Fabulously family-friendly, and the Middle-East’s major stop-off point for long-haul flights, could dazzling Dubai be the ultimate stopover city?
Aleney de Winter and family, discover the delights of this amazing destination.
Dubai is so hot right now! Seriously, it’s 40 degrees as we walk out from the sweet sanctuary of the air-conditioned airport. But Dubai is nothing if not a smart city and, with most of its attractions inside or waterside to counter the high temps it’s the only time we really notice the heat on our two day stopover.
A startling mix of traditional Arabian culture and fantastically futuristic metropolis, Dubai is a surprisingly family-friendly city. In fact, with phenomenal resorts, desert safaris, camel treks and eye-poppingly enormous malls that, beside endless shopping, boast everything from aquariums, an underwater zoo, theme parks, amusement arcades, cinemas and playgrounds to indoor ski resorts, Dubai is virtually a desert Disneyland.
While Dubai is home to some of the world’s most extravagant hotels and resorts, families need look no further than Atlantis, The Palm, a wonderful watery world that is a destination in its own right and that, after our overnight stay, left mine begging for more.
Arriving at lunchtime, our first stop is Ronda Locatelli, one of the resort’s 21different restaurants and bars. Three-year-old Raff is whisked away by the resident pizza chef to make his own pizza in the brick oven – a culinary masterpiece if I ever saw one - while we scoff some of the finest Italian food we’ve ever eaten. Impressive given we’ve just arrived from Italy.
At the Ambassador Lagoon we are stunned at the sheer size and beauty of the spectacular 11 million-litre marine exhibit, home to the mythical lost world of Atlantis. We enjoy an underwater adventure in the stunning maze of underground passageways of the Lost Chambers, with its more than 65,000 sea creatures. Raff loves the touch-tanks filled with starfish and sea urchins and, on a back-of-house tour, is thrilled at the opportunity to feed a shark.
After a visit to the Atlantis Kids Club with its impressive adult-free fun – think climbing walls, a tech zone, underwater amphitheatre and arts and crafts – there’s time for a quick twilight swim before we shoehorn in more food at Saffron, the resort’s family-friendly buffet. Offering beautiful international food from 20 live cooking stations, it’s the dessert station with its molten chocolate fountain, tower of toffee apples and heaving counters of sugary goodness that holds us captive. Where are we going to fit it all?
Morning and breakfast is served in our room overlooking the Arabian Sea and dramatic Dubai skyline. Three or four kilos heavier than this time yesterday we head to Aquaventure where Raff and his dad enjoy the water cannons and jets as they clamber about the climbing frames of the elaborate Splashers water playground while I head off to explore its beaches, extensive lazy river and Ziggurat temple, with its seven heart attack inducing waterslides, two of which shoot me (minus children) through a shark-filled lagoon.
There’s time for a pit-stop at the Cold Stone Creamery, where we choose from the countless toppings to create gluttonous masterpieces, before its back to our room to shower and get ready for our afternoon flight home. There are still dolphins to meet, slides to slide and rapids to ride but sadly we are out of time, this time.
While it is possible to experience some of the best Dubai has to offer in a couple days, even without leaving Atlantis, The Palm, there’s so much for families that you could easily spend a week without even scratching its very shiny surface!
KidZania is a kid-sized scale replica of a real city, with streets, buildings, shops and vehicles. Pilot, doctor or policeman? Kids can role-play in grown-up jobs complete with uniform.
Enjoy a real Arabian adventure at Desert Safari Dubai, a perfect combination of ancient tradition and modern culture.
Ski Dubai is the world’s largest indoor snow park with tobogganing hills, a bobsled ride, tubing, ski and snowboarding runs and of course, plenty of space to build a snowman.
The Dubai Fountain stands in the shadows of the world’s tallest building and its awesome water and light show can be seen over 30 kilometres away.
The best time to visit is from October to April. Avoid June to September when scorching temperatures can top 45˚C and the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Direct flights to Dubai are available from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
The currency is the Emirati Dirham (UAD). At the time of writing, AU$1 buys 3.63UAD.
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