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By Thami Kwazi

Lifestyle Print Editor

Top tips to plan your unforgettable Dubai holiday

Tips to make your Dubai stay unforgettable.

I have been lucky enough to visit The United Arab Emirates twice – both times by invite and both times it didn’t disappoint.

This year, Dubai Tourism invited me to the Arabic Tourism Expo but, more importantly, to enjoy the tastes, sights, and sounds of this wonderful, ever-changing city. Having only visited Dubai a year ago, I noticed that a lot has changed; there’s always a new building or area sprouting up, and it feels like there’s constantly something new to do.

My favourite aspect is being able to brag that many of the magnificent enormous creations were built by South African engineers. Navigating the city, as well as finding a hotel in what could be considered the mecca of tourism, might seem a little bit daunting, here are some tips on where to stay and where to go to stay fully entertained.

Travel documents

A visa to the UAE costs around R2100 and it generally takes less than three days to get approval. Dubai is working on sustainability and a paperless system.

The best part of this for me was landing at the DBX and walking through a biometrics machine that just scanned my face, showed my name on a screen, and let me through, no fingerprints and no visa to present it, because it’s all inputted into the system as you leave South Africa. But you will have to carry a printed Visa when departing South Africa, because that system hasn’t been implemented here as yet.

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Who to fly with

HELLO AGAIN. Emirates handles a major part of passenger traffic and aircraft movements at the airport. Picture: iStock
HELLO AGAIN. Emirates handles a major part of passenger traffic and aircraft movements at the airport. Picture: iStock

Whether it’s economy or business, my best flight experience has been with Emirates. Boarding was on time and the experience began – from highly professional in-flight service to being fed up to three meals, all with a starter, mains and dessert, and snacks. Then there was the up-to-date board entertainment, that you can prebook via an app on your phone. It’s a five-star experience.

Where to stay

Address Beach Resort

Picture: iStock
Picture: iStock

I loved the Address Beach Resort, located in Jumeirah Beach Residence and a piece of Dubai’s prime real estate in Dubai, as it’s on the beachfront. This resort was created for the likes of me. Navigating how different hotels operate is always extra interesting – the one thing I learned about Dubai is there is no set hotel rate.

Prices vary from season to season and per demand. This can make booking a little bit frustrating, so most regular travelers tend to stick to the same hotels to make things easier. I’m more about seeing and experiencing different things, that’s why the towering Address Beach Resort, considered a premium luxury hotel, is idea. There’s a myth that everything in Dubai is expensive, but it’s not… because of the flexible nature of hotels premium prices can be from R4 000-R8 000.

In South Africa premium can be from R10k. As I walked into this beautifully decorated hotel, the manager gave me a warm welcome and made a joke that I might be a celebrity. A little ego-brushing never hurt anyone. Address Hotels and Resorts, positioning itself as “where life happens”, offers a more personal and engaging experience to guests in a premium lifestyle environment, improving the lives of its guests with luxury, style, and elegance.

The Beach Resort is a 77-storey mixed-use twin-tower that will, in future, have a 217-key five-star hotel, 478 residential flats, and 444 serviced apartments. This can be seen in the well-decorated rooms, with neutral tones and demure lighting, not overpowering and reminding guests that they are in a tranquil space that has a spa.

Staff don’t disturb disturb anyone who’s there just to forget about the hustle and bustle of their regular lives. Elements of opulence decorate central rooms like the lobby, in case you want to shop and get memorable pieces. And for those with cash to spend there’s a spa.

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Where to go

MAGICAL. An aerial view of Dubai Palm Jumeirah island in the United Arab Emirates. Picture: iStock
MAGICAL. An aerial view of Dubai Palm Jumeirah island in the United Arab Emirates. Picture: iStock

Terra Solis

If you’ve ever heard of the Tomorrowland festival that usually takes place in Europe, you’ll be happy to know that Dubai has developed its own version of this.

Permanent party grounds have been set up outside the city, about a 35-min drive in the desert in a place called Terra Solis (land sun or sun land). It’s an apt description for a sanctuary enveloped by sand dunes, where the loudest parties can take place without anyone knowing. It’s been open since November and will remain open till next month and then turn into a holiday resort to accommodate music festivals. The drive to Terra Solis feels like an excursion outside the city.

The venue is perfect for glamping – remember you’re in Dubai, where roughing it isn’t a thing and, in my opinion, it just should never be. Other key elements are that it’s an entertainment resort created to make you forget your problems. Something that Dubai thrives on, is peace and safety.

Terra Solis. Picture: iStock
Terra Solis. Picture: iStock

Part of the glamping experience has different types of accommodation named after the stars and constellations: Polaris, Orion, Perseid, all accommodating different budgets and needs. The main areas have pools, sun lodges, restaurants, and various dance floors. I love to dance and was there for the Arabic opening party.

The DJ treated all to sounds of house music and tons of South African music. Musically we’ve made an impact on the world, and this was an opportunity to throw on my dancing shoes, sing along to all the lyrics and beam with pride at how we are recognised internationally. I must say leaving this oasis left me feeling a little gloomy. Being in the desert feels like a surreal experience from the movie Lawrence of Arabia and is truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

The Dubai frame

CHANGING CITY. The Dubai skyline at night. Picture: iStock
CHANGING CITY. The Dubai skyline at night. Picture: iStock

As is the culture, everything in Dubai is big. The Frame is a tourist attraction located in Zabeel Park. A momentous building that is cut out in the centre and shaped like an engraved golden picture frame, with a height of 150m and a width of 93m. When going to the frame, be ready for snaking queues. It consists of two towers connected by a 100m2 bridge at the top.

The tour starts with a history of how Dubai came into being, 50 years ago, to where it is now. It was amusing how there was a hookah pipe – currently a part of youth culture – that was actually an old way to smoke tobacco for Arabic people. Once the “old city” history tour is done, visitors take a high-speed elevator to the Sky Deck on the top floor and enjoy stunning panoramic views of the city, including old Dubai to the modern Dubai’s various landmarks. Walking across an electronic bridge gives an exciting sense of adventure as the glass panels become opaque when they are stepped on. If you’re afraid of heights be warned.

La Perle

DIZZYING. The Burj Khalifa, centre of the view, is the world tallest tower. Picture: iStock
DIZZYING. The Burj Khalifa, centre of the view, is the world tallest tower. Picture: iStock

Dubai isn’t popular for its theatre but it should be. La Perle is a musical theatre show that has been running since September 2017, and is located at the V by Hilton Hotel in a 2700 seating amphitheater. Artistic director Franco Dragone has created a show with a storyline that involves no speech but uses movement to articulate a lovely love story about a couple who face adversity. Dragone is known for his past roles as a creative A New Day in Las Vegas with Celine Dion.

The area is built around a pool which is the centre of the show. The water stage, which is the “hero” of the play, holds a staggering 2.7 million litres of water and is eight metres deep. Performers dance around the pool and dive into it from great heights. Spectacular death-defying high-flying dives should be expected.

My favourite was the opening Harry Potter-ish scene with cast members looking like they are going to work and flying in the sky, while others bicycle up and down the walls of the theatre. Cirque du Soleil has nothing on this show, also produced by Dragone. It can only be described as magnificent and something you’ll want to watch over and over again to understand how it’s put together – and still then you’ll never figure it out.

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