A desert classic

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iol travel may 8 dubai

REUTERS

Men sit during the opening of the Arabian Travel Market show.

I'd only been on the Emirates flight from Dublin for seven and a half hours.

Somehow though, when I landed in Dubai, I'd managed to be transported to a bygone era. A culture shock, if ever there was one.

Don't get me wrong, I was clued up on the burkas, camel riding, humid conditions, the alcohol ban away from the main hotels, shisha smoking, Souks, Sheiks, AED currency and the Bedouin society having read the mandatory travel guides.

But the total disregard for women whenever a man is present still left me baffled. And this in one of the more progressive Emirates states.

In the UAE, the male is very much the superior sex, but having been brought up to treat women in a gentlemanly and respectful way, it certainly caught me by surprise when the car door was opened for me, while my wife Kate was left to fend for herself. My chair was pulled out first in a restaurant and the waiters only seemed interested in how I was enjoying my meal.

While I lay beside the pool soaking up the rays at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, with the stunning seven-star Burj Al Arab in eye shot across our own private beach, I told myself, for one week only, I was not going to let it bother me!

iol travel may 8 dubai2

The Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower at a height of 828 metres.

REUTERS

Instead, as I lapped up the winter sun and pleasant 26 degrees temperature, I slowly contemplated our next move. As I was staying at the Jumeirah Beach, which is designed in the shape of a wave and of course is one of Rory McIlroy's major sponsors, I had plenty of options. Usually, I would consult with Kate, but I thought, when in Rome...

The beach resort, which is 40 minutes away from Dubai international airport and overlooking the Arabian Gulf, has it's own high-energy waterpark, Wild Wadi, three huge swimming pools, a fitness centre, which includes outdoor tennis and table tennis, watersports area and, of course, six miles of glorious white sand.

It dispelled the theory of an ignorant friend, who had been to Dubai on many occasions, and told me I'd be bored after a few days as there was nothing to do here except sunbathe and shop!

And although those two elements are superbly catered for by the vast five-star Jumeirah Beach resort and the impressive Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall, we still found plenty of other activities to pass the time.

If we weren't dune bashing in the desert on dirt buggies or swimming with dolphins at Atlantis The Palm, we were scaling the heights of the tallest building in the world - the Burj Khalifa.

Standing at a breathtaking 830 metres high in downtown Dubai, this magnificent structure towers over the rest of the Arab world.

It's also directly above the Dubai Fountains - a fascinating musical display - similar to that of the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

And it seems, judging my Dubai's skyline, the attitude in the Emirates is now - anything America can do, we can do better. Or at least - if you can't beat 'em, join them.

It was a delight to stay in and around the hotel resort, especially due to the fact Jumeirah Beach is more like a village with it's 13 restaurants, four bars and the Madinat Jumeirah - a huge complex with it's souk, Venetian-style canal, restaurants and bars - situated only a few hundred yards down the road.

And Madinat Jumeirah is where you will find the fantastic live music bar Jambase.

Back at Jumeirah Beach, Dhow & Anchor masks as an English pub on the ground floor, but for a drink in pleasant surroundings, take an elevator ride up to the cocktail bar Uptown to experience sensational views.

Just a short (and cheap) taxi ride away, Thiptara Restaurant beside the Dubai fountains offers a nice change of scenery, serving delicious Thai cuisine in a romantic setting.

The hip and happening Buddha Bar at the very English Grosvenor House Hotel is a great place for a special occasion as just across the road, you can enjoy drinks in the very classy Embassy Club on the top floor of Grosvenor House Hotel Tower Two. A place that oozes money and sophistication.

But then that is Dubai in a nutshell, a city that screams wealth as soon you land.

If you're on a strict budget, Dubai doesn't have to cost a small fortune to visit. Turn your breakfast into a brunch, only have one course instead of three for dinner and apply some booze control as it's expensive in most bars and restaurants.

At Jumeirah Beach, the B&B rate is recommended, especially at Beachcombers restaurant as it's a culinary delight.

That's if you can tear yourself away from your room which, just like the hotel itself, is spacious, comfortable and utterly luxurious. It's also worth chancing your arm for an upgrade - afterall, the hotel's motto is “We never say no”.

With a direct flight from Dublin with Emirates, Dubai is now easily accessible all year round.

While it's piping hot at the height of summer, Dubai to me is perfect for that winter break, with sunshine guaranteed.

It should definitely be experienced at least once in a lifetime - even if it is only for the men to show who really is boss in the relationship! - Sunday Life

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