WITH a reputation for sparkle, sunshine and excess glamour, it’s no surprise that blingy Dubai is often referred to as The City of Gold.
Known worldwide for its luxury shopping centres, epic skyscrapers and £12billion artificial palm-tree islands, this blazing jewel of a city in the middle of the desert is THE place for a luxury getaway, but it won’t break the bank to get there.
It’s an easy seven-hour flight from the UK, that means no jet lag on arrival, and you’ll step out into shimmering heat.
Even in its coolest month (December) iridescent Dubai is 21C on average and for my visit in October the temperature was up in the thirties.
Sunnies on, what better way to soak up that glorious heat than with cocktails by a rooftop pool?
I was staying at the 25hours Hotel Dubai One Central, one of the newest openings, and its traditional-meets-modern flavour was the perfect combination of authentic and alluring.
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Sitting right next to the International Financial Centre, with huge glass windows everywhere, and great views of the impressive Museum Of The Future, the hotel had a friendly and relaxed but funky vibe that it calls “urban nomad”.
I’m not entirely sure what that means, but what I can tell you is that Chanel or Converse would both fit in equally well here.
My Bedouin-themed room was gorgeous, with mosaic tiles, incredible views and an epic rainfall shower (real downpours being one thing you aren’t likely to experience in Dubai).
Others have themes that range from glamping, with portable speakers, to Artist Village suites with quirky design features such as hammocks.
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The show-stopper Hakawati suite even boasts a sheikh-sized triple bed, should you, ahem, happen to need one . . .
There’s also five restaurants, a library, a gorgeous luxury spa and even the city’s first mixed-gender outdoor sauna (quite a big deal here in what, for all its more easygoing and visitor-friendly vibes, is still an Arabic city).
It would have been easy to spend the whole holiday shuttling between the hotel, the famous consumer emporium the Dubai Mall five minutes away, and the nearby golden sands of La Mer beach.
But I was keen to see more of Dubai and from as many angles as I could.
After a lazy afternoon topping up my tan and enjoying the party atmosphere at the Drift Beach Club (driftbeachdubai.com) — think gems, bikinis and table service by the infinity pool — I set off on a boat tour of the Arabian Gulf coastline but with one twist, it’s high speed.
The Hero boat ocean tour was a hair-raising 50km sightseeing sprint, taking in must-see landmarks like the Atlantis resort, man-made Palm Jumeirah island and new Ain Dubai big wheel.
Pretty damp but super exhilarating, this jetski-pace boat trip was a total blast and a really interesting way to experience the city.
Be prepared to get your hair wet, though.
BE A DAREDEVIL
Sticking to dry land (well, almost) my next must-do was a gander at another of Dubai’s newest and most dizzying attractions, the Sky Views Observatory edge walk (skywalkdubai.com), up on the 52nd level of Address Sky View Hotel.
If you’re a daredevil type who likes the buzz of being up in the clouds, then this is for you.
For those who have the nerve, you’ll don a Challenge Anneka-style jumpsuit and be tethered to an external narrow ledge to do a head-spinning walk which gives you epic views of Downtown Dubai and the Burj Khalifa skyscraper.
It’s one to avoid if you don’t like heights, with definite shades of looking like an I’m A Celebrity challenge.
You won’t miss out, though, as the views are decent enough from the safety of inside, through the windows.
Of course, you can’t come to Dubai and not experience the shopping, or the famously boozy all-day brunches.
I went to the fabulous, all- inclusive Ce La Vi (celavi.com), which serves a mixed menu of black truffle risotto, burrata salad and grilled Spanish octopus.
But for my final day I wanted to get a taste of the more authentic side of Dubai, so chose to get away from the towering buildings and enjoy a last dinner at Sonara Camp in the desert.
The sunset dining — among conservation-area sand dunes surrounded by gazelles, yet just a 40-minute drive from my hotel — felt like I’d stepped into another world, bathed in golden light and where incredible French cuisine meets Middle Eastern.
The icing on the cake was a camel ride through the golden landscape, while the sun set beyond the sandy horizon — something that I will remember forever.
GETTING THERE: Emirates flies from Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Newcastle Upon Tyne from £559pp return. See emirates.com.
STAYING THERE: Rooms at the 25hours hotel cost from £127 per night. See 25hours-hotels.com.
OUT & ABOUT: The Hero boat tour costs from £169 for two people. See hero-dubai.com.
A Sonara Camp Sunset and Dinner Experience costs £211 including dinner, soft drinks and a camel ride. See nara.ae/sonara/book.
For more information visitdubai.com.