My dreams of living the high-life for a few glorious, sun-soaked days in Dubai took on a whole new meaning as I peered over the precipice of the tallest tower in the world, writes Rachel Harrison.
Few things fit the bill better for competition between cities and countries than skyscrapers. And the newest and tallest kid on the block is the Burj Khalifa.
At more than 2,700ft the dimensions of this particular cloud-piercing giant eclipse those of the previous record-holder by some 656ft.
And it’s this vertigo-inducing moment which probably sums up my experience of the jewel in the emirate’s well-polished crown best – everything you see is bigger and better in Dubai.
The same even goes for the airline tasked with getting you there – in comfort and style, of course.
Emirates are the national flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and fly to more than 100 destinations globally on all six continents.
The business class lounge at Birmingham Airport was a welcome haven from the bone-chilling, Black Country weather.
Moments after stepping inside, any residual thoughts of the daily grind, like the snow on my sandal-clad toes, had melted away.
Onboard, service was on a par with the best I’ve encountered, with smiling stewards in attendance. Seven hours just flew by.
The smiles and luxury continued on the ground in Dubai.The view from the picture-frame window of my room on the 13th floor of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel was superb.
So too was the hotel – from the room with its sumptuous bed, huge bath and complementary goodies, down to the staff, restaurants, 36,300 sq metre private beach and five pools.
A few metres away from the hotel there’s even a water park. I’d recommend that guests dip in and out of Wild Wadi for a change of scene – free of charge.
Here you can experience the exhilaration of weightlessness on the Jumeirah Sceirah, a speed slide that hurtles you at speeds of up to 80km per hour, cascading a breathtaking 108ft – if you dare.
A short distance from the shores of the Jumeirah Beach is the Burj Al Arab. The hotel is widely described as a ‘seven-star’ property and has long become a synonym for grandeur, class and style.
No wonder when it offers a limousine service, private transfer for all guests via golf cart, a butler service and just about anything else that is being associated with luxury.
Our next hotel, Jumeirah the Mayden, was furlongs ahead of any I’ve ever stayed at.
The world’s first five-star trackside hotel, it offers luxurious rooms, each including a private balcony overlooking the Meydan Racecourse.
The impossibly-blue rooftop infinity pool and swim-to bar on the finishing straight are stunning.
As for the quality and quantity of food at both hotels – this was spot on, with a great choice for a myriad of tastes. Just like the city’s entertainment.
Another taste of luxury can be found at Burj Khalifa which is home to fashion house Armani’s debut hotel.
Luxury oozes from every crevice of the Armani Hotel, from the sleek designs of the rooms that make you feel as though you have stepped onto a photo shoot to the finishing touches that even include Armani branded sugar cubes. And the food is certainly an experience, with eight restaurants to choose from including the Armani Ristorante which, in keeping with the brand’s founder, is an Italian delight.
Sunshine, shopping, seaside, and sports – four of the key ingredients that have earned it a reputation as one of the world’s most attractive leisure destinations.
And with the prospect looking bleak of any rugby being played back in the UK, we were the lucky ones – bring on Dubai Sevens.
After 38 years at the Al Awir ground, a move to Emirates’ new, purpose-built venue, The Sevens, on the Al Ain Road in 2008 proved to be a big success, with the spirit of the previous venue encapsulated in a much bigger and better setting.
The Dubai Sevens has grown into a huge event that not only attracts fans from around the globe but offers some of the best action – both on and off the pitch – anywhere.
During the course of our three-day stay we also had a chance to release our inner-action hero, having a go at indoor sky-diving, a desert safari and sandboarding (snowboarding without the red nose).
For the safari, a convoy of four-wheel drives tackle undulating desert, with drivers manoeuvring the vehicles up and down the imposing dunes with skill and speed.
Our excursion ended at a tented camp. After what we were told was a traditional Arabic welcome of coffee and dates, we posed with and rode camels and marvelled at the knife skills of an exotic belly dancer. A great end to a fantastic day in the desert.
There’s also plenty for those who prefer a bit of culture, a visit to Jumeriah Mosque was one such highlight.
Like Dubai, it illustrates a positive combination of modernity and respect for tradition. The building is also just a beautiful sight inside and out.
I found Dubai to be an intriguing land that mixes old-world souks and modern shopping malls, rolling sand dunes and grassy rugby pitches, remote Bedouin villages and an array of five-star hotels to great effect.
And I defy anyone not to want to return.
- For more information about Dubai, call Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing on 020 7321 6110 or visit www.definitelydubai.com
- Enjoy a three-night stay from £799 at Jumeirah Beach Hotel with breakfast and dinner, return flights from Birmingham with Emirates, private car airport/resort transfers.
- Valid for travel June 5 to July 15 and August 11 to September 30 2011. Book by March 15 2011. Call 0844 800 1400 or visit www.emiratestours.co.uk
- Desert Safari tours from £50 adults/£30 children (up to 12 years). Call Gulf Ventures on +971 4 404 5891 or visit www.gulfventures.ae