Think Dubai, and decadence and hedonism spring to mind. And let’s face it - who doesn’t relish an occasional helping of those particular dishes?
This summer, with the help of British Airways and Leeds-Bradford airport, West Yorkshire families can sample a dose of Dubai luxury for themselves, and it doesn’t have to cost a King’s - or indeed a Sheikh’s - ransom.
A comfortable 45-minute link flight from LBA to Heathrow, and a relaxing sleeper flight onwards to Dubai, was all it took to transport us into a world of sun-soaked Middle Eastern wonder.
Dubai is the second largest city in the United Arab Emirates, located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf, and is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.
Its current ruler is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and his influence is stamped all over this remarkable and ever-developing city.
Before this maiden trip, my image of Dubai was of a celebrity and playboy paradise, a soulless, sprawling metropolis of big buildings, huge shopping malls and endless beaches. But this diverse, bustling and beautiful city has a lot more to offer for the creative and discerning traveller.
From jeep safaris on beautiful undulating sand dunes, to the excitement of a vibrant nightlife, there’s plenty of soul food on the menu.
We were travelling as part of a package with Fairmont The Palm, a luxury hotel resort in the heart of the iconic Palm Jumeirah, the world’s largest man-made island, which is actually shaped in the form of a palm tree!
We arrived - as expected - in searing heat. Temperatures in Dubai between April and September vary between a LOW of 28 degrees Celsius(82 Fahrenheit) and highs of 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit).
Fairmont The Palm is the latest addition to the hotel chain’s global family of resorts. The fabulous 381-room hotel is ideally located next to key leisure areas, major city landmarks and two ‘world firsts’ – Burj Khalifa, the tallest free standing building, and The Dubai Mall, the largest retail development in the world, with its 1,000 shops featuring 535 international brands.
A quick glance from our spacious private balcony with sweeping sea-view revealed the aforementioned Sheikh’s private yacht, and some of his many children enjoying a session of watersports!
The hotel itself, which only opened last year, is a glorious building, and one you could easily spend your whole holiday in, were you so inclined. There are SEVEN in-hotel restaurants and lounges, and a variety of spa, pampering and pool facilities.
The resort is just minutes away from the Dubai Marina, lauded for its café style restaurants and Al Fresco dining alongside the Jumeirah Walk and the public beach.
We were looked after throughout our trip by the team from Arabian Adventures.
Travelling in their comfortable, air-conditioned mini-bus, our first ‘touristy’ stop was Old Dubai - two words that, in my ignorance of the deep and long history of the city, I had never put together before.
We took a tour of the City of Merchants, popped into the Dubai Museum - chronicling the city’s ancient heritage and its transformation since the 1960s - and visited the traditional Souk and the legendary ‘gold quarter’.
The difference between this ‘downtown’ part of Dubai and the hotel-packed Palm is astounding. It’s like two different worlds, and further evidence of how foreigners are the main driving force in the city’s economy.
After a heady city tour, it was back to the hotel to sample one of those seven restaurants mentioned earlier.
Frevo is one of Dubai’s only authentic Brazilian restaurants, incorporating the ‘churrasco’ method of charcoal grilling. For meat-eaters, it’s a dream, chefs bring you a variety of meats, all cooked on-the-spot and served from gigantic skewers. A stream of up to 14 cuts are brought to you, until you press the red light on your table to say ‘enough’. An entertaining way to dine!
Another culinary highlight of the hotel is the Flow Kitchen, an eclectic international restaurant with creative chefs re-defining regional cookery from several countries.
One must-do is a desert safari with Arabian Adventures. An adrenaline-fuelled dune ride will be followed by an authentic Arabic barbecue dinner - with obligatory belly-dancer for entertainment.
Also, sample life ‘At The Top’ by taking the ultimate elevator to the viewing platform at the Burj Khalifa to get a bird’s eye view of the city. For an alternative way to enjoy breathtaking views of the city skyline and the Palm Island, you could take a skydive! But for those who prefer a slightly less adrenaline-fuelled experience, you could take in the sites from inside the comfort of a sea plane tour.
The famous Friday champagne brunch at Fairmont The Palm’s sister hotel Fairmont Dubai’s Spectrum On One restaurant really should be on your must-do list before you leave. And for the children - and the big kids too - The Aquarium, Underwater Zoo, KidZania and Sega Republic at Dubai Mall will offer hours of entertainment.
Visit www.uk.definitelydubai.com. Also visit facebook.com/fairmonthotels, and twitter.com/fairmonthotels.
British Airways offers three nights at the 5* Fairmont The Palm, Dubai from £799 to £929 per person based on September travel. Includes return flights from Leeds Bradford via Heathrow to Dubai and accommodation only. For reservations visit ba.com/dubai or call 0844 493 0758.