Travel

Exploring the city of superlatives

Ritzy shopping malls and soaring skyscrapers. Sand dune bashing over a balmy winter weekend. A few tentative skiing lessons at the Mall of the Emirates. The lofty sail of Burj Al Arab by the seashore. And perhaps, more recently, the imposing façade of Atlantis The Palm resort. For those who have been there, done that in Dubai, these are likely to be the enduring, perhaps overwhelming images of this desert city. But there are new stars emerging every year, every season. And each time I visit, I come away wondering if it was actually a whole new city I just saw. CHARUKESI RAMADURAI lists some offbeat and exciting things to do

Go to the top

It’s a bit of a ‘top of the world’ experience. After all, it is a view from the observation deck on the 125th floor of the tallest building in the world. That is, if you have not gone further up to the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa. The air at this level is rarefied, literally, as entry into the observatory also comes with special lounge access and a dedicated elevator which takes you through flash images of the world’s most iconic landmarks as it takes you up.

Glide, and then fly

Is it a boat? Is it a plane? Apparently, the amphibian that bobs unsteadily on the creek waters is a seaplane. Take off after a brief taxi over blue waters, after which the seaplane begins its aerial tour of familiar Dubai sights. The large picture windows offer clear views of the sprawling fronds of the Palm Jumeirah, the tapered tower of the Burj Al Arab and the impressive expanse of the Atlantis, before the criss-cross roads and flyovers of the inner city appear.

Walk with the sharks

Whether or not you stay at Atlantis The Palm resort, don’t miss a trip to the Aquaventure and Dolphin Bay water park within its premises. You could, of course, coast with the dolphins, but why settle for that when you can walk with the sharks? Of the wide range of experiences available, this is one of the most exciting: an underwater walk, with fish, sting rays, and yes, sharks, swimming right next to you. So, if you are over the age of eight, make sure to don that helmet and that breathing apparatus and step right into the water.

Bargain at the souks

In Dubai, retail therapy is available everywhere, even on the streets. So, forget those swanky malls and head to the souks along the creek, where the real fun lies. In those narrow lanes in Deira, the aroma of saffron and cinnamon wafts up into the air, as vendors in the Spice Souk keep their stocks piled high in eye-catching, multi-colour mounds. Right next to it is the Gold Souk, where, in sheer contrast, only one colour rules. Gold jewellery, which is considered of the best quality, winks from shop windows, tempting even the most thrifty shopper to walk in.

Skydive indoors

Let nobody tell you that Dubai cannot pull off the impossible. How else would you explain the adventure of skydiving, without a plane? The excitement, but without the fear? Welcome, wind technology. Enjoy the feeling of jumping off a plane, as the wind courses past your body, filling you with adrenalin. This indoor skydiving centre allows you to defy gravity and experience freefall at this vertical wind tunnel.

Or use this as a lesson for the real McCoy — skydiving as it is meant to happen, either as a solo or as a tandem jump with a professional instructor. Of course, what they tell you that is no previous experience is required for this: just an empty stomach and the ability to let go!

Peer through the lens

For a desert city, Dubai is remarkably full of colour and culture. Explore the streets of Dubai with professional photographers and see the sights through their eyes and your own camera viewfinder. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a Dubai stalwart, one of their Unseen Trails is sure to throw up visual surprises (the Naif by Night tour comes highly recommended). There is even a tour themed around Diwali in one of Dubai’s oldest Indian neighbourhoods. And the tour does come with the warning that it is not for those who “prefer order, peace, quiet, and plenty of personal space.”

Do the dhow

Forget those cars and planes, and see the Dubai skyline the old-fashioned way, through an evening cruise on a wooden dhow. The more popular route is along the creek, where this city was born. Or you can choose to cruise in the newer and glitzier parts of town, along the Dubai Marina, with its five-star hotels and private beaches. This dhow cruise comes with a barbecue dinner, belly dancing and the works.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 11:59:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/Exploring-the-city-of-superlatives/article14430238.ece

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