So, you and your girlfriends have been handed a pass by the other half to leave him and the kids behind, and head off for a girls’ weekend. But where to go, that ticks all the boxes of glamour, sophistication, sunshine and shopping? Especially, if that ‘pass’ happens to be in the middle of a cold and dreary November.
Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates is just a seven hour flight from London and is the perfect weekend getaway, offering all the above and more. It’s also safe, impeccably clean, and there’s something to suit all budgets.
How to spend 72 hours in Dubai.
Day 1. Arrive on your evening flight and head straight to your hotel (taxis from the airport are super cheap and plentiful), Check in, freshen up, and head out for dinner at The Observatory on the 52nd floor at the Marriott Harbour Hotel in Dubai Marina. It has some of the best views of the famous Palm Jumeirah and the marina itself, and is a great place for a few group snaps and selfies!
Retire for a nightcap in one of the many drinking holes in and around the Marina such as the Buddha Bar at Grosvenor House, or for something more casual and beachy, Barasti Beach Bar adjacent to Le Meridien Mina Seyahi is good for a bop and reasonably priced drinks (note: most licensed bars are situated within hotel grounds, with a few notable exceptions).
Day 2. After a leisurely breakfast, time to head to the pool or beach at your hotel to catch some much needed sun rays. If you want to act like a local, ask a taxi driver to take you to ‘Kite Beach’ one of the only public beaches in Dubai, along Jumeirah Beach Road and gives you a fabulous view of the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel.
Afterwards, reward yourself with a refreshing cuppa and slice of the famous chocolate brownie at the Lime Tree Café further along the same road, a hotspot for expats and locals alike. Tonight book yourself a table at Bateaux Dubai at the Creek, a floating gastronomic delight which glides along the old shoreline with its trading dhow boats to give you a taste of what old Dubai used to be like.
Day 3. If it’s a Friday, then it’s ‘Brunch’ day in Dubai! An institution in the Emirates on Friday (it’s the first day of the weekend), head to one of the many advertised brunches which normally start around 12 noon for a wonderful all you can eat and drink buffet. Budgets vary depending on location and drinks package (everything from Moet & Chandon to house wine and beer or non-alcoholic), but a few noteworthy ones include: Bubbalicious at the Westin, which includes fine food and entertainment, Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, consistently voted one of the best, and Saffron, Atlantis the Palm with free entry into Atlantis’ nightclub for the post-brunch after party. The unwritten rule for most brunches though, is ‘dress to impress’.
If your agenda for post brunch is more sedate, it’s a nice time to relax and unwind at one of the many spas, or, if you’re not inebriated, head out to the sand dunes for a desert safari in a 4x4 or to Skydive Dubai and jump out of a plane over the Palm for a once in a lifetime experience!
Day 4. Before catching your evening flight home, it’s time for some shopping! Your direction is Dubai Mall, but make sure you pick up a map from one of the many information stands and plan your shopping to save very achy feet from the miles of retail avenues. Everything from Armani to Zara is inside this mall, oh, and that’s not to mention the giant aquarium, amazing indoor waterfall and ice rink it also includes! When your bags are too heavy to carry anymore, head to one of the outdoor cafes by the fountains such as Wafi Gourmet for a ringside seat to watch the magnificent choreographed to music fountains when they come to life from 6pm (and then every 30 minutes after).
Alternatively, head to Karama in the old part of Dubai, where you can’t help but be lured into the many shops offering fake designer goods. Even if you have no intention of buying from the persistent salesmen who waft very ‘real’ looking Chanel handbags in your path, it’s certainly worth going for the entertainment.
From here it’s not far to jump into a cab to the old spice souk for a taste of authentic Middle Eastern fare. As someone very wise once said, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. For a huge choice of diamonds and other precious stones, gold, silver and everything in between, head to the Gold and Diamond Park situated next to Mall of the Emirates on Sheikh Zayed Road.
A favourite haunt of local expats and tourists alike is Cara, offering stunning pieces perfect for every occasion at great value for money, with exceptional service.
If your feet are aching from all that shopping head to one of Dubai’s hundreds of beauty salons for a quick indulgent pedicure, or combine it with a mani too for around 100Dirhams (about £22). You’ll be in and out the door in an hour. My recommendation: Tips & Toes, multiple locations. You can even request a therapist giving you an in-chair head and shoulder massage at the same time, so you’ll be relaxed, refreshed and ready for your overnight flight home, after one of the best weekends you and your girlfriends could ask for!
Good to know: Holidaying in Dubai is no different to any other popular sun spot in Europe or the Western world. You can sunbathe, go to a bar or club as you would anywhere. However, as the UAE is a Muslim country, visitors should be respectful of customs reflecting this way of life. Visitors should dress modestly in public areas such as shopping malls and near mosques and different festivals are celebrated throughout the year which may have an impact in some way on visits to the UAE. Ask me for more details.