Dubai Part Three: Five Snapshots – The Good, the Bad-Ass and the Exquisite

It’s been far too long since my last post. The real world of content writing, subbing shifts and features pitches got on top of me in the last week and I was in writing hibernation, slowly digging myself out of my pit of emails, reviews and scribblings.

Now I’m back and can’t wait to finish writing about my jaunt around Dubai. I’ve already posted some images in Part One: Dubai in Pictures, so, as a condensed-down, easily-digestible whistle-stop tour of the what, when, how and where before I immerse myself in the nitty gritty, here’s my bonkers and beautiful Dubai in five snapshots.

Adrenaline High at Ifly at Magic Planet, Deira
iFly

“Who’s going first?” Asked the IFLY expert who, while wearing a leotard so tight it was verging on indecent, had just been flipping in a perspex tube a moment before. We glanced at each other, each trying and failing to blend into the wall behind us, before pointing out our Dubai guide as a designated lamb to the slaughter.

I watched him being manhandled by both the wind and the instructor who kept making bunny ear signals into his face, which had adopted a fixed grin of rigour mortis proportions. My borrowed suit was suddenly a lot more restrictive. I could smell the nervous flop sweat of a hundred wearers before me as we shuffled one by one towards the death tube and, as I lurched face first, arms across my chest like a sleeping vampire into the deafening roar of a wind turbine, I tried very hard not to cack my borrow pants.As the instructor grinned at me and told me to keep my head up and smile, something happened. I realised that I was floating, and it was bloody amazing. I managed not to scream as he pulled me up to the ceiling and dropped me in a semi-graceful corkscrew, spiralling to the ground. At least I’m maintaining I wasn’t screaming, over all that wind who could tell?For more information on Ifly, check the official website here.

Sun, Sea and…Snow? Ski Chalet at The Kempinski Mall of the Emirates Hotel

Living and Dining Area in Grand Ski ChaletRoaring fire, check. Chestnut polished wooden floorboards and beams, check. Alpine view, check. The faint sound of mall music, fake sky and a sun-flooded pool terrace out the back, check… wait a minute.This is no ordinary ski lodge, it’s a grand ski chalet in the Kempinski Hotel, slap bang in the middle of the Mall of the Emirates in sunny, snow-free Dubai. This three-bed, lavish chalet is an exercise in just how money and imagination can get you anything in Dubai. The two-floor apartment room has everything you’d expect from a luxury establishment with stand alone baths, monstrously big beds, chandeliers and dual aspect windows out onto the ski slope where hotel patrons and visitors alike take turns to shoop shoop down the slope or roll in Zorb balls.

Bedroom in Grand Ski Chalet

Apparently the glass, while obscured, isn’t totally peep proof as Elodie, who was showing me around, recounted. There was the time everyone on the slope got quite the eyeful through the chalet windows and an emergency staff member had to sprint up to the room to warn the occupants that they were on display.

Weird? Embarrassingly opulent? Magnificent or just plain bonkers, its just another amazing suite in the Dubai wonderland.

Bookings, prices and chalet information can be found on The Kempinski Mall of the Emirates Hotel website here.

Sticks at Dawn: Camel Polo at the Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club

Camel Polo Pros

Hit it! Hit it!” My jockey, Riaz, pleaded with me as I swung my arms backwards, shoulder screaming in protest and biceps like malnourished grapes straining to bring the leaden stick downwards onto the demon of a ball that had eluded me all morning.

The hammer connected with a thunk, shunting the ball all of two spectacular feet across the pitch. The thunk was followed by a crunch as I thwacked my mount, Moussiah, around the ankles. She swivelled her regal head towards me.

“Idiot.” Her liquid brown eyes said. “Bugger.” I said, aloud. Who knew a game of camel polo could be so difficult to master?

Moussiah the Camel

Very, as it turned out. Polo with ponies? Bah! Frankly you haven’t lived until you’ve lurched from side to side while swiping at an inflatable practice ball with a reinforced, six-foot broomstick.

That was from my diary and was written just after a tension-filled, gruelling (read: relaxed, mildly strenuous) couple of rounds of camel polo, Dubai’s ultimate grass roots sport. These beautiful, preened and pampered beasts are available for brave tourists and corporate away days and a morning spent learning how to play this most elite of sports was honestly the most fun I had in Dubai.

one man and his camel

Gulf Ventures can organise city transfers, half day city tours and a camel polo experience like the one I tried. Visit www.desertadventures.com to book or for more information.

Round the World Eating at Spectrum On One, The Fair Mont Dubai
Fairmont-Dubai---Spectrum-o

Eating brunch – what’s known as THE brunch in Dubai, mind you – at The Spectrum On One I had Ariel’s Little Mermaid song about gadgets and gizmos going round and round in my head. Except that I wasn’t singing about whos-its and whats-its galore, I was thinking about food, glorious food because this brunch mecca serves a never-ending buffet of delights from almost every continent and country on the planet.I had pancakes and roast beef a plenty.
I had cheeseboards and shawarmas galore. 
You want steamed buns? I had some. 
But who cares, no big deal. I wanted more.I had duck rolls and tandoori chicken and pulled pork tacos followed by candy floss and cupcakes and Oreo cheesecake, all washed down with an endless supply of mojitos, that seemed to materialise by my elbow like magic every time my straw hit the ice at the bottom of my glass.And then I was gently tipped put of my seat and rolled towards the exit like a swollen Violet Beauregard. Well not really, but it took a few attempts to stand after this feast.

Brunch at Spectrum on One starts from £58 per person, or £76 including unlimited alcohol. See their website for details here.

How the Other Half Live: The Burj Al Arab
Inside the Burj Al Arab

Entering the seven-starred Burj Al Arab is like walking into a modern-day Disney palace. The doormen have IPads, there’s 24 carat gold paved on the mosaic floors and there’re suites so elaborate and discreet that they’re stored on security access only floors.

Through the glass doors, the concept of a ceiling is suddenly ripped away as you find yourself in a vast, echoing space and, as your eyes go up and up and up and UP, you soon realise that this hotel is possibly one of the most staggering and terrifying places that you’ve ever set foot in.

Burj Al Arab - Lobby

I managed to scrape my jaw off the floor and nod weakly as our guide, the impossibly pretty Nazila, explained that the inner atrium could fit two Eiffel Towers inside and the fountain used to spit all the way to the top floor, before it had to be tamed to save guests from death by drenching. I continued to be lost for words during an afternoon tea that started with shortcake as light as air and a waiter with the world’s most flamboyant champagne pouring style and ended with a cappuccino topped with 24 carat gold dust, which I prompted scattered into the air with one excited exhalation.

Burj_Al_Arab_-_Skyview_Bar_

Then Nazila walked us on a never-ending display of the delights of Burj’s inner sanctum. There were glass lifts that moved so fast your ears popped, rooftop restaurants with panoramic views of the man-made world islands, an underwater restaurant with its very own famous resident fish – George – and a Royal Suite with a revolving velvet bed and a shower covered in gold leaf.

Romantic dinner in Al Mahara

There were stomach-churning peeks over the ledge on the 25th floor, there were squeals of disbelief, of wonder, of sheer horror that anyone could afford to travel and live like this and of childish abandon in a place that disarms you with pomp and privilege, shocks you with opulence and ostentatiousness and galls you with riches and ritual. It’s gorgeous and garish, its mental and marvellous, it’s…it’s…It’s the Burj Al Arab, which says it all really.

Traditional afternoon tea at the Burj costs £75. Book on their website, here.

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