AFTER watching the second Sex and The City film I was desperate to visit the United Arab Emirates, ride on a camel in the desert, haggle over a pair of shoes in the souks and meet a wealthy oil sheikh.
My five-day trip to Dubai was the closest I’ll ever get to the fantasy but it was no less fantastic.
From the moment we checked in at Heathrow, with an upgrade to business class, we made the most of the Emirates Airline executive lounge where it was luxury all the way.
The service on the seven-hour flight was impeccable and as I was given a menu from which to choose my meal while I reclined in the massaging chair I could easily have forgotten I was cruising at 30,000 feet.
We arrived in Dubai as the sun was setting and we were met by Desert Adventures, our chauffeurs for the next few days.
Huge skyscrapers with a mass of twinkling lights meant the city looked vibrant and exciting as we made our way to The Palace – Old Town.
With the three-hour time difference and the snooze on the plane I thought I might be still dreaming when we pulled up outside a truly palatial building. As a robed man greeted us and took our bags to our rooms we were left to gaze in wonder at the ornamental furniture, beautiful lanterns and gigantic marble water features.
The rooms were grander still. I had a diplomatic suite with a kitchen, dining area, living area, bedroom and two bathrooms. It was bigger than my flat at home. There was just enough time to change, have an explore in the nearby Souk Al Bahar shopping centre and meet on the hotel’s 4th floor viewing platform to watch the biggest lit fountains in the world come to life at the base of the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building.
After a good night’s sleep the next morning was all about relaxing in the new surroundings. Dubai reached a stifling 43 degrees while we were there so we soon became big fans of air conditioning.
After a breakfast of absolutely everything you could ever wish for, from lentil soup and bread to American waffles and chocolate cheesecake, we visited the hotel’s spa for a treatment.
I had the chance to try a hot stone massage and in the beautiful surroundings I was made to feel like royalty as my feet were washed and massaged before I lay on hot stones – gently feeling the stresses of day-to-day life ebbing away.
Afterwards I headed out to the pool and swam a few laps looking up at the 828 metres of the Burj Khalifa. With shaded cabanas complete with fans and attentive pool staff on hand with towels and ice cold fruit, I was in heaven.
After another meal in the hotel restaurant Ewaan, where again no food seemed to be lacking, we explored the rest of the Palace, including the amazing four bedroomed two-storied Presidential Suite, the resting place of sheikhs with a spare £7,000 in their pocket. It was indulgently beautiful.
That evening we headed across the city to the Madinat Jumeirah shopping centre and hotel resort. The decadent hotel rooms all looked out on to the sea and the seven-starred Burj al Arabe – perhaps one of the most iconic hotels in Dubai.
We then took a small boat out on the lake that surrounded the resort to the hotel’s spa facilities which has become Dubai’s first well-being centre complete with doctors, masseurs and alternative medical remedies.
The following day was a chance to experience Dubai’s world-class shopping claims. We begrudgingly checked out of the Palace – Old Town for rooms at The Address – Dubai Mall.
The hotel had a modern sleek feel to it and although it was equally opulent I preferred the Arabian charm of the Palace.
We met with the fashion advisor at the hotel, the only one in Dubai to offer the fully trained skills of its staff to guests with fashion emergencies, and were let loose to shop in over 12,000 square metres of shoppers’ paradise.
There really was every shop I could ever think of and once you tired of the 1,000 stores there was always the full-sized ice rink or gigantic aquarium. Driving around Dubai I spotted familiar brands such as Ikea, Boots and Debenhams as well as French hypermarket Carrefour – we were also told about the Emirates Mall which has its very own ski resort inside.
The next stop on our tour was the Wafi Mall which was built in the shape of a pyramid with Egyptian hieroglyphics on the walls.
It didn’t feel as modern or new as the Dubai Mall but the Khan Murjan souk downstairs, with a huge stained glass window made it definitely worth the visit.
The following day we toured the city and took one of the river taxis over to Dera in the old part of Dubai. There we haggled over spices, pashminas, coffee pots and shisha pipes.
For lunch we headed out of the midday sun to Desert Palm – a stunning hotel oasis out on the edge of the city. With four polo fields and its very own stables there was a clear equestrian feel to the boutique hotel. The rooms all had cutting edge technology – iPods and Bang & Olufsen phones – and the whole place had an incredible laid back relaxing atmosphere. It was also very easy to see how the restaurant has won two awards in Time Out magazine.
From here we visited the observation deck at the Burj Khalifa –the tower we had been looking at throughout the whole of our time in Dubai. In a lift which took barely a minute we reached the 124th floor with what seemed like views from an aeroplane looking out to on to skyscraper roofs and desert sands.
With our trip coming to an end there was one more treat in store – dinner at the world’s first Armani hotel. After a quick tour of the hotel, all of which was designed by the man himself, we dined in a private room in his Italian Restaurant. The food was delicious with dessert – a silver sugar ball filled with crème brulee and a violet filled chocolate – a piece of art. As we ate the edible gold from the top of the dish it felt truly indulgent and a reminder that whether eating, shopping or visiting a spa – Dubai really is first class.