If you haven’t gone big in Dubai, you haven’t done it right. Here are the top five experiences that let you get into the extravagant spirit of the emirate. By Adila Matra
The emirate of Dubai is full of surprises. You don’t know what to expect around the corner—a futuristic metro station, a humongous mall, or a rustic Arabic market. It is this dichotomy of old and new that draws tourists to this emirate. There’s something for everyone, be it the poet in search of nostalgia and old-world charm, or the free-spending tourist seeking the high-living.
I had already done the former, so I decided to scout the city’s luxury offerings over a weekend. Here are my top five recommendations from the extremely extravagant trip.
1) Tickets To Sorcery
Dubai’s first resident show, La Perle can only be described as otherworldly. Settle comfortably in the colossal aqua theatre in Al Habtoor City, which provides 270-degree seating, and be wowed by the magic of Franco Dragone, the mastermind behind shows like The House of Dancing Water in Macau and Le Reve in Las Vegas. He fuses technology with imagery and stunts—every surface becomes a screen, there are giant cycloramas and captivating music resonating from the walls and the seats. The storyline pays tribute to the spirit of Dubai and transports you to another world for two hours. Torrential rainfall with strobes of lightning and a cascading waterfall give you goosebumps. Artistes dive 25 metres into an onstage pool at times, and at others, drive motorcycles that seem to defy gravity. Just when you think you have seen it all, giant marionettes and chariots appear on stage to disband you from reality once again. Visual spectacle is an understatement!
2) Tropical Adventure
Imagine a tropical rainforest in the middle of a desert. Yes, Dubai makes even the unthinkable a reality. Case in point is the Green Planet, an indoor rainforest with over 3,000 species of flora and fauna. Housed within a glass dome, this green haven is centred around a 20-metre tall man-made Kapok tree. The rainforest is spread over four levels—the Canopy, the Midstory, the Forest Floor and the Flooded Rainforest. Amazon parrots and toucans fly overhead and stingrays and piranhas peek at you from behind glass enclosures as you enter. As you climb up the wooden bridge, there is a gurgling stream, squeaky squirrels glide on the branches of the Kapok and many other natural trees. Visit the kings of the night—fruit bats—in a well-preserved bat cave and observe as weaver ants from Australia follow their queen in the Midstory.
3) Date In The Skies
It is not every day that you get to be a bird on Dubai’s skyline, soaring above the Burj Khalifa and spotting the many tiny furrows on the vast sea that laps its shores. That is why a helicopter ride over the city is a must for every luxe traveller. Take off in a helicopter from the HeliDubai Jumeirah Heliport and fly at a height of 1,500 feet. The 17-minute flight is a visual delight—the helicopter skims past the majestic Burj and hovers over the Palm Jumeirah. The pilot also points towards Dubai’s next architectural marvel—the World Islands. But the most spellbinding sight of all is the deep blue of Dubai’s beaches—it fills your eyes and heart.
4) Feast Like Royalty
Docked permanently at Dubai’s Mina Rashid port is a ship that has witnessed many wars, love stories, and musical soirées in the 50 years of its life on the sea until it retired in 1969. QE2, designed by the Cunard Line, for the transatlantic service from her home port of Southampton, the UK to New York, is now a floating hotel and retired ocean liner, with practical and comfortable rooms and elegantly appointed suites. Located on the quarter deck of this legendary ship, Lido offers an unmatched deal—an al fresco dining experience and amazing views of the sea. After a hearty breakfast of salads, sausages, freshly baked bread, and crisp waffles, walk aboard the QE2 and envisage its glorious days—when its patrons like Nelson Mandela, Elizabeth Taylor, Buzz Aldrin, and David Bowie engaged in light banter over a glass of their favourite drink.
5) Top Of The World
End your day with a trip to the highest floor in 160-storeyed Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on earth. As the elevator whizzes up to the observation deck on the 148th floor—the highest one in the world—be prepared for the view, for it is sure to evoke a gasp. A billion twinkling lights as far as your eyes can see, and a sea of skyscrapers make you feel like you are on top of the world. Click selfies or just gaze at the beauty called Dubai. The famous musical fountain turns even more magical when seen from here, and everything else seems trivial.