Dubai might not be on your radar for a lazy, sweltering winter holiday – it’s a fair bit further than the Canaries and Spain – but for the year-round sun, which can reach 28°C in December, it’s hard to beat.
There aren’t any green hills that reflect green in the sea, but it sparkles under that wide, azure sky and there’s plenty of pool and beach life.
And after a morning sunbath, there’s nothing better than strolling along the sparkling Dubai Creek waterfront and marina, and snooping around the chic outlets.
Our base was Caesars Palace on Bluewaters Island, near the Creek and Old Town, the Al Fahidi neighborhood. Talking about Dubai’s history feels counter-intuitive when the city has soared higher than Manhattan on the sands of the Arabian Desert, but there are written records of Dubai dating back to the 10th century with the Creek as its historical heart.
Lazy days: Sandra Howard checked into Caesars Palace, which is overlooked by Ain Dubai, the world’s tallest observation wheel
In 1937 the first plane en route from Southampton to Karachi landed there and the Creek played its part in World War II with eight flying boats using it as a stopover on their war journeys east each week.
Housed in the city’s oldest building, the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787, the Dubai Museum showcases beading and diving equipment from before the discovery of Dubai’s oil. The Arabian Tea House is an elegant pit stop with 150 types of tea to choose from, served alongside the traditional dish of chickpeas.
Though a tiny fishing village for centuries, Dubai has a proud history of pearl fishing. A magnificent 8,000-year-old specimen was recently discovered and is now on display at the Abu Dhabi Louvre.
Caesars Palace is located on Dubai’s Bluewaters Island, near the Creek and the old town, Al Fahidi district
Above is Venus Ristorante, the hotel’s Mediterranean restaurant that “lived up to expectations.”
Dubai pearls were traded from Rome to India and beyond. In the 16th century, Gasparo Balbi, the state jeweler of Venice, wrote about their high quality, while in London the jeweler Cartier praised their quality. Pearl fishing kept the village afloat economically, but with only about one in 60 oysters yielding anything of value, it was a fragile business. Divers were attacked by sharks and drowned in large numbers as they had to tie a rock to one of their feet to sink to the seabed.
The city’s phenomenal growth over the past century has been truly amazing: it is now home to more than two million expats and 34,000 Emiratis.
It’s worth boarding an abra, one of the traditional wooden sailing boats that zip around the creek between Dubai and Deira, to enjoy the gleaming white of the yachts and the bobbing small boats.
Pictured are traditional abras, wooden sailboats, zipping around the creek between Dubai and Deira
Back on land in Deira, there are plenty of traditional markets and souks to explore, although many are closed for long lunches, so maybe it’s time to have one of your own.
A staggering £20 billion is spent in Dubai’s hotels and restaurants every year. You’re certainly spoiled for choice, but we’ve had our most delicious culinary adventures at our hotel.
Just three years old, Caesars Palace is an elegant complex of two interconnected hotels, Palace and Julius, with well-appointed rooms. The staff was impeccable and the restaurants lived up to expectations.
Sandra enjoyed a ride on the Ain Dubai (pictured). “We loved the whole experience, from the slightly hairy affair of hopping aboard one of the moving pods, to the steady climb to reach stunning views of the city and sparkling sea far below.”
For British-American cuisine, try Gordon Ramsay-inspired Hell’s Kitchen, famous for its Beef Wellington, but the big hit for me was its seared scallops and lobster risotto. Enjoy the Mediterranean Sea at Venus Ristorante overlooking the illuminated Venus Pool and the bay of the Arabian Gulf.
Evenings are enhanced with pre-dinner rum cocktails at the atmospheric Havana Social Club.
You’re just a four-minute walk from Ain Dubai, the city’s much larger and more magnificent answer to the London Eye – at 250 meters it’s the tallest in the world and almost twice the height of the London Eye. We loved the whole experience, from the somewhat hairy affair of hopping aboard one of the moving pods, to the steady climb to reach stunning views of the city and sparkling sea far below.
We shared the capsule with other couples and an Emirati family. We took pictures of each other, the father carefully posed us and did a much better job than us. Nice memories for all of us.