It’s big, it’s brash and it’s definitely glitzy. 48 Hours in Dubai is just enough time to scratch the surface of this epic city. We better get a move on…
Not long ago Dubai was a small outpost on the edge of a sprawling expanse of Arabian desert. Not much here save for a few fishermen’s houses and a trading post for gold and pearls.
Fast forward to the early 21st century and Dubai is a massive sprawl of urban development, both horizontally and vertically. The cluster of the towers around the Burj Khalifa is undoubtedly impressive and the old centre of town around Deira and the Gold Souk is now lost amongst a jumble of new developments.
You’ll still spot relics of Dubai’s past. Dhows, the old style trading vessels still ply the creek, albeit these days with tourists instead of spices. And the old wind catcher style towers can be spotted across the old part of town, although nowadays they’re redundant thanks to modern air conditioning.
Dubai is now a popular stopover thanks to the popularity of Emirates airlines. If flying Emirates you can easily find yourself with a long layover and with the airport so close to town it is often worth making the most of a stop.
So if you’re on a long stopover and you want to enjoy 48 hours in Dubai, where do you start?
Start by putting it all in context.
The old town of Deira is where you’ll still find traces of old Dubai. The Gold Souk and Perfume Souk around the Al-Ras or Palm Deira metro stop is not quite as mazy as souks in Istanbul or Marrakesh, but it still retains the authentic trader vibe.
Now of course you can buy Gucci watches and designer sunglasses among the gold jewelery, but as a sign of Dubai’s past it’s heartening that it’s still there.
After a wander around the souks you will find yourself on the edge of the creek. The cool air blowing off the creek is a welcome relief from the heat felt, even in the morning.
There are several points where you can take the water taxis (abras) all along the creek. They leave every few minutes and cost AED1 (around US$0.25). You’ll likely be joined by local commuters and tourists in equal measure.
If you’re feeling like taking a cruise there are many dhows along both sides of the creek where you can board a scheduled cruise or hire a private abra. Prices vary but to hire an abra (water taxi) for an hour should cost around AED20.
On the other side of the creek, Bur Dubai is the other old town. There are more souks but follow your nose to the Al Fahidi fort. Probably the oldest standing structure in town, it now houses a museum about Dubai. At AED3 for adults (less than $1) it’s a no brainer and a great way to see some of the local history.
Like everywhere in Dubai, there are a glut of great restaurants serving Lebanese, Indian and international fare. Probably best to grab something cheap and more traditional here before you go to…
From Bur Dubai either take the metro or a taxi to Dubai Downtown at the Burj Khalifa metro stop. This will bring you right under the towering behemoth of the Burj Khalifa.
Following the signs to the Dubai Mall will bring you to the air conditioned relief of the cool interior. Dubai s a shoppers dream and all the big brand names are in attendance. However, if it’s bargains you’re looking for you’re unlikely to find them in any mall.
If you’re not bothered about shopping, make your way to the Burj Khalifa lake and relax with an ice cream or soft drink and do a bit of people watching.
If you’ve booked ahead you can go up the Burj Khalifa to the worlds highest viewing platform. Prices vary between AED350-500 (around the US$100 mark).
A quick scan of Groupon bought up a deal for AED145 so keep an eye on that too.
If you’re ready to soak up some rays then head to one of the many beaches. The public beaches are free and often very busy. There are also a selection of paid entry beaches which are slightly better maintained and normally frequented by European sunworshippers.
Ask the taxi driver to take you to Jumeirah Beach Park. It shouldn’t cost more than around AED25. Entry to the beach is AED5.
Alcohol is only permitted in hotels and certain restaurants in Dubai. For a cocktail at sunset head to 40 Kong at the H Hotel or Beach Lounge at Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
As a spread out city, spending 48 hours in Dubai means you’ll need to do it in segments. Today you’ll be based around Jumeirah.
At the complete opposite end of both the city and the spectrum, Dubai Marina is a new bustling development built around new man made creeks.
Wander the creek and admire the skyline, as well as the very expensive boats moored in the marina.
The Palm Jumeirah
As a whole, Dubai is a marvel of modern engineering. But the Palm Jumeirah is the shining example of this. You can jump in a monorail which will run you to the end of the palm (AED25 return journey). It takes about ten minutes but gives you ample opportunity to admire the sheer scale of the project.
The head of the palm features the Atlantis resort which includes a luxury hotel, waterpark, shopping and beaches. Bring swimmers and suncream.
Burj Al Arab
One of the original images of the modern Dubai was the Burj al Arab. Supposedly shaped like a sail, the Burj al Arab is the very definition of excess and luxury.
If you can afford to stay here then, fair enough. For the rest of us, you can book at table at one of the many high end restaurants within.
The best bet is to book for the Skyview bar or Lounge at the terrace to enjoy a sundowner.
If you want to finish your 48 hours in Dubai off in style, head to the dunes on a sunset desert safari. These normally include dancing entertainment and a barbecue.
If you’re pressed for time
On a stopover in Dubai? Or a long layover with Emirates?
If you’re only in Dubai for a few hours and you want to cram in all the sights, jump on a bus tour. They depart regularly from the airport and take in all the sights including the Burj Khalifa, Deira and the Palm Jumeirah.
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