By: Mara Papatheodorou, your Tastes & Traditions Expert
Dubai is a destination that dares to be different! This desert oasis is a man-made city of contrasts and contradictions. Glitz and glamour shimmer alongside discretion and diversity. Mix and match your time here by combining the new with the old. Burj Khalifa, is an architectural modern marvel. At over 2,716 feet tall and 160 stories high, it is now the world’s tallest building and has quickly become an eye-catching must-see attraction that provides incredible 360 degrees vistas. Its reception area is located in the lower ground level of the Dubai Mall where you can also shop till you drop before or after your At The Top tower stop. A multimedia presentation chronicles Dubai’s exotic history as well as the behind-the-scenes highlights about the creation of the building. This is followed by a vertical ascent up the “travelator” to the glass floor-to-ceiling observation deck where special telescopes are provided to enhance the lay of the land overview. Afterwards, head back down to the Burj Khalifa Lake where the Dubai Musical Fountains majestically spout water as if dancing to beautifully choreographed music. The other renowned symbol of modern Dubai is the sail-shaped silhouette of the Burj Al Arab, repeatedly voted the most luxurious hotel in the world. Enjoying their afternoon high tea is a wonderful way to get a taste of its service and surroundings.
Sports enthusiasts looking for action in the sand or snow are in for some fun. Take an adventurous ride on the wild side in a 4 x4 vehicle that “surfs“ the area’s golden sand dunes or hit the slopes, indoors that is, chair lift and all at Ski Dubai featuring over 6000 tons of snow.
Step back in time to appreciate Bedouin history and its culture with a visit to the Bastakia Quarter. In this scenic neighborhood, walk the labyrinth-like lanes lined with cafes, art galleries and restored merchants’ houses. Don’t miss the Dubai Museum located within the Al Fahidi Fort or the impressive and enlightening Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. Follow that with a ride in a wooden boat “abra” on Dubai Creek and then stroll and shop the famous Spice Souk, the Textile Souk and the Gold Souk for a more traditional experience and items than at the malls. While there, sip a cup of Arabic coffee and savor a shwarma (see below). Discover and enjoy Dubai!
SAIL: Dubai. Before sailing away, bring the city’s flavors and flair home. Shop the different souks for spices like cinnamon, cardamom, coriander and saffron, dried dates, coffee, gold, rugs, textiles and perfumes. The modern day malls offer every high-end fashion label imaginable.
SIP: Saudi Coffee. Arabic coffee beans are roasted with cardamom then boiled with a bit of water in a long-spouted metal dallah and served in fenjans (cups with no handles) alongside fresh dates.
SAVOR: Shwarma. This pita pocket “sandwich” is shaved slices of spit-roasted seasoned lamb piled high, garnished with tahini (sesame seed sauce) and served with tabboulah (parsley, bulger, tomato and cucumber salad).