The soundtrack to my whistle-stop trip to Dubai was the annoyingly catchy Everything Is Awesome from The Lego Movie.
I couldn’t get the tune out of my head because from the moment I boarded the plane to when I returned to Blighty everything was, well, you know, AWESOME!
And here are some of the reasons why:
- We flew on the world’s biggest passenger plane with the ”world’s best economy class”;
We stayed on the world’s biggest man-made island, shaped like a palm tree;
Our opulent hotel featured the Middle East’s biggest spa, plus views to the world’s biggest ferris wheel;
- Our seaplane ride gave us views of the world’s tallest building and world’s largest ‘picture frame’.
- And we admired the world’s heaviest gold ring in the markets.
Our small group of journalists stayed two nights at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, a hotel on The Palm Jumeirah, a true wonder of modern engineering.
Opened in 2006, at a cost of £12 billion, and stretching three miles into the Arabian Gulf, it doubled the length of Dubai’s coastline at a stroke.
The road from the mainland is the ‘trunk’, eight ‘fronds’ either side are home to luxury villas, and the outer crescents are filled with five-star hotels.
The only place to appreciate the size of The Palm Jumeirah is from the air and we were lucky enough to buckle up for a 20-minute sea plane flight over the city.
Taking off from Dubai Creek, the lifeblood of old Dubai, we also got a bird’s eye view of The World, a project even more fanciful than The Palm.
It’s a vast collection of artificial islands in the approximate shape of a map of the world, although so far only a few have been developed.
Then we flew over the iconic Burj Al Arab, a ‘seven-star’ hotel on its own man-made island that’s shaped like a billowing sail, with curves in all the right places.
At 321m, it is higher than the Eiffel Tower and until 2007 it was the tallest hotel in the world. Its helipad and restaurant seem suspended in mid-air.
Flying at an altitude of around 450m, we were still nearly 400m below the tip of the Burj Khalifa, easily the world’s tallest building with 160 floors.
Its needle-like outline soars high above the many other skyscrapers in Downtown Dubai – acting as a true symbol of the city’s towering ambitions.
We also flew over the world renowned QE2 cruise ship which will soon reopen its doors as a floating entertainment and hotel destination.
Finally, we swooped around the golden Dubai Frame, the city’s newest attraction, which is 150m high and 93m wide, with a glass walkway on top.
The plane landed parallel to the beautifully manicured Dubai Creek Golf Club with its huge, modernist club house inspired by the sails of a traditional boat.
After our flight we took the short taxi ride to the gold souk in Deira which, with 100 shops, gives Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter a run for its money.
Amid all the bling you can’t miss the Najmat Taiba (Star of Taiba) ring, which weighs 63kg – made up of 58kg of 21 carat gold and 5kg of precious stones.
Too big for even the BFG’s fingers, if Dubai ever produced a world champion heavyweight boxer, I can imagine him using the ring as his belt.
Not far from the souk is the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, most useful in a place where 90 per cent of the population are expats.
We joined visitors of many different nationalities for a traditional buffet lunch while our host fielded questions about Emerati culture, customs and religion.
At the end of a busy day it was nice to return to the luxurious Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel, which has the ability to make all its guests feel like sheikhs.
Opened in 2011, it is designed in the style of an Arabian palace, and my ‘deluxe’ room came with a marble bath so deep, long and wide it took forever to fill.
Looking back across the water from my balcony I could see some impressive sights.
At 210m high, The Dubai Eye is a whopping 75m taller than The London Eye and will be able to carry 1,400 passengers at a time when it opens at the end of the year.
I could also marvel at the skyscrapers of Dubai Marina (which until 10 years ago was dessert) including one which twists impossibly through 90 degrees.
The hotel has eight show-stopping restaurants offering signature dishes from around the world, plus a cinema, a kids’ club with mini water park, and shops in the ”avenue of indulgence”.
But the jewel in its opulent crown is the spectacular Talise Ottoman Spa, where guests are free to use the salt water pool, the jucuzzis, saunas, steam rooms and snow room.
Yes, there’s snow in it!
There are no fewer than 42 treatment rooms. Treatments cost extra and the most expensive includes a facial which uses a 24-carat gold chain mail mask.
I spent the following day on the hotel’s private beach and in its huge infinity pool, then walked some of the boardwalk that stretches the entire 11km length of The Palm’s crescents.
That evening we watched a stunning show in a purpose built theatre called La Perle, which takes the best of traditional and modern circus and gives it a fresh twist.
Using 2.7 million litres of water, there are some jaw-dropping aerial and aquatic stunts and no fewer than five motorcycle stunt riders in a ‘Globe of Death’.
After the show we made tracks for the coast, where the ultimate in romantic meals awaited us at Dubai’s premiere seafood and Mediterranean restaurant..
Pierchic is at the end of its own lengthy wooden pier and offers close up views of the Burj Al Arab hotel, which come night fall glows every colour of the rainbow.
Perhaps it was the views (or the fancy cocktails) but it genuinely felt like I was having the best meal of my life (apart from all those cooked by my wife, of course) .
It was the perfect end to a couple of eye-popping days in Dubai, days in which we’d barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer.
There is so much more to discover in the city of Guinness World Records.
Pierchic, with views towards Burj Al Arab
I flew with Emirates to Dubai on board a double-decker Airbus A380-800, which seats up to 644 passengers.
Emirates has its own terminal in Dubai International, exclusively for its passengers. You can fly there direct from Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, London and Dublin.
It was voted ”Best Airline in the World” in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Awards and ”World’s Best Inflight Entertainment” 13 years running at the Skytrax World Airline Awards.
There’s in-flight wi-fi and passengers can take their pick from thousands of movies and TV shows, listen to all their favourite music or play games,
And with live feeds from cameras placed on top and below the plane, plus read-outs of speed and altitude, it feels like you’re in a flight simulator.