Dubai – Three nights in the City of Gold


Dubai has never been high on my list of places to visit, but as we were travelling to Cape Town and Dubai was a connection it was a no brainer to stop for a few days in November.

Sunday – sun and fun in Dubai

We arrived at JA Ocean View hotel about 10am Sunday morning. Our room wasn’t available till 3pm so we checked in and dropped our bags off.

It had been a long flight and early start so a lazy day was in order. This started with a relax and beer round the pool area which was very quiet. It didn’t take us long to realise that it was quiet because the multitude of high rise building surrounding it blocked the sun. So we got our complementary beach kit (bag, towels, umbrella and beach mat) and headed for some breakfast.

There was plenty of choice along ‘The Walk,’ a busy area along the beach front near our hotel. Laura had already earmarked Leopolds of London for breakfast so that’s where we headed.

I enjoyed Granola with yogurt and fresh berries plus a croissant and coffee. Very nice. Laura had scrambled egg on toast and the most extravagantly presented pot of tea we have ever seen! And in Laura’s words it was a ‘bloody good cup of tea.’

Next was a few hours of reading and snoozing on the public Beach. It was quiet along the beach and there was plenty of space to set up camp. We were too stingey to pay for sun beds, so it was a little uncomfortable.

Laura walking along Jumeirah public beach as the sun is setting

A couple of beers at the hotel before getting ready for tea at Bombay Bungalow. The restaurant is nothing special from the outside, but the food was fantastic. Although it was a little different not being able to have a beer with my chicken tikka masala!

The highlight of the day was an open mic night at  Tribeca, a bar within our hotel. We headed to this bar because we had only had 3 or 4 hours sleep in the last 36 hours, so wanted to stay local and grab an early night. However, the quality of the musicians that took to the stage was outstanding. The first signer was good and we finished our drink just as another act started. He smashed it singing and rapping with his acoustic guitar and loop pedal. That kept us there longer than planned. We considered calling it a night after he finished but one great act came on after another and it was 2am before we knew it! At Dubai prices of over £10 a pint I dread to think what a full evening cost us!

Monday meanderings around Dubai marina and the Palm

We started with a hearty breakfast at the hotel before walking to the Marina. We set off with the idea of catching the Yellow Boat to get a sea side view of the the Palm and Burj Al Arab. But with the sun shining brightly and the yacht filled marina flanked by impressive high rise buildings we decided to walk to Atlantis and take in the scenery. It was about about 8km and two hours of walking and well worth it.

Impressive buildings around the marina in Dubai

When we arrived at the ‘Gateway’ to The Palm we hopped on the tram to Atlantis. As you ride the tram looking out on the man made island you cannot help but be impressed by the incredible feat of engineering. The Palm leaves were full of extravagant houses, each with its own private beach. A real millionaires magnet. They might have a private beach, instant access to a water park and five star hotel facilities, but it’s a hell of a journey for a pint of milk!

The Palm Atlantis from the tram

We wandered around edge of the Palm taking in the views of the Atlantis Hotel and trying to snap some fun Instagramable photos. One day I will be instagram famous and get paid to go on these trips!

An instagramable picture outside the Palm Atlantis

We walked around the hotel, or at least the limited parts of it non-guests could access before eating at Ronda Locatelli. We shared gnocchi, pizza and had a couple of peroni’s. The restaurant was nice and food pretty good. Although a bit too much mozzarella foam on my gnocchi.

Next was mine and Laura’s first ever trip to an aquarium together – the Lost City of Atlantis. It was about £20 each to enter and I think pretty good. As this was the first I have been to since being a wee nipper I don’t have much to compare to. But there were plenty of exotic fish, a few sharks and lots of smiling stingrays. I think I heard that there are 65,000 fish in total in the aquarium, with 16,000 in one big tank.

The Lost City of Atlantis aquarium

After the aquarium we got the tram back to hotel to prepare for our big night out booked months ago.

A hair raising taxi ride to Burj Khalifa saw us dropped off at the wrong place. When we enquired how to get to the Armani hotel the lady at the desk said the only way in was to get another taxi! We headed out and had to go the long way round to the gate entrance. Entering did feel pretty special though as we wound down the back window of the taxi to tell the concierge that we had ‘a reservation for two at the Amal Armani.’ Laura took great pride in that pretentious moment.

Once in the hotel we could see Giorgio has a pretty good eye for interior design as the hotel was stunning. Oozing class and sophistication. He is less interested in the formalities of providing adequate livery and signage, so finding our way to the lounge for pre-dinner happy hour drinks was harder than anticipated.

Armani residents Dubai

Once we eventually got there we felt a little out of place and as I drank my pint of Peroni and Laura sipped away at her wine she kept lambasting me for my lack of decorum!

The bar was beautifully kitted out and our window seat gave us great views of the Burj fountains, but the best was yet to come. On a side note, astonishingly the beer and wine here was the cheapest we got all weekend due to the happy hour prices. 55 Dirham for both (£11.40).

An elevator up to the third floor for our 9.15 reservation at the Amal Armani restaurant. Laura had requested a seat on the terrace which meant we were sat outside overlooking the Burj fountains. Whilst this was a pricey part of the holiday and not something you could afford to do too often, the experience was definitely worth the money. The fountains, similar to Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas were spectacular. Dancing to the music that was piped through the restaurant and dropping with a thunderous crack. The service was first class and attentive, and the food presentation was amazing. The food itself tasted wonderful. This is an experience not to be missed if possible.

Stunning food presentation at the Amal ArmaniMore excellent food at Amal ArmaniLaura looking out on the Burj fountains during dinner

To cap off the evening we took a stroll around the Burj Khalifa to capture some first hand pictures of the world’s tallest building. It would have been nice to go to the top, but as I am afraid of heights and would have wanted to get back down no sooner than reaching the summit we decide the cost was too much.
The walk around the Burj Khalifa took our days walking up to an impressive 18km and we were ready for bed.

Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world!

Tuesday relaxation and the iconic Burj Al Arab

After breakfast at the hotel we hit the beach and stayed there till dinner back at the hotel pool bar. We then got the Tram and train to Emirates Mall station. From there we walked to Madinat Jumeirah as we had heard it was one of the best places to get a good view of the Burj Al Arab.

A quick walk around the Souks enabled us to buy our mandatory tourist bottle opener fridge magnet. This could have been a disaster as we had completely forgot to pick one up before seeing them here and a second trip to Dubai just to get a fridge magnet seems excessive.

This 5 star Madinat Jumeirah resort was out of our price range to book even a night at. But it was well worth a visit. There are a few classy hotels each with sensational swimming pools and private beaches set amongst beautiful lake and canal type waterways. These acted as the perfect complement to the views of the Burj Al Arab.

Burj Al Arab

We headed to the Bahri Bar, a recommendation from Lonely Planet guide, in time for it opening at 4pm. We were first in and had the place to ourselves for a good hour or so. The staff here were extremely friendly and attentive. I had a few more over priced beers whilst Laura tried the ‘Pure Romance’ Prosecco based cocktail. This bar was perfect. We sat sipping our evening away with brilliant views of Burj Al Arab as the sun set.

Burj Al Arab at night

It was ladies night at the bar, so ideally we would have liked to stay. For 99 Dirham, or the price of a pint and a half, Laura could have had unlimited drinks from 7pm. But unfortunately we needed to get back to the hotel and pack ready for the morning’s early start.

So we head back to hotel got ready for the next leg of our trip before going for some food. We walked around the Jumeirah Beach Residence area trying to find somewhere to eat. We ended up back near hotel at a Mexican called Poco Loco. It was okay but nothing special. Finally we ended our night with a few drinks at Tribeca before heading to bed in advance of our flight to Cape Town next morning.

Dubai tips and information

JA Ocean View hotel

Lovely hotel and solid base to get around the widespread city. Walking distance to the marina and only a stone throw away from the public beach and a plethora of restaurants along ‘The Walk’. The Jumeirah Beach Resident 2 tram stop just around the corner adds an element of convenience. Every room has an ocean view. The rooms are a great size. Tribeca seems like a fab bar. We had breakfast included and there was plenty of choice. I would definitely recommend this hotel.

Taxis in Dubai

The taxi drivers in Dubai are fast, furious and treat the journey like a NASCAR race. Driving full throttle up the arse of every car and weaving between traffic. In a city where everything else comes with a hefty price tag, they are however great value. A trip from the airport to the marina cost in the region of £20. Stick to the cream colour cars though as these are the city licensed ones that won’t rip you off.

Metro/tram network in Dubai

These are a great value way of getting around, but take a bit of getting used to. But there does always seem to be someone on hand to help. A return trip from the marina to Mall of Emirates was about £2.

Drinking in Dubai

If you are planning on a booze filled holiday or a mad stag do then Dubai probably isn’t the place to go. And it took us a while to get used to not being able to have an alcoholic drink with our food at restaurants that weren’t in hotels. But if you do want a drink they are readily available at many of the bars and restaurants attached to hotels. But be warned you will be lucky to get a pint for less than £10 and a glass of wine could set you back £17. If you happen to be the fairer sex then you will find lots of great offers on Tuesday nights. Tuesday is ladies night in many places and some places even offered free drinks to ladies!

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