It’s early February – bear with me here – and this year, just like the last few years, we’re enjoying some sunshine in Dubai. My beloved is here for the dental exhibition, an opportunity to meet with a number of his distributors, largely local dental professionals and the company’s Indian partner. I’ve topped and tailed this business committment with a few day’s vacation.
We may still have spritely springs in our steps but neither of us are spring chickens – much as it pains me to admit it. We may look and act a lot younger but we both admit we are slowing down and it takes us longer to recover from things like jet lag. However, there’s nowhere nicer to recover than in the hotel we rather regard as our home from home in Dubai.
However, despite this being a catch-up post, I am getting ahead of myself.
The week before we left for Dubai, my beloved returned from one of his tiring, whirlwind business trips to London. We’d spent the Saturday shopping and lunching over the border in Italy. Sunday he’d ridden with the cycle club and had returned pretty tired out. The following day he was running a fever and his right leg was red, hot and swollen. I diagnosed an insect bite, an area where I have ample expertise. Mind you, that didn’t account for the man flu-like symptoms. Fast forward a few weeks and he’d no doubt have been claiming a Coronavirus infection.
Thursday he was feeling well enough to brave the doctor who organised a scan of his veins and a blood test to confirm my diagnosis. He’d been bitten by a tick in the UK, most probably while staying at his brother’s, and had symptoms not that dissimilar to Lyme’s disease.
Cue ungents, antibiotics and hourly inspections of his right leg to confirm he was indeed getting better. Consequently, I was pleased he’d have a few days relaxing in Dubai before the exhibition. We stayed at our favourite hotel, close enough to the World Trade Centre and the Metro but which also gives us access to the Jumeirah Beach Club. My beloved loves heading down there to swims laps in the pool and work out in the gym. I like walking along the damp sandy shoreline. So we were both happy bunnies.
Of course, while my beloved was busy at the exhibition, I did what I wanted to do. This generally involved exploring new areas of Dubai, having a spot of head to toe pampering and spending many hours in my favourite bookshop. I was keen to see how the Museum of the Future directly opposite our hotel plus the renovation and redevelopment of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel site were progressing, visit a few of our favourite places but generally spend plenty of time catching up with new (to me) places in Dubai, plus a spot of relaxing and reading. Sometimes just doing nothing much can be very satisfying.
Before booking our hotel, I always shop around. This time I scored a great deal which included breakfast. The hotel’s breakfast buffet is superb, so superb, we went without lunch and only needed a light bite early evening. Sadly this meant no Friday brunches but it was probably much kinder on our waistlines. I’m pretty sure not eating between 9pm and 6am doesn’t really count as intermittant fasting. We generally regard our stays in Dubai as a welcome opportunity not to drink any alcohol but, with my beloved still on antibiotics, it was obligatory.
There aren’t too many neighbourhoods in Dubai where you can easily and enjoyably meander on foot. Yet City Walk – located on Safa Rd between Al Wasl and Sheikh Zayed Rds at the Dubai Mall interchange – is one such place, with the developer striking the right balance between pedestrian walkspace, high-end retailers, restaurants, hotels and residential. We first visited back in 2018 but, like everything in Dubai, it has grown.
I like wandering around the place because it has a very European feel with its walkways, wide boulevards and low level apartment blocks with retail on the ground floors. Tree lined avenues and a collection of contemporary streetart murals and an open plan layout enable it to host regular community events. City Walk is also a bit of a foodie haven with around 70 cafes and restaurants. The eclectic nature of the offerings in the area means there are activities to enjoy no matter your age, background or interests. City Walk also boasts Green Planet, a stand-alone bio-dome.
Alserkal Art District
Located in the AlQuoz industrial district, Alserkal is an edgy arts hub with cutting edge galleries, design stores, pop-up spaces and an outdoor cinema. Its bold brutalist centrepiece is Concrete, an events space designed by Rem Koolhaas which has moveable walls allowing the space to be reconfigured around a central courtyard.
Alserkal brims with the unexpected and inspiring: a willy Wonka chocolate factory, a farmers’ market, sneaker and vintage stores, cafes and restaurants. Opposite lies the Courtyard a collection of shops and caves with Arabian fantasy facades and tinkling fountains.
This is where I was assured Dubai’s hipsters hang out though I’m not certain I saw anyone fitting that description! It’s a huge area to cover and I barely scratched the surface.
Kulture House on the Jumeirah Beach Road is what’s known as a multi-faceted concept space, aiming to facilitate a collision of different cultures. The venue houses a charming café, a fair-trade gift shop, a florist and an art pop-up featuring work by local artists.
The interiors of the converted Jumeirah villa are vibrant, bright and very much a reflection of that melange of cultures. A hearty breakfast prevented me from sampling anything in the cafe, though I was tempted by its wide-ranging and delicious menu.
Jameel Arts Centre
I also headed over to the Dubai Creek to see the Jameel Arts Centre. A cluster of gleaming white cubes, the galleries are built around courtyard gardens filled with desert plants. This aims to be one of the a leading contemporary art institutions for the UAE and the Middle East. It appears to have a very hands-on approach through nurturing artists to produce work from and about the region, and then encouraging its audiences to engage actively with the artworks.
Next door to the centre is the Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park, the UAE’s first open-air art and sculpture park designed to balance the rippling water of Jaddaf Creek with the stacked geometry of the Jameel. Designed as an active and lively outdoor gallery space that welcomes community engagement, the Park transitions seamlessly from the open walkway around the corniche and features a children’s playground, zones of fixed furniture with speciality tables for board games or chess, as well as an area for food trucks, plus an amphitheatre.
Every year from mid-November to mid-May over in Dubailand, there is a massive space full of the scents of millions of flowers in a myriad of bright colours. The garden, with its 150 million flowers in full bloom, is stunningly arranged. The Garden’s breathtaking landscaping has two Guinness World Records: the largest vertical garden in 2013 and world’s largest floral sculpture (an Airbus A380) in 2016. The garden is reimagined every year and attracts plenty of visitors. I should’ve allowed more time for my visit – next time!