Travel: Amazing sights and heights in the immaculate jewel of the Middle East

Intrigued was the word I always used when talking about going to Dubai.
Luxurious afternoon tea at Burj Khalifa.Luxurious afternoon tea at Burj Khalifa.
Luxurious afternoon tea at Burj Khalifa.

I know many who have been and all have returned to tell me how amazing it is, so this year I decided it was time I finally ventured to visit this Middle Eastern jewel.

I was already impressed by the time I’d arrived at the airport as, just by looking around the enormous concourse, I realised this was a place that liked to do things big.

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Picked up by our friendly driver Shihanas, who ferried us around throughout our stay, we headed straight to our first hotel – JA Ocean View – in the city’s thriving marina.

Camels on the desert safari with Orient Tours.Camels on the desert safari with Orient Tours.
Camels on the desert safari with Orient Tours.

The hotel is only a five-minute walk from the popular Jumeirah Beach and is unique in that all its 342 rooms give you a picturesque sea view.

Ours was on the 23rd floor looking out at Dubai’s latest tourist attraction – the giant wheel – which is still being built but will be three times bigger than the London Eye.

The city itself is immaculate. Spotlessly clean, there’s not a chipped brick on any building and you can tell it’s a place where people really take pride in their city. In the marina, the choices for entertainment and recreation are endless. As food-lovers, my wife and I decided our first night of indulgence would be at the Lebanese restaurant Abd El Wahab, just a few minutes’ drive away at Pier 7.

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After the indulgences of dinner and a large breakfast the following morning, there was an opportunity to burn off some calories in the hotel gym, where we were booked in for a Speedflex session. There wasn’t much time to rest, though, and after a quick dip in the pool we eagerly awaited the arrival of our tour guide who was picking us up for an afternoon desert safari.

JA Ocean View Hotel.JA Ocean View Hotel.
JA Ocean View Hotel.

This hotly-anticipated tour took us out into the wilderness and began with an exhilarating 4x4 ride across the stunning desert landscape and over the dunes before slowing down for the more sedate, but beautiful, experience of watching the breath-taking Arabian sunset.

Afterwards, there was an opportunity to enjoy some camel riding, sand boarding and even have your own henna design. The evening brought us entertainment with the traditional folk dance ‘Tanoura’ and an oriental belly dancer, and there was also a chance to smoke the Shisha pipes. The tour was finished off perfectly with a delicious barbecue dinner. After a good night’s sleep, the following day took us to the second of our hotel’s – JA Palm Tree Court – which was a small piece of paradise away from all the hustle and bustle. Unlike the more urban-feel of Ocean View, Palm Tree Court is nestled within a luxury oasis set along the glistening shores of the Gulf.

All the hotel’s 208 spacious suites are just steps away from the sea and are complemented by a relaxing spa – which I made full use of with a 60-minute full body massage – four sublime swimming pools, several restaurants and excellent sports facilities and kids’ clubs.

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If you like Oriental cuisine the hotel’s Japanese fine dining offering – The White Orchid – is a must-visit.

It would be wrong to fly all the way to Dubai and not go and see the world’s tallest building, but when you’re there you have to make the most of it.

Of course, you can spot the Burj Khalifa towering into the sky from all directions, but the best way of appreciating its incredible height is by splashing out on a meal at At.Mosphere – the world’s highest restaurant. We opted for high tea (no pun intended) and the views from the 123rd floor were simply jaw-dropping.

After experiencing the thrills of modern Dubai the final day brought a more cultural feel with a private tour around the old part of the city. It was a chance see the more historic sights and included a visit to the Dubai Museum, a water taxi ride across the Creek and shopping trip to the souks, where we put our bartering skills to the test to buy some Arabic dates.

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As the outside temperature rose to 45 degrees, there was some much-needed refreshment on offer for our lunch stop at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) in the Al Fahidi district, where we enjoyed spicy Emirati food and chatted with the host about culture and religion in the UAE.

Rounding off our stay was a trip to Al Habtoor City to see the spectacular show La Perle by Dragone, which transported us into another world taking inspiration from Dubai’s past present and future.

Sadly our visit was over, but if there’s one thing I now know about Dubai, it’s the fact that I shall definitely be returning someday.

Essential information:

JA Resorts:

-Stays at JA Ocean View Hotel start from AED 420 (approx. £85) per room per night on a room-only basis.

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-Stays at JA Palm Tree Court start from AED 565 (approx. £109) per room per night on a room-only basis, or AED 715 (approx. £137) per room per night on a B&B basis.

For more information or to book, please visit

Desert safari:

- Price Per Person: From £64 per person

At.mosphere in Burj Khalifa:

- Luxurious menu with sparkling wine starts from £89 per person.

The Golden City – Dubai Tour:

- Price: from £25 per person

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La Perle:

- For bookings visit or go through the dedicated Box Office: 800 LAPERLE (800 517373) / +971 4 437 0123, [email protected]. Tickets start from £82.