Yet another Postcard from Dubai

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.

Here’s some of the new places I visited in Dubai

City Walk

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

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.

Miracle Garden

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!

Yet another postcard from Dubai

It was early February and once again we were in Dubai, ostensibly to attend an exhibition onto which we’d tagged a few days’ vacation. Although it had been sunny at home, it had been very cold and a bit of warmth is always much appreciated at this time of year.

Twin Towers: one’s a hotel, the other’s government offices

We’d returned to one of our favourite hotels, one stop on the Metro from the World Trade Centre where the exhibition is being held. I had booked the flight and hotel well in advance, using soon-to-expire miles to upgrade to Business Class, as I knew it’d be my beloved’s first long-haul flight after his hip replacement. As they say: “The early bird catches the worm.” In this case, it was a great deal on the hotel room and flight.

The Museum of the Future under construction nearby

This time last year I’d watched the week-long Dubai Tour which has now been folded into the UAE Tour, starting later in the month. With no cycling to watch, what was I to do? How would I entertain myself?

Dubai embracing Chinese New Year

While my beloved worked, I whiled away my days around the pool, on the beach at Jumeirah or in the bookshop. Shopping holds little allure, particularly now the same shops are everywhere. I’m a huge disappointment to my two siblings, both dedicated shoppers. However, the opportunity to spend hours in a bookshop with English language books is too golden to pass up, plus this one in the Dubai Mall has one of the biggest selections of cookery books I’ve ever seen. And, yes, a few made it back to France in my luggage.

The fountains only dance at night, floodlit

Usually, during the exhibition I’ll join my beloved, and any clients, for dinner in the evening. But this time he had a colleague lecturing at the exhibition so I left the pair of them to entertain the clients.  This enabled me to chill all day and enjoy a spot of me time. Such a treat!

Like France, the UAE is big on civic art

I decided some pampering was in order, including a pedicure at a local beauty salon where I was the only Westerner. I was shocked at how rude the Middle Eastern customers were to the largely Eurasian staff. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you is my motto.

Hotel lobby early morning, embracing Saint Valentine’s Day

Of course, once the exhibition was over, I got my beloved all to myself. Typically in the evenings we’d dine at a few of our favourite spots plus try a few new ones. Thursday evening is the start of the week-end in Dubai and we managed to secure the last table at a restaurant adjacent to the hotel where we considerably upped the average age of its clientele!

You never know who you’ll bump into in Dubai!

It was a largely Mediterranean style menu with Asian overtones. We had a fantastic meal, definitely another one for our list. The only slight downside was the music. We loved their selection but it was way too loud, too loud to talk over. And, although we’ve been married for more years than I care to own up to, we still enjoy a good chat over dinner.

Brunching

The following day, I’d booked brunch at one of our regular haunts, the nearby Ritz Carlton. As you know, my beloved and I are keen brunchers. We brunch all over the world. This was on a par with its sister hotel in Chicago but with better weather and a BBQ. The seafood was superb and I much enjoyed the lobster. The trick with brunch is to wear comfortable clothing; I favour trousers with either loose or elasticated waists. You also need to pace yourself.

Lotus eating in style on Jumeirah Beach

We spent our last week-end largely lazing on the beach. The temperature was just perfect and it was fun watching the bird life. Aside from the gulls and ubiquitous pigeons, there were some hugely amusing song birds and one with an orange bum and Elvis quiff. I suspect the birds were on the lookout for leftovers from beachside snacks but most days there were slim pickings. The staff would quickly dart out to pick up the used plates as soon as any customers finished eating. Didn’t stop the birds circling, probably more in hope than expectation.

Not a bad view from the bedroom window

As you know, I love sunsets and sunrises. There’s something quite magical about sitting on a really sandy beach  – ours at home is stoney – to watch the setting sun. One minute the world’s aglow and the next minute the sun’s slipped below the horizon and darkness reigns.

Burj Al Arab from Mina A’Salam

Dubai lit up at night is also a sight worth seeing with its most prominent buildings lit up against the skyline. Although there are plenty of magnificent skyscrapers, my favourite buildings are the mosques with their traditional carved sandstone or tiles exteriors, domes and minarets. I also love hearing the haunting, five-times a day call to prayer.

Forthcoming delights

We’ve made many visits to Dubai over the years but have never ventured to Abu Dhabi. This time we visited both the Blue Mosque and the Louvre, but those visits are tales for subsequent posts.