After almost a year of being stuck in our homes and not being able to travel anywhere in the world, it must have come as a relief for many when the country hit Level 1 and the borders officially opened for leisure travel.
But with many northern hemisphere countries on lockdown and not accepting tourists, people looked at what we would say is the next best thing, if not the actual best, Dubai.
The popular tourist city of the United Arab Emirates has been officially open for tourists since June 2020. Unlike the other Emirates, Dubai’s core business is tourism and property.
It is an international city, where the world meets. People from the East, West, North and South congregate in Dubai, which explains why Dubai International Airport is the busiest airport in the world and why Emirates is the busiest airline. The Dubai based airline was recently named the Best Airline of 2020 by the Aviation Business Awards.
This was mainly due to the airline’s “resilience, agility and innovation in the face of the global pandemic, often leading the industry in its initiatives to boost traveller confidence and comfort.” This follows a slew of other awards it has received from various travel bodies this year, mainly on the swift changes it made to comply with Covid-19 regulations and give their passengers peace of mind.
So with Dubai being open, it became a no-brainer for many of our celebrities to spend parts of their festive season in the city.
Bonang Matheba, Connie and Shona Ferguson, Shauwn Mkhize, supermodel Rosette Ncwana, and celebrity publicist, Jillian Grogor, have all spent parts of their summer holidays in Dubai.
IOL Lifestyle was also recently in Dubai and we understand why they all went there this summer.
From the fine food and desert safaris to cruising the Dubai Marina and living it up in the villas and the Burj Khalifa, here is why we understand why Dubai was the vacation choice of many.
THE DESERT SAFARI
The Fergusons shared videos of them quad biking in the famous Dubai desert and we felt a tinge of envy. On our trip to Dubai, we didn’t get that experience. Instead, our guide, Ayaz, drove us in a Land Cruiser and took us dune bashing giving us a thrill that also gave us a bit of motion sickness. But when that is over you can’t help but admire just how gorgeous the desert is. We suggest going there just before sunset.
There are few things as magical as seeing the sunset over the desert. There’s a stillness in the air and the only thing you can see is sand dunes. It reminds you how big the world is and you are just one tiny part of it. It made me forget about all the woes of the world and gave me a chance to thank my higher power for the splendour of his creation. It is a spiritual experience.
CRUISING THE DUBAI MARINA
Rosette Ncwana was living her best life, cruising the marina by day, while Bonang Matheba was partying it up a storm at yacht parties during her time in the city and doing photo-shoots. The Fergusons were also having a great time on their chartered yacht. We got a taste of the good life, albeit on The Yellow Boats.
This is for adrenaline junkies who want to experience the thrill of being tossed side to side as the boat speeds through the water, with all of Dubai’s landmark sites spread out before you.
We had a brilliant guide called William, who is originally from Mombasa, Kenya, and he told us all the interesting tidbits and information about Atlantis and how the opening party was the stuff of legend, the Dubai Eye and also the new Palm Jumeirah Hotel being built.
As we sped, we spotted many yachts at sea, with people of all nationalities partying up a storm during the day. Oh, and if you love jet skiing and sky diving, then you have to experience it on the Dubai Marina. I can imagine the views as you parachute down.
THE BURJ KHALIFA
Are you even in Dubai if you don’t go to The Burj Khalifa? It is the tallest building in the world . Shauwn Mkhize left South Africa a day before New Year’s Eve because she didn’t want to be home by 9pm on New Year’s Eve. I mean I don’t blame her … I also wished I could have stayed in Dubai for New Year’s Eve. Watching the fireworks show at the Burj is definitely a bucket list item. And her staying at The Address Dubai Mall Hotel, gave her the prime view to watch the fireworks.
I finally get the hype. It is exhilarating being inside the building and looking at the city sprawled below you. It gave me that Leo Di Caprio feeling on Titanic. I was on top of the world. But so was everybody else.
It had been a long time that I have been in the vicinity of so many people at once. Social distancing was a problem, especially since other tourists did not understand the concept of what it meant. Even a suggestive look that demanded personal space, did not work. Eventually, I had to tell the older couple to please step back.
The workers at The Burj tried to make sure they limit the number of people in an elevator going to the viewing deck, but some tourists just made it difficult. Social distancing issues aside, it was still an amazing experience being inside The Burj and even though it was never a bucket list item, it now is and I’m glad to have ticked it off.
Rosette posted a video of her being served by Salt Bae at his restaurant, Nusr-Et Steakhouse. I had hoped that we would also go, but I’m glad we didn’t. I’m sure the waiting list for that restaurant is even longer than the one we went to, Coya. We dressed up and I am glad we did because the restaurant is at the Four Seasons Resort.
As we waited in our shuttle, there was a snaking queue of luxury vehicles, dropping off the jet-set crowd that had descended on the city. Think of a sports vehicle, luxury sedan or SUV and it was there. So even before we were dropped off in our Quantum, we knew we were in for an interesting evening.
Coya is a Peruvian restaurant, with influences of China and also the Middle East. And it is so popular, that guests only have two hours to go through a three-course menu and then leave as the restaurant is fully booked.
You simply must have their ceviche, which is different types of fish in sauces, served on a platter of ice, to keep them cool. I also suggest you order a variety of their appetisers and tacos. For mains, I had beef ribs with miso, ají limo, which was like little fairies walking on the tip of my tongue.
I was glad that as a person who doesn’t imbibe, there were special cocktails on the menu for us. I settled for the Purple Rain, which is made with the purple corn, chicha morada, passion fruit purée, fresh lime juice and pineapple juice, with a touch of sugar. It was deliciously refreshing and not sweet, which is rare when it comes to mocktails. And our waiter, Hans, was great (even though he suggested we have a 100g wagyu sirloin that cost more than R2 000).
Bonang had a lot of gifts sent to her villa during her stay in the city, which was a reminder that Dubai is a shopping paradise. Naturally, the malls are the best places for us plebs. The Dubai Mall, which is also home to The Burj Khalifa, has an impressive list of high-end designer shops and also home-grown brands that are major in the Middle East. I enjoyed the Mall of the Emirates more, simply because I saw more locals there and that’s always a sign that it is a good place.
Plus this mall had Ski Dubai which gave me my first taste of what a White Christmas would look like. It was packed and clearly a popular activity for many families. Obviously, I can’t ski, so I settled for the sky car which was absolutely amazing. As we ascended and watched mostly teenagers skiing like they are in the Alps, made me forget I was in Dubai for a second. And then the cold hit me.
It was subzero temperatures inside Ski Dubai, and it really gave me a taste of a Northern Hemisphere winter and how uncomfortable it is.
With such a variety of activities, it’s little wonder that so many of them are in Dubai right now.