What type of city would you build if money was no object ?
After being exposed to a lot of different services and facilities in their adopted cities, I think this is a question every expat (or serious traveller) ponders at some point in their journey (usually while sleep and oxygen deprived in a dark aircraft cabin….).
We recently discovered how one man would spend his dream city budget, when we visited Dubai for a long, long weekend.
Sheikh Mohammed, is the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Emir of Dubai and is credited with shaping and sculpting the modern, glittering metropolis of Dubai from the sands of the desert.
So, what was on Sheikh Mohammed’s wish list for his dream city ?
Here are my findings:
STAY | Dubai has marina at one end ; a sparkly commercial precinct at the other.
And an enormous 12 lane freeway running between the two.
For our starter stay in Dubai, we opted to stay the first two nights at the marina at the Sofitel Jumeriah Beach. A beach and sandcastles, even if they are 40 storey sand coloured condos and hotels, are definitely on the wish list for a dream city.
The boardwalk installed on Jumeriah Beach by Sheikh Mohammed, may be rather on the short side, but it does feature outposts of some of the worlds most high profile culinary purveyors (I am not sure Laduree envisaged their signature Parisian macrons being eaten on the edge of the Persian Gulf ) and exclusive retailers.
It also features beach clubs that would look at home on the exclusive Belgian coastal town of Knokke. (Thinking someone did their homework…..)
The world’s biggest something was probably an obvious get for Sheikh Mohommad, but Burj Khalifa is truly striking. Kind of like an exquisite piece of jewellery that you know is ridiculously expensive and unattainable, but you find yourself mesmerised anyway. It is definitely worth the USD$35 to whiz up to the 124 floor in 28 seconds. I swear I could see our Singapore condo from the viewing deck.
EAT | It is not longer necessary to send your private jet around the world to collect your favourite delicacies. Just go to Dubai where you can have cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery (New York), signature Mogador macarons from Pierre Herme (Paris) and Michelin starred dumplings from Din Tai Fung (Taiwan).
Sheikh Mohammed also convinced the world’s best hamburger restaurant, to open multiple outposts in his glittering new city, As hamburgers are a seperate food group for teenage and tween boys, Shake Shack featured heavily on our culinary itinerary.
Fortunately I also have a treasured friend on the ground in Dubai – D whom I originally befriended in Bruxelles. I must admit I cannot remember much of the cuisine, but her choice of The Villa Beach Restaurant at Jumeirah Beach Hotel looking out at the iconic Burj Al Arab (aka The 7 Star Hotel), combined with her witty banter, made this one of the most memorable places I have ever eaten.
DO | Sheikh Mohammed obviously had a shopping list of retailers for his Dubai shopping malls. Both Dubai Mall (the world’s largest mall) and Mall of The Emirates feature outposts of the worlds best stores.
Shopping Malls do not normally give me any buzz. However, the combination of atmospheric music, a striking butterfly installation and the heady fragrance of so many luxe brands (and possibly Fauchon french pastries) did result in a shopping moment at Fashion Avenue at The Dubai Mall.
And when you throw in a snow run that looks like it has been transported straight from Verbier, Switzerland (or at least a very high budget movie set) to the mix at Mall of The Emirates, it is hard not to be a little smitten.
DO | A starter trip to any city gives you a free pass to do something a little cheesy. So we choose to do a Desert Safari.
Hello rollercoaster in a luxury four wheel drive over the dunes, hello camel rides, sand boarding and good evening belly dancer. Apart from observing that watching a belly dancing show is the equivalent of a going to a strip club for 13 and 9 year old boys, one of my favourite moments of the tour was sitting cross legged on a rug at the dinner tables and drinking in the clear desert stars. And maybe some wine, while also partaking of dips and meat skewers. By the end of the Desert Safari, its status had been upgraded from cheesy to highlight.
So much more to explore in Dubai. Another long, long weekend is definitely in order. And who knows what else Sheikh Mohammed will have added to his dream city by then.