It has the world’s tallest skyline, shopping malls the size of towns, waterparks with half-million-gallon wave pools and rollercoasters hitting speeds of 60km per hour.
Even nature here is given to excess as the sun shines almost year-round and temperatures range from hot to very, very hot. But Dubai is also a place where graceful camel trains wind across beautiful beaches, ancient souks are as hectic and colourful as ever and acres of theme parks are balanced by turtle rehabilitation projects, gigantic aquariums and nature reserves.
There are over 60,000 hotel rooms and counting across the city, and even legends like Burj Al Arab and Jumeira Beach are child-friendly just as much as luxe these days. So if you still think Dubai is a glossy getaway for the extraordinarily wealthy, it’s time to find out why it’s now a strong contender for the family-holiday wishlist.
Dubai is the Middle East’s main transport hub, and British Airways and Emirates offer direct flights to the city from all major London airports.
A temperate desert climate means guaranteed winter sunshine and hot, hot weather in the summer months.
December to February is the city’s high-season and most expensive time to visit. But even the bus shelters in Dubai have air-con. So, if you don’t mind heat and humidity, summer is the time to travel for better prices, quieter beaches and shorter queues at the waterslides.
Dubai sits on the Arabian Gulf and its legendary skyscraper-dense cityscape is trimmed from end to end with immaculately kept white sands. There are beaches for surfing, kite-flying, watersports or just lazing around. And you can opt for free and lively or pay for private and be treated to a little more solitude, bigger sunloungers and personal service.
A predominantly Muslim city, Dubai is also the most liberal Emirate. Shopping malls, souks and restaurants generally expect you to dress respectfully, but bikinis on the beach are fine. And where a strict dress-code does apply, there are almost always signs to let you know.
Even the most dedicated parent might want a cocktail occasionally, and that is perfectly acceptable in Dubai. Most hotels and restaurants are licensed to sell alcohol to non-Muslims, and the city even has a celebrated Food & Wine Festival every spring.