The Handbook
The Handbook

Dubai, playground of the rich and famous, a desert city that remains cucumber cool and with more diversions than Fulham during a Chelsea match. Diversions like skiing (in 40 degree heat, of course), dune buggy-ing or turning culture vulture (for nature-lovers, they have the real thing here, too). Here are ten things to do if you’re passing through this desert outpost any time soon…

Ski Dubai

Just as the term ‘only in America’ usually denotes a story about a 35 stone man being craned out of his home, the term ‘only in Dubai’ almost always means something that is incredible, over the top or ostentatious. Like skiing in one of the hottest countries in the world where temperatures regularly tops 45 degrees.

Ski Dubai is set over 22,500 square metres and includes an 85 metre  (25 storey) ‘mountain’ and five runs of various difficulty. Oh, and they’ve got real-life penguins!

Where: Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Burj Khalifa

Ten years after it ‘topped out’, the Burj Khalifa remains the world’s tallest building. The concrete monolith is instantly recognisable across the globe and represents just how far Dubai has come in just a few short decades.

Even better, you can go up the thing too, with an observation deck on the 124th floor and another on the 148th.

Where: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, Dubai

Dubai Creek

This is one creek you could probably weather being up sans paddle, just drift into the Sheraton Grand and you’ll be fine. The saltwater creek traditionally divided Dubai and it continues to hark back to the emirate’s roots as it winds past Dubai’s historical district.

In addition the creek loops past an 18-hole tournament golf course, Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, not to mention a royal palace.

Etihad Museum

It’s commonly assumed that Dubai is not at home to cultural sorts, that it’s a bit of a Middle Eastern  Australia. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does the opera house play host to a steady flow of some of the world’s most renowned orchestras, there are also various galleries and the Etihad Museum.

The museum is dedicated to the heritage of the United Arab Emirates and covers the history and growth of Dubai and the UAE.

Where: 1 Jumeirah Street, Dubai, United Arab Emirate

Madinat Jumeirah

Designed to resemble a traditional Arabian town, the luxury resort of Madinat Jumeirah is the place to come for smart restaurants and boutique hotels (it’s got over 50 restaurants and bars) and luxury hotels (the resort includes Jumeirah Al Qasr, Jumeirah Mina A’Salam and Jumeirah Al Naseem).

Interestingly, it’s also interconnected by a system of canals that tally over 5 kilometers and span the city-within-a-city 40 hectare resort.

Dune Buggies!

Don’t be fooled by the luscious green golf courses and venetian canals, lest we forget, Dubai is in a desert. Which can only mean one thing: dune buggies!

Dubai has a number of options when it comes to getting out in the dunes, but whichever you go with you’ll be able to zip through the sand like you’re in a Bond movie.



The Dubai Mall may be bigger, the Ibn Battuta Mall may have a Marks & Spencer while Mall of the Emirates has an actual snow mountain but City Walk has the advantage of being outdoors. It’s one of many mega-malls, where you can buy anything from million pound diamonds to cushions from Debenhams. Dubai really is a paradise for shoppers.

Where: Al Wasl and Al Safa road junction, Via exit D71 towards Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE

Theme Parks

Dubai’s theme parks are legendary, not least for the number of them. In the old days you used to have to travel to Denmark for Legoland, now you can head to Slough or Dubai too.

Theme parks include Bollywood Parks, IMG Worlds of Adventure, Columbia Pictures Dubai, the Wild Wadi Waterpark and, like the roller coasters, the list really does just go on!

Dubai Fountain

We all love the fountains in Trafalgar Square, normally full of a pranker’s bubble bath, or for the traditionalist Rome’s Trevi Fountain is a must- visit. Personally I’m fond of a sherbert fountain.

But for sheer scale and grandeur the Dubai Fountain is by far the one to visit. Choreographed on a manmade lake its’ the centre-piece to Downtown Dubai and is basically the Bellagio Fountains from Vegas but on steroids.

Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

In all the modernity, the skyscrapers, malls and theme parks it can be difficult to remember that Dubai also has an ancient heritage. Bringing back to life the traditional style of living that lasted from the 19th century until the 1970s, the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood plays host to a slew of galleries and varied cultural and artistic exhibits and while preserving traditional buildings and building methods.