accommodation on one floor:
…and then your own stairs up to the bedrooms above:
This is the master suite:
and for the kids…
Check out the bathroom:
And oh, the food… these were only nibbles:
Nothing is too much trouble and the service is bloody amazing.
I won’t bore you with all my photos, but if you do fancy having a look, they’re on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/englishmumdotcom
Do also check out my ‘ten amazing family activities in Dubai’ over at havealovelytime.com.