For most travelers, the United Arab Emirates calls to mind futuristic skylines where sci-fi towers pierce the clouds and indoor malls shelter racetracks and ski slopes. Each winter I spend most of January in the UAE to escape the cold weather in New York. I plot out a “city, sea and sand” experience which includes: visiting with my sister who lives in Abu Dhabi, a camping excursion in the Arabian desert, and spending a few days in Dubai to indulge in all of the gold and glitz it has to offer. Here’s my cheat sheet for a magical trip to the Middle East.
1. The Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach provides a beachfront sanctuary overlooking the Arabian Gulf with close access to shopping and entertainment in downtown Dubai. Plus, you don’t have to leave the hotel to indulge in the city’s hottest restaurants: Sea Fu, Coya, Nusr-et, and Jean-Georges.
2. Arabian Nights Village is nestled between the pristine sand dunes of Al Khatim [about 70 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi]. Offering the experience of a traditional bedouin dwelling, in addition to luxurious modern amenities, the Village offers an authentic experience of real desert life in huts and tents. The desert is your playground where you can ride camels, rev up a quad bike, or ride shotgun with a dune bashing professional driver.
1. Al Mahara [The Oyster Shell in Arabic] restaurant in the Burj Al Arab hotel doesn’t just tantalize your palate with 5-star cuisine, it’s a dining experience that stimulates all your senses. A 700K gallon floor to ceiling aquarium takes center stage at the best seafood restaurant in Dubai.
2. If you love a beach BBQ, the outdoor BBQ Al Qasr restaurant in Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace will blow your mind. The scent of char-grilled steaks wafts through tented tables sprinkled along a white sandy beach overlooking the Arabian Sea.
1. Shopping Dubai’s Old Souk will take you back in time. The open-air marketplace is lined with stalls of global goodies from Morocco, India, Turkey offering pillows, poufs, spices, and textiles.
2. Camel riding should be at the top of the bucket list on any trip to the UAE. Many of the desert resorts will have their own herd of camels, but my favorite views from the top of the hump are at Al-Maha.