It is early in the week and we have just returned from our short stay at the Anantara Resort on the Palm Jumeirah. The Anantara is a great spot with all of the things that one needs for a few days of fun in the sun. With the usual dose of swim up pool bars, a pool at the beachside and a strip of white sand, turquoise water beach and an abundance of tourists sporting the deep beetroot glow from trying to fit three months’ worth of sunbathing into 7 days; the Anantara is the perfect family holiday vay-cay, or stay-cay, depending on where you live.
We were lucky enough to have a poolside villa for our one-night stay. Spread over two floors it has a private(ish) deck with sunloungers overlooking the pool and lush gardens. The lower floor of the villa was a dedicated children’s room, complete with theme painted walls, beanbags, a TV and a desk. The upper floor was adult zone – typical Dubai 5 star with all of the beige tones, swanky furniture and sublime smells you would expect in a hotel room at a beautiful resort on the Palm.
So, the Anantara is a place I would recommend and to which we will return. We are so spoiled for five-star hotel choice in the Emirates, but the beautiful location on the Palm and super-sized family rooms make it a winner with me.
As I was laying there at Anantara on a sun-lounger, looking back at the silhouettes of the Dubai skyscraper-line, our stay at the Anantara also made me wonder:
What is it about this city that continues to captivate tourists and residents alike?
There is so much that I could write that has already been written, so I am not even going to try and recreate some sort of Dubai city guide. However, like every great city, its residents have their favourite little go-to places that aren’t always obvious and are often kept purposely hush-hush. If you are visiting Dubai for the first time; returning; or live here and are looking for something other than the Dubai Fountains to show the constant stream of friends and family members who, in my experience, find this special place equally addictive, then try these numbers on for size.
- Lime Tree Café Jumeirah Beach Road – this institution has been here since the early 2000s. It is casual with great food and excellent coffee. The outdoor courtyard at the front is an outstanding place to sup on a cappuccino any day from late October through until late May, and then during the summer months decamp indoors. The food is always fresh (we know, we eat there pretty much every week) and consistently good. http://www.thelimetreecafe.com/ There are a couple of other Lime Tree Cafés in Dubai, but the Jumeirah Beach Road one is our particular favourite.
- Raw Coffee in Al Qouz – hidden (and I mean hidden – whatsapp and googlemaps at the ready) in the Al Qouz area, this little place roasts world class coffee in an industrial warehouse turned into a café. The New Zealand chaps who own and run it are typically laid back and know what they are doing. If you want top shelf coffee served in surroundings in which you would expect to see people that look like they work in advertising, or perhaps as an architect, you will have gone to the right place. http://rawcoffeecompany.com/ (You’ve guessed, I love coffee).
- Arabian Courtyard Indian restaurant – located in the less than salubrious Bur Dubai area but worth the visit. Genuinely good north Indian cuisine (which to be fair is not that difficult to find in Dubai, given where we are, but means that you really need to stand out to be good), some of which is fiercely hot, cold beer and live, yes live, traditional Indian music and dancing. A bit of a rough diamond but puts pay to those who question the culture offering here. After dinner you can wander down to the creek, through the mangled maze of streets in Bur Dubai and back into Bastakiya area. Now tell me that is not culture. http://www.arabiancourtyard.com/restaurants/
- Jumeirah Beach Hotel – family day pass. Ok, I hear you, this is hardly a hidden gem. In fact quite the contrary. With its iconic design and the fact it happens to rub shoulders, literally, with one of the world’s most famous hotels, the Burj Al Arab, this establishment is front and centre of Dubai landmarks. If you have children, or even if you don’t, stay at this very, very good hotel. It is pricey but worth it. If you are not staying at the hotel, or just live here, try a family day pass to experience the outstanding facilities at the hotel, including unlimited access to the Wild Wadi waterpark, Sinbad’s beach club, the best gym in Dubai (complete with outdoor cross fit trail) pools, white sand beaches and great eating options. The day pass will cost you a little more than it does just to go into the water park, but if offers a whole lot more. https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/dubai/jumeirah-beach-hotel/
- Mall of the Emirates – yes a Dubai cliché, but this mall is amazing if you are travelling with children and you want to beat the heat. All the usual shopping suspects and eateries for the grown-ups, and basically anything else you could ever want to do indoors, and then some for the children. From cinema to penguin feeding, skiing to amusement arcades, no child will be bored. http://www.malloftheemirates.com/
- Bab Al Shams Arabic Dinner experience – if you would prefer something more civilized than that standard Dubai dune bashing trip (cue getting thrown about in a Landcruiser followed by standing around the bain mairies munching your hummus, complete with grit from the blown sand) then try this dinner. It is a bit of a drive but taxis are reasonable. They have an extensive and very good Arabic buffet dinner, a traditional Emirati and Arab culture show complete with a camel to pose for a selfie with. You can even enjoy an alcoholic beverage with your meal and show, which is evidence of the real openness of this town. http://www.meydanhotels.com/babalshams/
So, that is my two pennies worth. Oh, and you may be thinking, what to wear? What’s appropriate? I can feel another blog coming on…
And did I mentioned the weather?
Let me know if you are visiting soon.