Just Back From Dubai

dubaiLongest, widest, biggest, best. This is Dubai in a nutshell – an ever-changing city smack dab in the middle of the desert that loves its oil almost as much as it loves its superlatives.

Travel Agentis just back from a three-day media tour of Dubai as a precursor to ASTA's International Destination Expo in April. There is a lot you can say about Dubai. We stayed at the JW Marriott Marquis, the tallest hotel in the world. We went to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, which is adjacent to the biggest mall in the world, The Dubai Mall. There is also something like the world’s biggest aquarium, the world’s widest structure, the world’s longest unmanned metro line…The list of Dubai’s superlatives is a superlative in itself.

It's a magnificent city. Taking a look at Dubai through the decades it is easy to see the city grow from a barren desert to something straight out of a sci-fi movie. Dubai also puts to bed many of the unsavory stigmae associated with the Middle East. Women walk around casually dressed, alcohol is served in hotels, there are nightclubs, restaurants, beaches...It goes on and on. This is a city of the 21st century, and maybe even beyond.

For me, however, the best thing you can do in Dubai is to take a break from the frenzy and the glitz and get outside of the city for something truly unique.

“Dune bashing” is a great way to see a side of the world that you truly cannot get anywhere else, and I am told it is a way that the local youth like to spend their time. Several companies offer dune bashing tours, where you are taken out in jeeps with professionals who literally cruise the sand dunes. The topsy-turvy feeling gets old kind of quickly (at least, it did for me what with motion sickness and the fact that I’m not really one for thrills and spills), but the moments when you get out of the jeep for a photo op will leave you with that, “oh my god I’m in Dubai” feeling. Rolling tan dunes span as far as the eye can see, until you happen upon local bedouin communities. It’s quiet. It’s empty. It’s that little thrill we all need when trying something new.

Check out Desert Safari Dubai, which offers late afternoon dune bashing tours, followed by a bedouin-style dinner out in the middle of the desert. The dinners include entertainment, barbecued meats, salads, shisha smoking and yes, there is a cash bar.