Checking Into Dubai

By Susannah George - 15 Sep 2013

No other city suffers from split personality disorder quite like Dubai. From a glamorous woman strutting her way through a megamall, gold iPhone in one hand and a limited-edition Louis Vuitton in the other, to a city steeped in tradition, where one literally steps back in time. Here, locals sit smoking shisha, people barter over spices in the souks, and abras (water taxis) chug across waters with stunning mosques in the background.

If you find yourself with a two-day stopover, why not split your days between the old and the new. We get the inside word from Dubai expat, Annie Buchanan. Annie, co-owner of the beautiful Sydney fashion boutique Poepke with business partner Nicola Lie, has called Dubai home for the past five and a half years.

Day One Middle East Modernity:
Spend your first day gawping wide-eyed at world-dominating skyscrapers, glitzy beach resorts, monolith shopping malls and indoor snow skiing . . . of course. 

Start the day with a trip to Jumeirah Beach and check out the iconic sail-shaped beach resort, the Burj Al Arab, before a look at the stunning architecture of Jumeirah Mosque. Fill up on mezze for lunch at AL Nafoorah at the decadent Jumeirah Zabeel Saray resort.

Dedicate the afternoon to shopping, starting with the some 1200 stores (and aquarium) at The Dubai Mall. Just next door is the 828m high steel-and-glass Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world. Ride to the 124th floor to the observation platform, At the Top, for incredible views. You're not done yet, head over to the massive Mall of The Emirates for more credit card bashing as well as hitting the slopes at the indoor ski runs. Rest your weary legs over a cocktail or two at 360º bar, while taking in more views of the Burj Al Arab.

Day Two A Glimpse of the Past:

There's more to the Middle East megalopolis than malls and skyscrapers. Spend day two taking a peek at Dubai's past.

Annie tells us, "One thing I always get our visitors to do is the cultural breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding. Set in a traditional Bastakiya house, they serve traditional breakfast and then you have the opportunity to speak to a local Emirati to ask any questions on religion, local dress etc."

After breakfast, make your way to the Deira souks to stock up on cheap gold, juicy dates and colourful spices, before jumping on an abra for a ride down Dubai Creek. Annie recommends, "For lunch overlooking the water, head to the Bur Dubai where the Arabic restaurant, Bayt Al Wakeel, serves mint tea and falafel."

Spend the afternoon checking out contemporary art at the XVA Gallery before wandering around the labyrinthine lanes of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood and peering into the traditional houses, then end your Dubai trip by dining at the city's best Persian restaurant, Shabestan.

Secret Shopping Tips:
Annie is in the know when it comes to Dubai's best shopping secrets. 

"Some of my favourites for clothing are IF Boutique, which is in a stand-alone villa in Umm Suqeim and stocks Ann Demeulemeester, Comme des Garçons, Tsumori Chisato, Yohji Yamamoto and a whole lot more goodness. Garderobe is a vintage and pre-loved store where you can pick up heaps of amazing designer bargains. And for homewares, this amazing shop has just opened called Comptoir102, it is owned by two French ladies and stocks a beautiful combination of home décor, jewellery and art."

Where to Stay:
This will all depend on what 'personality' of Dubai you prefer to spend your time with. XVA Art Hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel located in the historic area of Bur Dubai, where each room has been designed by a different artist. Or for total beachside luxury, you can't go past Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on Palm Island, complete with saltwater pool and Turkish hammam.

Above: the XVA Art Hotel

Above: Jumeirah Zabeel Saray 

Image credits Dubdai overview: paulokellercasual

Image credit The Dubai Mall Aquarium: Double Apple Shisha
Image credit the XVA Art Hotel: The Randomer
Image credit Jumeirah Zabeel Saray resort: The Lux Traveller
Image credit Jumeirah Zabeel Saray resort: Roopam Attari

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