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Frommer's Dubai and Abu Dhabi day by day

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Frommer’s books aren’t written by committee, or by travel writers who simply pop in briefly to a destination and then consider the job done. We employ the best experts to author our guides, like Gavin Thomas who has been reporting on Dubai since it was just a forest of construction cranes. He’s the author of this innovative guide that combines maps, photos and detailed itineraries to help visitors plan their time in the most efficient way possible. The book covers:
• The best of Dubai & Abu Dhabi in one, two, or three days
• Thematic tours for every interest, schedule, and taste (including Arabian heritage tours and day trips to Sharjah, Al Ain and Hatta).
• Hundreds of evocative photos
• Bulleted maps that show you how to go from place to place
• Candid reviews of hotels, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife for all budgets
• A tear-resistant foldout map—enclosed in a handy plastic wallet you can also use for tickets and souvenirs

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15 FAVORITE MOMENTS

ePub

View of the Marina at dusk.

15 Favorite Moments

Dubai, it often seems, is not so much a conventional city as a fascinating urban experiment in which almost anything can happen—and frequently does. This is the place where some of the world’s most spectacular developments are taking shape, but it is also a city whose heart still beats to the traditional rhythms of the Arabian bazaar, lending the place a unique character.

❶ Riding an abra across the Creek. Hop aboard a traditional abra (water taxi) for the brief but thrilling ride across the breezy waters of the Creek, with views of tangled souks, wind towers, and minarets to either side—a marvelous panorama of old Dubai, and unforgettable at any time of the day or night. See ,p 28.

❷ Getting lost in the Deira Souks. Getting disoriented is half the fun, whether in the backstreets of the Spice or Gold souks or in the seemingly endless Covered Souk, with its labyrinth of tangled alleyways and tiny shops. If you don’t get lost the first time, go back until you do. See p 32.

 

1 THE BEST FULL-DAY, TWO AND THREE-DAY TOURS

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Sheikh Zayed Mosque.The Best in One DayBegin amid the souks of old Dubai, which offer a memorable taste of traditional Gulf life. Then take a boat over the Creek before heading south to the futuristic Sheikh Zayed Road, Downtown Dubai, and neck-cricking Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. START: Gold Souk, Deira. Catch a taxi, or take the metro to Al Ras station on the Green Line.❶ ★★★ Gold Souk. At the heart of the vibrant trading district of Deira, the Gold Souk is a perfect introduction to a city that prides itself on all things brash and ostentatious. The souk—a long, wooden roofed arcade of small shops full of gold jewelry—offers everything from suave European designs to fabulously ornate traditional Arabian pieces, plus the elegant Emirati-style gold bangles featured prominently in many storefronts. Prices are cheap, too. For more information see p 33, ❶.  30 min. Most shops open 10am–10pm.❷ ★★ Spice Souk. Hidden away just south of the Gold Souk is the city’s atmospheric Spice Souk, with a cluster of tiny shops squeezed into the narrowest of alleyways, their presence signaled by the photogenic sacks of herbs and spices piled up outside. You’ll probably smell the souk before you actually see it. The shops here are run by Iranian traders—an engaging and friendly bunch, who are always happy to explain the sometimes mysterious substances on offer, ranging from everyday cooking spices to prized Omani frankincense and rose-petal tea. For more information, see p 34, ❷.  20 min. Most shops open 10am–10pm.

 

2 THE BEST SPECIAL-INTEREST TOURS: Old Dubai, Souks, Religious Dubai, Dubai with Kids, and Futuristic Dubai

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The Jumeirah Mosque.Old DubaiContrary to popular belief, Dubai wasn’t built yesterday. The old city dates back to the early days of the 19th century, and although much of the traditional architecture was swept away during the modernizing rush of the 1960s and 1970s, a considerable number of characterful old buildings survive. START: Shindagha, Bur Dubai. Taxi or Green Line metro to Al Ghubaiba station.❶ ★★ Al Fahidi Fort & Dubai Museum. Dating back to around 1800, Al Fahidi Fort is the oldest building in Dubai. Inside, the Dubai Museum serves as a brilliant first stop if you’re looking for an introduction to all things Arabian. The museum is entered via the fort’s courtyard, where you’ll find a few traditional wooden boats and a small barasti (palm thatch) hut complete with primitive canvas wind tower. The surrounding rooms hold exhibits on Emirati music and folklore, including an entertaining film of Emirati men performing the traditional stick dance.All this, however, is a mere appetizer for the museum’s excellent sequence of underground galleries. Atmosphere is provided by a series of carefully re-created traditional buildings, including various shops—a carpenter’s, a potter’s, a blacksmith’s—all inhabited by slightly spooky life-size mannequins posed drinking tea, standing behind the counters of their shops, or hammering away in their workshops. Context and background information are provided by an excellent series of displays covering all relevant cultural bases—Islam, architecture, falconry, dates, wind towers, and so on.  45 min. See p 10, ➏.

 

3 THE BEST SHOPPING

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Ibn Battuta shopping mall.

Shopping Best Bets

Best Mall

★★★ Dubai Mall (p 67)

Best for Cheap Diamonds

★★ Gold and Diamond Park (p 66)

Best for Gold

★★★ Gold Souk, Deira (p 66)

Best for Arabian Music

★★ Virgin Megastore, Dubai Mall (p 70)

Best for Books

★★★ Kinokuniya, Dubai Mall (p 62)

Best for Glam Partyware

★★ Aizone, Mall of the Emirates (p 63)

Best for Animals with Humps

★★ The Camel Company, Souk Madinat Jumeirah (p 70)

Best for Unusual Scents

★★ Arabian Oud, Wafi (p 70)

Best for Cute Arabian Slippers

★★ International Aladdin Shoes, Bur Dubai (p 64)

Best for Italian Kitsch

★★★ Mercato, Jumeirah (p 68)

Best for Kids

★★ The Toy Store, Mall of the Emirates (p 70)

Best for Arabian Crafts & Souvenirs

★★★ Khan Murjan, Wafi (p 62)

Best for Mad Decor

★★ Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai Marina (p 68)

 

4 THE BEST LEISURE ACTIVITIES

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Yoga at Talise Spa in the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel.

Spas

Dubai is a haven for the senses, and not surprisingly the city boasts a fabulous array of top-notch spas, offering heaven-sent levels of luxury and indulgence. You’ll find every conceivable style of treatment and therapy here, from mainstream massages, wraps, and facials to arcane procedures, such as color therapy and gem healing.

★★★ Amara GARHOUD This gorgeously serene spa—one of the best in the city—has eight treatment rooms (including three for couples), all with outdoor rain shower and private walled garden. (You won’t have to brave any communal changing rooms here.) The signature “Jewels of Arabia” rituals are based on the ancient healing properties of diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire, using exclusive products by Anne Semonin and others. Treatments range from phyto-aromatic facials to chiro deep-body massages—using golf balls. Crash out afterward on one of the loungers around the idyllic tree-shaded pool, which visitors are free to use for the day, assuming they take a minimum 1-hour treatment. Park Hyatt. ☎ 04-602-1660. www.dubai.park.hyatt.com.

 

5 THE BEST DINING

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Tagine Moroccan Restaurant at One&Only.

Greater Dubai Dining

City Center Dining

Dining Best Bets

Best Panoramic Views

★★ At.mosphere, Burj Khalifa (p 89)

Best Waterside Views

★★ Pierchic, Al Qasr (p 93)

Best for the Beach

★★ Palm Grill, Ritz-Carlton (p 92)

Best for Romance

★★★ Pai Thai, Dar Al Masyaf (p 92)

Best for Mixing with the Locals

★★ Kan Zaman, Shindagha (p 91)

Best Cafe

★★ Lime Tree Café, Jumeirah Road (p 92)

Best Cheap Eats

★★ Ravi’s, Satwa (p 93)

Best Arabian Cuisine

★★ Al Nafoorah, The Boulevard (p 87)

Best for Traditional Arabian Atmosphere

★★ Al Bait al Qadeem, Deira (p 87)

Best for Fresh Seafood

★★ Alto Mar, Jumeirah (p 88)

Best Latino-Style Steakhouse

★★ La Parrilla, Jumeirah Beach Hotel (p 91)

Best for French Fine Dining

★★★ Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire, Intercontinental, Festival City (p 93)

Best of British

 

6 THE BEST NIGHTLIFE, ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

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Koubba Bar at Jumeirah Al Qasr.

Dubai Nightlife

Dubai Arts & Entertainment

Nightlife, Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

Best Bar

★★★ Bahri Bar, Mina A’Salam, Madinat Jumeirah (p 105)

Best Chill-Out Venue

★★★ 360°, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Umm Suqeim (p 109)

Best for Quirky Decor

★★ Double Decker, Al Murooj Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road (p 110)

Best Cocktails

★★ Skyview Bar, Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim (p 106)

Best British Pub

★★ Fibber Magee’s, Sheikh Zayed Road (p 111)

Best Wine Bar

★★ The Agency, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (p 112)

Best for High-Rise Chic

★★ Bar 44, Grosvenor House Hotel, Dubai Marina (p 105)

Best for Beachside Partying

★★ Barasti, Mina A’Seyahi, Dubai Marina (p 105)

Best Belgian Beer

★★ Belgian Beer Café, Crowne Plaza, Festival City (p 105)

Best Old City Views

★★ Up on the Tenth, Radisson Blue Deira Creek, Deira (p 108)

Best Arabian Atmosphere

 

7 THE BEST LODGING

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Pool and private cabanas at the Park Hyatt Dubai.

Greater Dubai Lodging

City Center Lodging

Lodging Best Bets

Best of the Best

★★ Burj Al Arab $$$$$ (p 119)

Best City Center Hotel

★★★ Park Hyatt Dubai $$$$ (p 125)

Best in Old Dubai

★★ Arabian Courtyard $$ (p 118)

Best for Business

★★ Jumeirah Emirates Towers $$$$ (p 123)

Best Over-the-Top Beach Resort

★★ Jumeirah Zabeel Saray $$$$ (p 123)

Best for Contemporary Style

★★★ Raffles Dubai $$$$ (p 125)

Best for Urban Chic

★★★ Grosvenor House $$$ (p 120)

Best for Kids

★★★ Jumeirah Beach Hotel $$$$ (p 122)

Best for Family Fun

★★ Atlantis $$$$$ (p 119)

Best Retreat from the City

★★ Per Aquum Desert Palm $$$ (p 125)

Best Value for Money

★★ Hyatt Place Baniyas Square $$ (p 121)

Best for Local Ambience

★★ XVA Hotel $$ (p 115)

Best Arabian Nights Ambience

★★★ One&Only Royal Mirage $$$$ (p 124)

 

8 THE BEST DAY TRIPS & EXCURSIONS

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Al Jahili Fort.

Sharjah

A mere 10km (61⁄4 miles) from Dubai, the emirate of Sharjah looks at first sight simply like a sprawling extension of its neighbor. Culturally, however, the two emirates couldn’t be further apart. Compared to cosmopolitan Dubai, Sharjah is staunchly Islamic—there’s no alcohol for sale, for example. It’s not exactly Sin City, but Sharjah does have some excellent museums and attractions. START: Al Hisn Fort.

❶ ★★ Al Hisn Fort. At the dead center of the city sits the venerable Al Hisn Fort, an impressively impregnable-looking edifice that was formerly home to Sharjah’s ruling Al Qassimi family. Once the focal point of the old city, it’s now hemmed in by ugly apartment blocks. The original fort was almost completely demolished in 1969, much to the disgust of the emirate’s current ruler, Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi, who promptly had it rebuilt from scratch. Reconstruction work was carried out with great care, and further restoration work in 2013–14 has left the fort looking as good as ever, if not better. The inside of the fort houses a series of displays and refurbished rooms, including a traditional majlis, bedroom, and medbasa (in which dates were pressed to make molasses), along with the usual weapons and rifles and some interesting photographs of the fort in former years.  30 min. Al Burj Ave. ☎ 06-568-5500. www.sharjahmuseums.ae. Admission AED 5, free for children 12 & under. Sat–Thurs 8am–8pm; Fri 4–8pm.

 

9 ABU DHABI

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Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

The Best of Abu Dhabi

Few neighboring cities can be more different than Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Where Dubai is brash, glamorous, and cosmopolitan, Abu Dhabi is traditional and conservative. For some, Abu Dhabi’s gentler pace of life and outlook have their own appeal, bolstered by such modern developments as the sumptuous Emirates Palace Hotel and the extraordinary Sheikh Zayed Mosque. START: Emirates Palace Hotel.

❶ ★★★ Emirates Palace. The most spectacular sight in central Abu Dhabi, the landmark Emirates Palace hotel lives up to every Western cliché about the petroleum-fueled opulence of life in the Gulf. Built at a cost of around $3 billion (possibly the most expensive hotel ever constructed), the entire place is a study in Arabian baroque and excess. The scale of the hotel is staggering: It’s around a half mile long (guests are offered bicycles to circumnavigate the grounds) and equipped with more than 1,000 Swarovski crystal chandeliers, 150,000 cubic yards of imported marble, 114 domes, 102 elevators, and more than 1,000 employees from around 50 countries. Fittings in the six Rulers’ Suites (reserved for visiting heads of state) are made entirely of gold—including the sinks.

 

THE SAVVY TRAVELER

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Before You Go

Government Tourist Offices

USA: DTCM (Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing), 10th floor, 215 Park Ave. S., New York, NY 10003; ☎ 212-575-2262; www.visitdubai.com.

UK: DTCM, Ste. 201–206, 4th floor, Nuffield House, 41–46 Piccadilly, London W1J 0DS; ☎ 020-7321-6110; www.visitdubai.com.

The Best Time to Go

The best time to visit the Gulf is from November to March. Temperatures during these months are pretty per fect: a pleasant Mediterranean heat, never too oppressive (and sometimes surprisingly chilly after dark). Don’t be surprised if there’s the occasional rain shower, with heavier downpours and even the occasional thunderstorm not uncommon. By contrast, the months from mid-April to September/October are almost completely dry but scorchingly hot. These months are okay for lying under a parasol sipping fruit juice or going shopping in air-conditioned malls, but it’s difficult to do anything more strenuous. Daytime temperatures often exceed 40°C (104°F) and remain high even after dark.

 

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