Dubai is described as the ‘ultimate destination’ with year-round sunshine, luxurious hotels, the world’s tallest building, and one of the world’s largest shopping centres. And where else can you ski while the temperature outside is plus-30 degrees Celsius?
Dubai can be a little like Marmite - a love-it-or-hate-it destination - and before I went, I thought I’d be on the hate-it side. But I can happily admit I got that wrong…
With a short flight time (and Emirates were excellent) and only a few hours’ time difference, it really is the ultimate winter sun destination. The beaches are uncrowded and pristine, the hotels are nothing short of stunning, and the food and service seem to consistently meet the highest of standards.
And while the hotels and resorts are one of Dubai’s USPs, there are also endless opportunities to experience a world away from the shiny city. You can take four-wheel-drive trips or go camel-riding among the desert dunes, book excursions into the Hajar Mountains, take moonlit cruises along Dubai Creek, and even go snow-skiing and tobogganing in the Ski Dubai snowdome.
In the city itself, the Dubai Museum is fascinating (it’s in the Al Fahidi Fort which was built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai) as it shows daily life here before oil was discovered! And of course, there’s the shopping at Dubai’s many malls and souks. Alternatively, treat yourself to afternoon tea in the Burj Al Arab's Skyview Bar or scale the world’s building, the Burj Khalifa – it’s 829.8 metres (2,722 feet) high.
But my own Dubai highlight was a night in the desert as it adds a different dimension to your holiday. So whether you want a romantic experience or something for the whole family to remember, it ticks the boxes. I stayed in one of the tented pool villas at the Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah in the Al Wadi Desert and they’re incredible. We also watched a falconry display with their resident birds and enjoyed an after-dinner drink on the outdoor deck.
I was also lucky enough to stay in the new Jumeirah Al Naseem and the brand-new Oberoi Beach Resort in Al Zorah in Ajman, and I visited the Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah and Fairmont Ajman.
Jumeirah Al Naseem, Jumeirah Beach, Dubai
This is the newest member of the Madinat Jumeirah group. It feels fresh and vibrant, and is surrounded by tropical gardens and Jumeirah Beach. The hotel has more than 10 restaurants and bars, its own beach club, and easy access to the other Madinat Jumeirah resorts - so you have access to over 40 restaurants and bars! I recommend their lively Mexican restaurant Tortuga - the guacamole is freshly made at your table, and it’s delicious! I loved the contemporary style and Arabian touches of the rooms and suites – and the views of Burj Al Arab are stunning.
Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert
This exclusive resort is in the Al Wadi desert’s tranquil Wadi Khadeja sanctuary, the protected enclave of the ghaf tree, the UAE’s national tree. You can dine under the stars with an Arabian barbecue, enjoy a sundowner in their Moon Bar, and try their Thai restaurant Safran. The all-pool villa concept is a plus, and there’s a huge Asian-inspired hydrotherapy spa, not to mention private beach club, 18-hole Championship golf course, and private nature reserve, where you can see wildlife up-close, such as gazelles, camels and oryx. One night isn’t enough – the pool villa alone deserves a day!
Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah
Inspired by the royal palaces of the Arabian Peninsula, the Waldorf Astoria brings the legendary Waldorf service to this gorgeous beachfront location. The facilities are as impressive as the setting with stylish dining and entertainment venues, luxurious spa experiences, and an 18-hole Championship golf course – and don’t forget the 350-metre private beach lapped by the azure waters of the Arabian Sea. The hotel has already become a firm favourite with our clients and is at the top of my wish list to stay next time.
Surrounded by white-sand beaches, Fairmont Ajman offers a lovely contrast in the emirate of Ajman, around 45 minutes north of Dubai. Rooms and suites have breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf, and rooms are super-comfortable with pillow-top mattresses and state-of-the-art in-room technology. I loved the open kitchens at Spectrum, and traditional food at Turkish restaurant, Kiyi. Facilities are excellent too – signature spa treatments include an indulgent Turkish hammam experience and ice shower. And don’t miss a chance to stroll along the beachfront promenade, known as the Corniche.
The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah, Ajman
Al Zorah is one of the newest luxury destinations in Ajman, around 45 minutes from Dubai airport, with white-sand beaches, blue lagoons and lush mangroves, all within 247 acres of protected forest that’s home to almost 60 species of birds. Al Zorah also has a Championship golf course, kayaking and more. And in the heart of it all is the new Oberoi Beach Resort with ultra-modern Scandi-style interiors, glass-fronted villas (these are spectacular) and an 85-metre infinity pool. It’s just perfect if you’re looking for a peaceful sun-and-sea break.