United Arab Emirates
Kite Beach, Jumeirah
Best known for its prime kitesurfing conditions, hence the name, this busy beach has something for everyone: Try your hand at the water sports (rentals available on the spot) or simply relax and take in the beautiful views of the Burj Al Arab. In addition, there's a dedicated kids area with trampolines, a climbing gym, and a skate park—plus favorite food joint, Salt. And if your phone is running low on juice, there are charging stations right on the beach.
Sharjah + Ajman
Dubai's northern border is shared with the emirate of Sharjah, and right above Sharjah sits the emirate of Ajman—both within driving distance should you want to see more of the UAE. Visiting Sharjah is a really interesting contrast to staying in Dubai—known as a more conservative emirate, Sharjah is dry (meaning absolutely no alcohol) and calls for modest dress (leave your crop top in Dubai/inside your suitcase). It's really a place to go to discover and learn about authentic Islamic culture. The historic old town is captivating; there are markets and souks to browse (that feel less touristy than the Dubai variation), and where you can see traditional Bedouin jewelry. Sharjah has a number of quality museums, including the smartly curated Museum of Islamic Civilization, which is in a converted souk on the water. Sharjah is also known for its three lagoons, and Al Majaz amphitheater event venue. Sharjah's northern neighbor, Ajman, is the smallest of the seven emirates and very scenic; Dubai locals come here for a weekend beach getaway. Also here: Ajman Museum—the former ruler residence/late eighteenth-century fort now serves as a glimpse into the emirate's past,…
The Gold & Spice Souks
Al Ras, Deira
Just across the creek from Al Fahidi/Bur Dubai—you can hop on a boat taxi for a ride—are the old city's souks. Both a quintessential Dubai experience and an incredibly touristy activity that many will say you must do while here, visiting the gold and spice markets can be overwhelming, so if you're going, steel your senses. Sellers are constantly calling out to passerby, trying to entice them to enter their storefront out of all the other nearly indistinguishable adjacent shops. It's standard to haggle—the original price is rarely what a customer pays—and you'll generally get a better deal if you ask for prices in the local AED currency. (Almost all the vendors take credit card, which is convenient.) That said, it's exciting when you find what feels like your treasure among the souks—the gold market is a mecca for gifts to return home with. You'll also see some primarily silver shops mixed in here, plus accessories, Arabian-style shoes and clothing. The spice market is a little quieter, and it can be interesting talking to some of the vendors about the diverse array of spices they have on hand. (Or,…
Abd El Wahab
Souq Al Bahar, Downtown
Although Abd El Wahab is technically located inside shopping mall Souk Al Bahar, don’t expect it to be a typical mall-dining experience—with a large terrace and views of the surrounding city and man-made lake, having a meal there is actually quite relaxed. They serve excellent iterations of the classics in a wide-ranging menu: think perfect tabbouleh, hummus, grilled meats, and vegetables served in myriad ways with ample fresh, warm bread.
Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Habtoor City
This integrated urban resort, part of newish hotel collection in Al Habtoor City on the banks of Dubai Water Canal, the St. Regis in Dubai is truly, outrageously luxurious. Butler service is available to all guests, and the breathtaking décor (complete with a grand staircase) is heavily inspired by the iconic beaux-arts architecture of the original St. Regis New York. There are eight restaurants and bars to choose from here, plus a private helipad, outdoor and rooftop pools, a full-service spa, and a brand-new water theatre right next door—basically, everything you’d ever need in a beautiful waterfront compound.
Al Ain Rd., Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
If you're staying in central Dubai, you'll want to get out to the desert for an excursion at some point, but if you're looking for a full-on desert holiday, there are a number of places you can stay outside of the city, including Al Maha resort and spa. Their suites come with private pools and decks, and vary in size, accommodating couples and up to six people. The Presidential Suite is the largest, with three bedrooms, a private kitchen and courtyard, and an expansive desert, backyard view. This is a comfortable option for families—there are two king-sized beds and one room with twin beds—but note that Al Mah is a ten-year-old-and-up resort.
Dubai Creek, Bur Dubai
This palatial hotel is 100 percent pure Versace, from the bespoke fabrics to custom furnishings all in the inimitable Italian fashion house's signature style. With 215 rooms and suites, more than a hundred residences, eight restaurants and bars (each with an al fresco terrace), three outdoor pools, and unobstructed views of the Dubai Creek and the city skyline, it basically doesn’t get any fancier than this. Consider it a must-see, even if you just stop in for lunch and a stroll through their gorgeously manicured gardens.
Unit 21, Alserkal Ave., Al-Quoz
A relative veteran by Dubai standards, Lawrie Shabibi's gallery has existed for more than five years, showing on the international circuit, throwing weight behind some important rising artists in the region. While you're in the neighborhood, it's also worth visiting the Green Art Gallery and The Third Line, both of which also operate on the international fair circuit and showcase some incredible Middle Eastern talent.
Burj Khalifa St., Downtown
This sleek rooftop lounge is decorated with tons of foliage and string lights, the only nod to the kitschy name in the form of several sculptures of monkeys holding telephones. The bar has incredible views of the city and directly faces the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa. Food-wise, there's a nice selection of Mediterranean share plates, a surprisingly good burger, and an array of trendy cocktails involving vapor and smoke.
Marsa Dubai, Jumeirah Beach Residence
We could wax poetic for a while about the food—which is an incredible offering of elevated Italian food that includes everything you’d hope for, from super-fresh salads and seafood dishes to homemade fresh pasta—but the real draw here is the restaurant itself, which is a beautiful multi-level space with beach views. It’s somehow both laid-back and upscale at once; the more family-friendly option is to opt for a table upstairs on the terrace, where you can order wood-fired pizza. Downstairs, you’ll find both a main dining room and a large, tree-adorned patio space where you can order from the full menu.
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