I returned yesterday, to the dreary and rainy UK, from hot and heady Dubai; A land not for the faint of heart, or empty of pocket.
I’d been to visit my little sister who works for Emirates and lives over there when she’s not flitting between various layovers all over the world. So, thanks to her and her colleagues I’ve been privy to a very whirlwind submersion in Dubai as it is to live there, rather than just as a tourist.
The trip begins as any other. I arrive at NCL airport, small suitcase and large handbag in hand, and enjoy a brief saunter around duty free and a hand massage in the small spa in the lounge. I then manage to show up on time and in the right place, and flow through the gates to board the plane. So far, so good. As I make myself comfortable the purser comes to introduce himself to me and bring me a goody bag of freebies (perks of flying on a standby staff ticket) which include some fluffy plane socks which I instantly put on. In fact, as I recall, he’s still chatting to me as I put my new socks on. Not particularly cool of me I’ll admit but the socks were a pretty nice thought nonetheless. I then proceed to nigh on drink them dry of mango juice, red wine and Baileys. Brilliant start.
As always, when flying with Emirates, the food is delicious and plentiful, the staff are attentive and the flight is fabulously comfortable. Of course being on first name terms with the flight attendants is always a treat too.
The Aeroplane Chronicles.
We touch down in Dubai at around 1am and, after minor setbacks I finally drag my bleary eyed, slightly crumpled self out of the Arrivals gate at 2:30am to find my sister grumpy but perked up by the 3 or 4 coffees she supped in Costa waiting for me. Then we step out into the midnight heat. Pleasantly delicious, warming without being stifling, and sans that suffocating humidity that I’ve come to expect travelling to Asia etc. A waiting cab whips us back to her apartment and I just about scarf down a Pop Tart before collapsing into bed.
Dubai, I have arrived.
By morning I’m ready for a shower and a yoghurt, and am itching to get out into the sun. We flag another cab down and head for the Barasti Beachclub, picking up a lovely South African/Kiwi/Aussie girl my sister knows on the way.
Barasti is located on the Dubai marina, and is the beach front club attached to Le Meridien Mina Seyahi. It has plenty of appeal; a beautiful private beach, a bar churning out iced cocktails (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sample a daiquiri or two whilst lazing on the sand, daydreaming about the yachts I’d like to own) and a chilled out vibe thanks to the various DJs and the smart-casual wooden decking and loungers. Not helping the chilled out vibe was the fact that the clientele were most certainly of The Beautiful People and the designer labels were out en masse, but that’s Dubai for you. The general message is “if you can’t afford at least a Mulberry Alexa to throw over your shoulder, don’t bother coming”…
The view of the boats and ocean from my lounger at the Barasti.
After being lightly toasted for a few hours and eventually dragging our arses off the beach and into some more appropriate skinny jeans, my sister and I made a quick dash to the Mall of the Emirates to find a cashpoint. My first encounter with the ‘small’ mall. I was impressed to say the least. That thing is HUGE and I struggle to think of anything you might be missing if you actually just moved in there. Forget the house, I’ll just camp out next to the Krispy Kreme Bakery.
There is an actual fake winter at one end of the mall; Ski Dubai where you can get wrapped up warm (why?) and go skiing (why?) and meet some genuine penguins shuffling around (why??). Just incase, you know, you get sick of the desert. I assume.
So yeah, it’s pretty enormous.
And that’s not even the big mall.
More on that later.
So cue a quick change and the application of some serious war paint.
We are going out. At a smidge after midnight we head into the city district and stride to towards the imposing Fairmont, the new home of The Cirque Du Soir club, the first outside of London. I have of course heard the stories about the London club, favourite of Lady Gaga, Alexandra Burke and assorted young royals so was looking forward to a night of freakshow themed glamour. The show itself was good fun, not quite up to the debauched standards of The Box but an interesting night out all the same. There were an array of talented performers, circus themed burlesque shows, and I swear I saw a midg… a dwar… a little Elvis give me the middle finger.
We were fortunate enough to side-step the rope, walk the red carpet and be given our own booth in the VIP area, at Nicole Scherzinger’s now infamous table, with a private, free, unlimited bar staffed by our own personal bartenders. We were certainly well looked after at the circus that night. The lovely (massive) bouncer man even let us take our shoes off to dance on the table with the DJ, and efficiently removed any riffraff who tried to clamber drunkenly up and join us.
The Belvedere did the trick, the Moët was flowing and an utterly fabulous night was had by all. The details at the evening’s end are hazy but I remember seeing 4:30am come and go…
I won’t lie, the next day was a slow one. I didn’t surface til at least lunchtime, and even then only to lurk in Costa for an hour or so and wait for ma souer to get back from a Croatia turn around. Don’t know how she managed it.
Only in Dubai…
Other more touristy things we saw and did whilst out there include Wild Wadi, the water park near the Burj Al Arab. Which was actually really good fun. Obviously not a place to take your Louis Vuitton or your Louboutins. They will not thank you. Please leave them safe at home. There were maybe a few too many kids for my liking (like, more than 5) but actually it was not as packed as I thought it would’ve been. We wasted a few hours screaming our heads off, riding inflatable rings down vertical slides, and floating around in the sun. If in Dubai I’d recommend doing this, or the Atlantis water park, just for a laugh.
We also checked out some souks, as you do, and wined and dined ourselves in some lovely establishments, down on The Left Bank, and The Meat Co. at the base of the Burj Khalifa.
Speaking of the Khalifa, it is also a bit of a must see. It’s beautiful, glistening in the desert heat, and absolutely bloody enormous to say the least. It’s also host to a fair few good clubs and bars, clubs like the stunning Armani Privé Lounge. Definitely one to check out.
On the last day of my brief trip we were, of course, destined for the Dubai Mall. The biggest mall in the world. And good grief is it ginormous. Retail therapy indeed. One can actually download a sat nav app to help one find one’s way around the mammoth centre. You can hire little open top cars and chauffeurs to drive you around, from shop to shop. If I thought the Mall of the Emirates was big, I’d seen nothing yet.
We fold ourselves out of a taxi pulled up behind a gorgeous red Ferrari (with cars it seems to be ‘go big £££ or go home’ in the UAE) and followed the stream of well-dressed people into the epic glass structure. Once inside I am literally dazzled by the sheer size and quantity of designer boutiques. These aren’t merely token nods to our favourite labels, but rather huge emporiums of style and design. It’s rare to find three whole rooms stuffed full of Christian Louboutin’s finest footwear, or a labyrinth of solely Chanel. As the kind chap in the white gloves opened the double doors to the Louis Vuitton boutique with a smile and a nod, I knew this place was special. In fact, I’ve never seen Louis Vuitton clothes and shoes in a real life (as opposed to online) shop before. Certainly not too many places stock them. I swooned over the Hervé Léger body-con dresses, I fell deeply in love with a Valentino bag sitting in the window, just asking to be purchased and words simply cannot convey how gorgeous all the Alexander McQueen pieces look, laid out as though for us alone. I wish.
Alexander McQueen shoes, the Valentino bag, studded Loubs and then my Antik and my sister’s Alexa. Hmmmm.
I could have easily spent my years salary in here in a single hour.
Fortunately for my bank balance my thoughtful baby sister had booked us in to the Nivea spa upstairs for a bit of a pamper sesh, so I was dragged from temptation. But not before I managed to bag myself a huge slice of red velvet cake, from the famous NYC Magnolia Bakery, inside Bloomingdales. Which, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you was DIVINE. I’d stand the 7 hour flight just for more cake alone.
This trip will be, I hope, the first of many visits to my sister and to ‘the sandpit’. I plan to be something of a frequent visitor. Perhaps next time I’ll have found someone rich, kind and careless enough to fund a sickening shopping spree. Though truthfully, I’d settle for a new handbag.
I still have plenty left to see, visit and experience over in Dubai; brunch at the Atlantis, camel riding in the desert, cocktails at the top of the Burj Khalifa etc. Also, I didn’t bump into a single Kardashian or member of the Made In Chelsea cast while I was there. What a con. So there’s always that for next time too.
The fountains at the Burj Khalifa.
Give me a few months to fatten up my bank balance again, and then we’re on for cocktails on the beach, the world’s swankiest steak dinner, helicopter rides to afternoon tea, dancing til the small hours with the young and loaded, adventuring in the desert and shopping till we drop.
It’s a date.