A delightful crossroads of spices, smells and colours

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 December, 2010, 12:00am

Whether as a destination in itself, a hub for the Middle East, or as a stopping-off point en route to Europe, Africa or further afield, Dubai is a magnet for tourism. Visitors find themselves entranced by Dubai's growing number of attractions, from trophy architectural projects to natural wonders and exciting experiences.

Barely a week goes by without something new opening. Just last month, One&Only The Palm - Dubai's smartest beach resort - threw open its doors, showcasing luxurious guestrooms, an all-suite spa and a trio of restaurants conjured up by Michelin-star chef Yannick All?no.

'Middle Eastern cuisine is a crossroads of spices, smells, colours and tastes,' All?no says. 'I had to really immerse myself in the products and local flavours before being able to produce a contemporary cuisine that suits this specific clientele.'

A crossroads of spices, smells, colours and tastes could well sum up Dubai, too, having grown from a backwater port to one of the most glittering destinations in the world in a few decades.

The 828-metre Burj Khalifa dominates the city physically and as a symbol of Dubai's achievements. A super-fast lift hurtles up to the observation deck which provides jaw-dropping panoramas out over the Gulf and even as far away as Iran.

One of the great pleasures of Dubai is the contrast of old and new. Traditional wooden sailing dhows still dock at Dubai Creek, and a gentle half-hour's trip aboard an abra (a boat) is to gain an insight into the heart of the city.

Time for a change of gear, specifically at the new Ferrari World, which is less than an hour's drive from Dubai, and the world's largest indoor theme park. The Formula Rossi is the fastest ride ever built - reaching speeds of 240km/h - and there's a host of gravity defying thrills, and 3D experiences.

Dubai's always hot, peaking at about 40 degrees Celsius in July and August. There's no better way to cool down than a day at Wild Wadi Waterpark - or the newer Aquaventure. They are awash with wave pools, surf simulators and smoothly flowing rivers.

A trip beyond the city limits is a must. An afternoon's wadi bashing - roaring up and down the sand dunes in a 4x4 - is usually followed by dinner at a Bedouin encampment, with quad biking, camel rides and belly dancing.

For anyone in search of a more gentle sandy experience, Jumeirah Beach Park is the answer. There's an entrance fee of five dirhams (HK$10.5), but you get an immaculate beach with shade, picnic tables, volleyball courts and showers. To escape the sun, duck into Dubai Museum, which is housed in an 18th-century fort. The recreation of the old-time market is so authentic you can even smell the piles of spices.

From old markets, to more modern trading places: Dubai's gold souk is somewhere to drop by. The city's primary source of retail therapy is Dubai Mall, which neighbours Burj Khalifa.