HANG OUT WITH HIPSTERS
A few years ago, Dubai didn’t have hipsters, but now it does and Box Park is where most of them hang out. There are restaurants, art installations, pop-ups and niche little shops selling everything from bicycles to stationery; if you start to overheat, grab a mandarin sorbet at Italian gelateria Grom. Check out the Box Park website before you go for special events and offers.
HIT THE CITY’S HOTTEST BEACH CLUB
Recently opened beach park La Mer is a bit of an Instagrammer’s dream, with hammocks in the sea, showers that look like beach huts, and fairy lights strung up everywhere. It’s free to visit, very family-friendly and has lots of cafés and restaurants. Hire a day bed or upgrade to a cabana if you need shade.
SHOP — BUT NOT IN A MALL
Set out like a private house, Comptoir 102 sells a brilliantly curated selection of homewares, fashion, furniture, gifts, art books and jewellery. Spend a happy hour browsing before eating at the café from a seasonal menu of healthy and delicious dishes. Ingredients are sourced from local organic farms – and the avocado crostini and vegan chocolate mousse are particularly good.
Where is Dubai?
HAVE A NIGHT AT THE THEATRE
Opened in 2016 and designed by Danish architect Janus Rostock, the soaring Dubai Opera is based on the shape of a traditional Arabian dhow. With seating for 2,000, the internal space is modular; moving walls, floors and ceilings allow for different configurations from the epic to the intimate. Book early as shows, which include musicals, ballet, comedy and, of course, opera, often sell out.
FOLLOW THE LESSER-KNOWN DESERT PATH
Skip the clichéd tourist day trip to go dune bashing and get back to nature instead. Unseen Trails bring groups to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to fly falcons, spot oryx and gazelles, and plant indigenous ghaf trees, before settling down to a delicious picnic. Take the early-morning tour if you don’t like the heat.
Dubai — who says it’s a cultural desert?
Everyone loves a farmers’ market and Ripe is Dubai’s version of a perennial favourite. What started out as a few stalls selling organic vegetables has expanded into a genuine weekend destination with three different locations dotted around the city. Checking out the food trucks, local crafts, jewellery and free yoga sessions can easily take up a whole morning.
FILL UP ON ARCHITECTURE AND ART
It’s an hour-and-a-half drive from Dubai to the Louvre Abu Dhabi but it’s well worth the trip. Firstly, Jean Nouvel’s building is staggeringly impressive, revealing itself slowly to the visitor before culminating in a cathedral-like space topped with a domed lattice-work ceiling. And secondly, the art is manageable; exquisite pieces from Ancient Egypt and works by contemporary artists such as Ai Weiwei make for a very doable whistle-stop tour.
Abu Dhabi: travel tips
SETTLE IN FOR SUNDOWNERS AND SNACKS
As well as having one of the best rooftops for sunset views of the city, Folly by Nick & Scott at Souk Madinat Jumeirah also serves fantastic food – as you might expect from two chefs who spent 15 years working for Gordon Ramsay. Create your own tasting menu from the selection of small plates, which include seared lamb with whipped pine-nut salsa and roe-deer tartare with crispy shallots and Worcestershire-sauce gel. During happy hour glasses of prosecco come with ice lollies in them. What’s not to love?
SEEK OUT THE SMARTEST SPA
If your budget doesn’t stretch to staying at the recently opened Bulgari Hotel, book a spa day there for some well-earned downtime. Most indulgent is the 90-minute hammam treatment, in which you’ll be washed with black soap infused with orange blossom, rose and argan oil, before being scrubbed, moisturised and stretched for a feeling of complete holiday bliss (the heated marble you lie on is sensational).
WORK UP AN APPETITE FOR MEZZE
It’s easy to lose sight of the authentic Middle East among all the glitz and glamour that most people associate with Dubai, but going on a walking food tour through the old town is the perfect antidote. Join Frying Pan Adventures to wander the busy streets, tasting dishes from Lebanese, Yemini and Palestinian cafés and restaurants; Dubai started life as a port so its food heritage is rich and varied.
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A fast-paced ride through Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter
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