Travel

Public Sector Manager - - Contents -

Dubai is much more than a shop­pers’ par­adise

Dubai is much more than a shop­pers' par­adise. Be­yond the pur­vey­ors of high-end high-priced lux­ury goods lies all kinds of ad­ven­ture. If you feel

the need for speed say hi to Dubai where you can swim, sand­surf, snow

ski and float in the sky.

One can­not visit the desert and ig­nore the mag­nif­i­cent beauty of the ma­jes­tic sand dunes and vast open spa­ces which dwarf the newly cre­ated metropoli­tan feel of Dubai's city cen­tre.

Whisked away in a lux­ury Land Cruiser to­wards the set­ting sun, leav­ing civil­i­sa­tion be­hind us, I have lit­tle time to con­tem­plate ex­actly what I am in for.

Af­ter an hour our Ara­bian driver stops to let air out of the tyres while I sneak off for a pit stop of my own to gather my thoughts and pre­pare for what was to come.

As I ner­vously strug­gle to strap into my seat­belt it is clear that the tyres may have been de­flated but the driver's sense of ad­ven­ture has grown in­flated.

I am in awe of his han­dling of the ve­hi­cle in the sand.The desert chauf­feurs are a clan of “desert surfers” who scour the land­scape in search of the “lip” of each and ev­ery dune, per­form­ing some of the most ab­surd cut­backs imag­in­able then rac­ing down the dune and then re­join­ing the con­voy of lux­ury Land Cruis­ers snaking their way through the desert.

Judg­ing from my gasps and those of the multi­gen­er­a­tional fam­ily of six in the back it is clear that this is a new ex­pe­ri­ence for all of us.Yet, af­ter glanc­ing to my left I'm re­as­sured by the calm and pro­fes­sional de­meanour of our Ara­bian guide and driver. With­out him hav­ing to speak a word I quickly com­pre­hend what skills these men pos­sess and slowly be­gin to re­lax in my navigator's seat.

Just as I be­gin to feel at home in my comfy leather throne, we stop for din­ner.

An Ara­bian feast is set within

the walls of a desert camp. Some choose to smoke shee­sha with new­found friends whilst others pre­pare for their first ride on a camel be­fore set­tling down to en­joy din­ner and per­for­mance of belly danc­ing.

Whether you are vis­it­ing for busi­ness or sim­ply catch­ing a con­nect­ing flight, Royal Ara­bian Des­ti­na­tion Man­age­ment gives one the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the best of the desert in an af­ter­noon. For those with lim­ited time it is cer­tainly one of the best ways to ex­pe­ri­ence Dubai.

All too soon I find my­self back in the ve­hi­cle head­ing to­wards the glow of the city lights. I am glad I am not headed back to the busy Dubai air­port just yet.

For now I will give my­self two weeks to ex­plore all Dubai has to of­fer and give some in­sight to those opt­ing for more than the 96-hour tran­sit visa.

Swop heat for wa­ter, air and ice

Wak­ing up to tem­per­a­tures ex­ceed­ing 30 °C and ris­ing fast, it was time to take a plunge. There cer­tainly are some ex­quis­ite beaches in Dubai. Walk­ing along the beach­front is an ex­pe­ri­ence in it­self. While you stroll to­wards the wa­ter that will pro­vide re­lief from the sear­ing heat you take in slick ar­chi­tec­ture, lux­u­ri­ous cars and shop win­dows dis­play­ing some of the finest brands in the world.

Most peo­ple are here to work, so the beaches are fairly quiet dur­ing the week. Dubai is nei­ther windy, nor cool which means ev­ery day is a good day for the beach. I made the most of the weather by fre­quent­ing many of the pub­lic beaches. My favourite was JBR beach which has spec­tac­u­lar views of the city sky­line.

If you are look­ing for ad­ven­ture rather than re­lax­ation the Wild Wadi Wa­ter Park in the area of Jumeirah not only of­fers whim­si­cal views of the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Ho­tel, it is sure to get the adrenaline pump­ing be­cause it has some mon­strous wa­ter­slides. I fol­low signs to one such slide, “Jumeirah Sceirah” but am con­vinced I am go­ing the wrong way. As if I were a salmon re­turn­ing to its place of birth, I fight my way up the stairs through throngs of peo­ple all com­ing down the stairs.

When I get to the top I am as­sured that my sense of di­rec­tion was spot on but my san­ity might need scru­tiny. I un­der­stand why so many peo­ple came down the stairs. There is no time to pon­der that: be­fore I know it, I am hur­ried into a cap­sule and a “three… two… one” count­down leads to the click of a switch which ac­ti­vates a trap door, drop­ping me ver­ti­cally into an end­less abyss of fear.

Dubai of­fers one of the world's best sky­div­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Although my ad­dic­tion to adrenaline is grow­ing now, I am not quite ready to throw my­self out of a plane. In­stead I opt for IFLY Dubai, which is a fan­tas­tic al­ter­na­tive. Thrust into a wind tank I find my­self hover­ing weight­lessly in an­tic­i­pa­tion of my guide's next hand sig­nal and within two min­utes I have shown grav­ity who is boss; glid­ing, spin­ning and turn­ing as if I were born to fly.

The Burj Khal­ifa still stands as the world's tallest build­ing and The Burj Al Arab is con­sid­ered the top sev­en­star ho­tel in the world. How­ever, this is not where Dubai's “big­ger is bet­ter” and “what can't be done shall be done” men­tal­ity ends.

It comes as no sur­prise that a coun­try known for its swel­ter­ing heat and arid land­scape also makes room for a win­ter won­der­land. Be­fore my body has time to process the mas­sive drop in tem­per­a­ture, I am on a chair­lift gaz­ing at the ac­tiv­i­ties show­cased within the ski dome. Scream­ing peo­ple at­tached to zi­plines whizz over my head, while kids whoosh along in to­bog­gans and slide tubes down be­low.

From jumps and rails to a re­laxed stroll amongst the pen­guins, Ski Dubai caters for ev­ery level of ski­ing en­thu­si­ast. While I sit in the moun­tain cabin I sip hot choco­late and my fin­gers thaw; at that mo­ment it is hard to com­pre­hend the in­tense dry heat out­side.

Full-throt­tle sand sport

Rid­ing in the desert with Royal Ara­bian Des­ti­na­tion Man­age­ment had me elated so I am ea­ger to make my way back, but this time I want to take con­trol of the wheel. It is with this in mind that I come across Big Red Mo­tor­sports, a bik­ing com­pany which al­lows rid­ers to get a feel for Dubai's desert land­scape. They have a range of mo­tor­bikes, quad bikes and rage bug­gies which are ideal for ex­plor­ing the desert.

Un­earthing ev­ery type of hu­man emo­tion, from sheer fear to fist­pump­ing pas­sion, this is an ex­pe­ri­ence that leaves me breath­less. I pass Be­douin camel farm­ers as I open the throt­tle on Dubai's largest play­ground.

Big Red Mo­tor­sports have nu­mer­ous pack­ages on of­fer from a one­hour ses­sion of­fer­ing to ba­sics to an all-in­clu­sive day out rag­ing with the ma­chines and test­ing the ex­tent of your own lim­its. My bike jumps from dune to dune.The feel­ing of ela­tion is quite in­ex­pli­ca­ble as my con­fi­dence grows and thoughts of the Dakar Rally are in­ter­rupted by the set­ting sun and the quiet click when we switch off the en­gines.

One of the great things about Dubai is that it at­tracts peo­ple from all over the world.The peo­ple of this cos­mopoli­tan Emi­rate have a vi­brant and unique multi-racial, multi-na­tional, multi-lin­gual so­ci­ety.

As the time for me to head out draws closer, it is not hard to find peo­ple head­ing to the sand­pit for one last braai with friends, old and new, to say good­bye to a place that had been home for the last two weeks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.