It’s glamorous, some think over the top, but there’s no denying there are few places in the Middle East as good as Dubai when it comes to mixing business with pleasure
If you are accustomed to the best of everything, you will find yourself right at home in glitzy Dubai, where more of everything is the norm and the more expensive the better. This is, without doubt, the most international and outward-looking of the United Arab Emirates. Put aside any preconceptions you may have about the Middle East being little but deserts, a lack of alcohol and women covered head to toe in black robes. This is Arabia with a very western and sophisticated twist.
The most obvious new landmarks in this city by the sea (which at times looks like the world’s biggest building site) are the man-made islands known as The Palms - two palm-tree-shaped islands surrounded by a crescent barrier island stretching five kilometres out to sea.
If you have ever wondered what business and leisure destinations of the future could be like, take a close look at Dubai now. This is where the mystery of the Middle East meets the sophistication of the West and it makes for a near-perfect marriage.
And when it comes to doing business, at least when the world economy is in a better state than now, it is difficult to think of a better environment than Dubai - provided, of course, you can drag yourself away from all those sandy beaches and back into one of the many state-of-the-art air-conditioned offices housed in all those iconic tower blocks.
Forget public transport - here, the local buses are really only for the immigrant construction workers, hundreds of whom (financial downturn aside) are employed in Dubai. You could, of course, rent a car but your best bet really is to simply get your hotel concierge to arrange a car and driver. Alternatively use a taxi.
TOP BUSINESS HOTELS
Burj Al Arab
The name means Arabian Tower and you can hardly miss this sail-like structure on a man-made island off Jumeirah Beach. It is thought by many to be the best hotel in Dubai - after all, it does dub itself the world’s first six-star hotel (or sometimes seven-star, depending on who you ask). If you like slightly over-the-top glitz and glamour you will love it; if you prefer your hotels to be rather more discreet, you won’t.
Emirates Towers Hotel
A superb ultra-modern hotel right in the centre of town, so ideal for business travellers. All the rooms are fitted with the latest high-tech equipment, all have wonderful views over much of Dubai and it’s all surrounded by acres of landscaped gardens complete with lakes.
A superb Mediterranean-style resort hotel built right by the beachfront on an island in the heart of the new Dubai Marina. There are beautiful gardens and a 350-metre sandy beach right on the doorstep and a couple of good golf courses just up the road.
BEST FOR YOUR TIME OFF
Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa
If you fancy getting away to the wilderness, then Al Maha is for you. It’s a Bedouin-encampment style hotel, set deep in a game reserve, but in spite of this has some of the most luxurious rooms you could hope for and is only about a 45-minute drive from the centre of town. And when you are not relaxing by your private plunge pool you can try some African-style game spotting in the surrounding countryside.
PICK OF THE RESTAURANTS
Excellent French nouvelle cuisine, served in a comfortable and sophisticated atmosphere. In spite of it being within a hotel - Le Meridien, Garhoud - this is by far one of the best restaurants in town, if a touch pretentious at the same time.
The Splendido. in the Ritz-Carlton hotel, is thought by many to be the best Italian restaurant in Dubai. Just a short distance from the beach, it gives you the perfect opportunity to relax over your business dinner.
You'll find primarily steaks but plenty of other dishes too, from oysters and prawns to many with more than a hint of the Orient, at this stylish restaurant within the Radisson SAS hotel.
Much of the late-night bar action in Dubai tends to take place in the various bars to be found in the many five-star hotels. This may be one of the most tolerant of the Arab States but it doesn’t mean you can flout the rules and drink wherever you choose; indeed, there are very few bars actually at street level. That said, there’s plenty going on if you seek it out. Some of the hottest nightspots and bars include the Buddha Bar (in the Grosvenor House Dubai hotel at Jumeirah), Vu’s Bar (on the 51st floor of the Emirates Towers hotel in the city centre) and the Rooftop Bar at the One&Only Royal Mirage Hotel.
Business suits, including a tie, for men and smart office-style clothes for women are the order of the day in Dubai. If you forget to take the right attire, one of the local tailors will make something suitable overnight. Don’t worry about the heat - everything is air-conditioned.
A must-see for a snapshot of the social history of the Emirate and, indeed, other parts of the UAE. The centrepiece is a reconstructed souk from Dubai’s pearling days, complete with authentic sights and sounds. There are also exhibits focusing on Dubai’s transition from small pearling village to modern, not to say futuristic, metropolis.
Considered by many to be one of the most attractive mosques in the region and also one of the few that is open to non-Muslims for tours.
NEED TO KNOW
- Dubai is four hours ahead of UK time.
- Wadi-bashing in the desert involves driving up and down the sand dunes in four-wheel-drive vehicles.
- Take a boat trip along the Dubai Creek for some fast sightseeing.
- Pay the daily price for gold when you buy in the Gold Souk.