I only had 24 hours in Dubai and wanted to see as much as I could so was delighted when Mohammed, my Arabian Adventures guide, tailored my whistle-stop tour to perfection. I took in the visionary ruler Sheik Mohammed’s palace, the museum, the Jumeirah mosque and the trip across Dubai Creek to the famous souk shopping district all before lunch. He had the best inside info ever – even bus stops in Dubai (which has great public transport) are air-conditioned, there’s free Wi-Fi on the beaches and in the Old Town, you can get a whole grilled chicken with hummus and salad for $10.
On my way home to New Zealand after weeks away, a late last night in London and a short flight, the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray was truly an oasis in the desert. Inspired by the imperial palaces of the Ottoman era, this five-star hotel on Palm Island oozes glamour and grandeur, with charming service, an infinity pool and a smorgasbord of dining opportunities (including yummy Turkish restaurant Lalezar and a breakfast fit for actual kings). What I loved most, though, was my room. Huge and cool, with a vast bathroom and a view of the pool and sea, I loved my bed so much, I’d have brought it with me had it fit in my bag.
And then there was the hotel’s Talise Ottoman Spa. At its huge, palatial heart lies a Turkish bath, or hammam, and it was here I was led by hand, laid on a mosaic slab, covered in warm water, scrubbed, soaped, massaged and rinsed. Relaxing afterwards in my fluffy white robe, drinking tea and munching fresh dates, I had to wonder if I’d died and gone to heaven. Pampering at its finest.
If you’re a shopaholic or a celeb, you’ll already know about Dubai Mall – it’s like a city in itself, complete with Vegas-style pool and fountain at one entrance. Not only does this 2.4 million-hectare shopping extravaganza have all the chains you’d expect, plus the top-end designers, but it also has outposts of Bloomingdales and Marks & Spencer, and an aquarium. You can even “fly” an A380 airplane in a 30-minute simulated adventure here. I also stumbled on one of my favourite Paris institutions: Angelina, the historic chocolate store and café otherwise found on Rue de Rivoli in the French capital. What more could a girl ask for?
I’m a big fan of the A380s that Qantas and their code-share partner Emirates fly to and from Dubai and beyond. I love the free 30 kilograms of luggage and although a fussy eater, I cleaned my plate every mealtime. And while I was lucky enough to fly Premium Economy on one leg (always worth it if you can wangle it), the Economy seats in the A380 seem bigger and better than in other planes. Despite spending 14 hours in one, I had no complaints, not even from my bottomly parts. A word of warning, though – the world’s largest aircraft do seem to board early so make sure you get to the gate at least 40 minutes before departure time. Nobody wants the last-minute panic of hearing their final call while they’re shopping – and Dubai Airport, just like everything else here, is bigger and better than most.