When I told people who hadn’t been to Dubai before that’s where I was headed on holiday, I was met with a few misconceptions.
Dubai might be situated in desert region, but it’s all glitzy malls and ostentatious skyscrapers – right?
It’s very modern, with little of the country’s history or culture – right? Wrong, and wrong again. Granted, Dubai is often extravagant and there are plenty of places to shop, party and treat yourself, but there’s so much more to this bustling city than meets the eye.
I visited United Arab Emirates’ second largest city during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Many holidaymakers are put off visiting during this time, but they’re missing a trick.
Not only is Dubai very much open for business during Ramadan but flights and hotels are considerably cheaper. The vast majority of the attractions, including big names like the Burj Khalifa, remain open, and it’s easier to get tickets. We were lucky enough to visit the
Ramadan is also a great time to SheikhMohammedCentreforCultural experiencetraditionalfestivities,sample Understanding (SMCCU). It opened Emirati cuisine and learn about Islamic in 1998 to help visitors gain a better culture. understanding of the culture and customs
Ahead of dawn, observant Muslims of the UAE. awaken in sleepy camaraderie, to pray, The institution invites guests to take part and eat suhoor together, in preparation in its full schedule of activities, including for a day of fasting. a range of Arabic classes, heritage tours,
Non-Muslims are expected to respect and guided mosque visits. those fasting, and to avoid eating, drinking Located in a beautifully-restored or smoking in public. Most restaurants, wind tower house in the historic including those in the Dubai Mall, remain Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in open, serving behind screens until Bur Dubai, the centre offers a range of sundown. activities, from traditional cuisine to
As is Ramadan tradition, hotels and conversations with local Emiratis. restaurants are at their hospitable best, With its motto ‘Open Doors, Open as are family homes. Minds’, all questions – no matter how sensitive – are welcome and answered.
We enjoyed an Emirati dinner, followed by plenty of chocolate-covered dates, as well as a guided walking tour of the old neighbourhood.
Another day, we tried a desert safari; hopping into a 4X4 jeep, which whipped us across the sand dunes as we clung on tight.
As the lead car of the convoy, we never knew what was coming next, and I’m pretty sure our screams made the driver go faster.
We then arrived at the Bedouin campsite, where we had a BBQ and enjoyed some evening entertainment, including belly dancing , performances by whirling dervishes and camel rides.
Dubai has many of the world’s biggest, tallest, grandest buildings and we were lucky enough to spend our four-night stay at the world’s tallest hotel – the JW Marriott Marquis.
On entering the impressive structure, we were greeted by a number of attentive staff members and the seamless check-in took less time than the lift to my room – which was on the 69th floor, boasting stunning views of the Burj and downtown Dubai.
The hotel also features one of Dubai’s most indulgent spas, which made for a perfect post-desert afternoon of pampering.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Saray Signature Dead Sea package; two hours of treatments including a Dead Sea salt scrub, full body mud mask and a soak in a private heated sea salt mineral water pool, followed by a full body massage, before floating up to my room to prepare for the evening.
As you can imagine, breaking our fast at the JW Marriott Marquis meant going all out.
Not one but six buffets stood before me and just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, I spotted an actual mountain of baklava, as well as a stand of homemade ice cream.
My five days in Dubai during Ramadan were just the right mix of Emirati culture and holiday luxury, and I left the UAE with a new-found appreciation for Arabic culture (and chocolatecovered dates).