With the nights drawing in, sun-starved Brits are craving some much-needed vitamin D. With so much up in the air, deciding on the perfect destination for that first big trip is a hard feat. However, things are reassurinngly Covid-secure in Dubai, and the UAE on a whole as we go into the New Year and dream of a getaway.
Nothing is overlooked and masks are mandatory in all enclosed public places, until you sit down for food of course. Social distancing is still practiced and people remain very respectful of space; with Dubai being the centre of the world and home to countless nationalities, people are aware of different boundaries and levels of comfort in regards to closeness. My room at Jumeirah Beach Hotel was laden with hand sanitisers, information on local rules and the staff could not have been more attentive from the moment I arrived. With azure Arabian Gulf views, endless sun, a long golden beach on the doorstep and sumptuous dining options, the five-star hotel is the perfect place to beat the blues this winter.
Yes, the flight is lenghtly – especially if you haven’t travelled far in the last two years but you can tick off every country in the world from the safety of one Emirate, ideal for those wanderlust cravings. This is particularly prominent in the mind-boggling array of world-class restaurants in Dubai that feature cuisine from Cannes to Chiclayo. My taste buds rejoiced after maxing out on the same boring Deliveroo order for the last 18 months. You can head to the breezy European style bistro, Cassette, in the atmospheric The Courtyard in Al Quoz for croissants, cold brew coffees and nomad working. During the sun-soaked days, chow down on contemporary Indian food at Bombay Bungalow by the beach, and, come evening, jump in a golf buggy and hop over to the other nearby Jumeirah hotel along the glittering coastline, Jumeirah al Qasr, and tick off Monte-Carlo at the ever-chic French Riviera restaurant.
For those distinctly Dubai moments that the glittering Emirate is famed for all over the world, I went first on an exhilarating Desert Safari Experience to thrash around in the endless dunes and learn about the local culture from the expert guides, before heading to SAL at Burj Al Arab for balmy sundowner cocktails, a hotel that is synonymous with luxury, hospitality, and decadence across the globe. With so much to take in, the Dubai Frame is a great way of bridging the gap between old and new. The monument offers panoramic views of the entire city with its futuristic skyscrapers touching the clouds right across to the older section of the Emirate located near the river that has remained the same for generations.
Looking to be totally transported? Dubai Old Town on the banks of the creek takes the top spot. Gypsum buildings have been beautifully restored to their original glory, complete with wind towers that cast a contrasting silhouette to the modern skyline. Start at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and learn about the rich cultural history of the past and also of the present. Perch on Bedouin-style carpets and pillows, and feast on a selection of delicious dishes whilst your local host answers questions about life in the UAE. With its motto ‘Open Doors, Open Minds’ – all questions are welcome and answered, no matter how sensitive. I left feeling humbled and thoughtful, before being thrown back into the hustle and bustle almost straight away in the kaleidoscopic gold, spice and textile souks.
The energy and forward-looking feeling in the Emirate was received like a welcome tonic after months of reminiscing in lockdown about what life used to be like. As we flew over the silver metropolis on a Seawings Seaplane Tour there was a buzz of construction of brand new restaurants, new hotels, and new homes. One to watch is the opening in 2022 of Atlantis The Royal Resort & Residences which will be made up of a staggering 231 luxury apartments, 693 hotel rooms and 102 suites. The hotel will exclusively host restaurants helmed by international celebrity chefs, including Gaston Acurio, Costas Spiliadis, Ariana Bundy, Heston Blumenthal and Jose Andres.
Our trip ended with an exquisite meal at Cé La Vi as we toasted how far travel has come and gazed up at the astonishing Burj Khalifa in all its glory. We clinked our glasses with the restaurant’s name on our lips 220 metres above sea level and sipped on one of the famous ‘Not You Last Word’ cocktails (or two!).
Travelbag offers five nights in Dubai staying in the 5* Jumeirah Beach Hotel on a half board basis from £1,479 including direct return flights from London Heathrow with Emirates. Selected January 2022 travel. Based on two adults sharing. To book, Call Travelbag on 0207 001 4112 or visit www.travelbag.co.uk. All packages subject to availability. Free unlimited access to Wild Wadi Waterpark™
For more information, see visitdubai.com