Travel

Perthshire Advertiser - - HOUSE HOME -

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).

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