Tag Archives: Dubai

Dubai: In a new light


ANURAG MALLICK seeks out new experiences in Dubai, a dynamic city that keeps reinventing itself

Dubai illustrative map IMG_2068

So you think you’ve done it all – been ‘At the Top’ of Burj Khalifa, shopped at DSF and Dubai Mall, trawled the gold and spice souks, done a dhow dinner cruise, hopped across Dubai Creek in an abra (local water taxi), gone dune bashing and sightseeing on a SeaWings aerial tour, had your belly full with belly dances and the tanoura, maybe even gone skydiving – and you wonder if there’s anything new in Dubai to explore. Dubai is not a city that rests easy on its laurels. It is restive, always striving to improve or notch a new record. No sooner have you turned your back and come visiting again, there’s something new to surprise you…

Strolling down Dubai’s City Walk lined with designer stores and restaurants, you might mistake it for a European capital. The first phase of the urban living concept by Meraas tantalizes visitors with funky street art. As part of ‘Dubai Walls’, the first outdoor urban art show in UAE, globally renowned street artists were invited in 2016 to create street art in Dubai’s urban landscape. Despite being a modern country, graffiti is banned here, so this was indeed an evolutionary leap.

City Walk street art IMG_1762

I was blown away by the path breaking wall etching of a bedouin carved by Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto or ‘Vhils’, part of his series ‘Scratching the Surface’! UK-based artist Stuart Pantoll aka Slinkachu, infamous for ‘abandoning miniatures since 2006’ had set up scenes across City Walk using toy figurines as part of his ‘Little People Project’. ‘Shifting Sands’, a pile of sand had a caravan of camels, in ‘Under the Stars’ burnt matchsticks doubled up as firewood while a spilt glass of milkshake created ‘Oasis.’

Nearby is The Green Planet, Dubai’s first indoor tropical rainforest and the first biodome of its kind in the Middle East, launched in September 2016. The unique expedition of over 3000 plants and animals is conceptualized around the world’s largest man-made indoor tree – a giant kapok mimicking a highrise forest. Take the elevator to the fourth floor and walk down a ramp, leisurely exploring exhibits on each floor.

The Green Planet IMG_1703

Well informed naturalists guide you through various habitats – Butterfly Balcony, Canopy Tree House, Forest Cascade Trail and Flooded Forest Tunnel as visitors are encouraged to touch snakes and Talk with Biologists. From creepy crawlies like Goliath Bird-eating Tarantula to rare reptiles like Madagascar Day Gecko, Green Basilisk and Rainbow Boas, the cacophony of birds from 51 species will make you feel you’re in an Amazon jungle. The highlight is a two-toed sloth named Liam John Barker – inspired by a young boy with a passion for animals.

As the temperature lowers, all the action turns outdoor. Dubai’s brand new attraction is Ripe Market organized every Friday at Zabeel Park, where organic and boutique lifestyle products vie for your attention in a flea market-meets-carnival atmosphere amid grassy lawns and palm trees festooned with flags and streamers. One section is dedicated to an organic farmers market with fresh produce that reaches farm to fork within 48 hrs, and products like Olive Grove pickles, The Salad Jar and vegan hand-formed Field Burgers made of barley, carrots and celery!

Ripe Market IMG_2115

Another section has apparel, trinkets and funky stuff like Mango Beat natural amplifiers made of mango wood and Wild Wood eco-friendly designer sunglasses. Food stalls sold everything from biryanis to bagels, even Black Rose charcoal activated ice-cream at Carli’s Chimneys!

Dubai really enjoys its food and Ewaan at Palace Downtown is the perfect place to try out lavish buffets of Arabic dishes, finger foods like meat kebbeh, falafel, tahina, fattoush salad, large platters of lamb juzi and fish sayadieh (like biryani), Arabic grills of seafood and meat, Moroccan tea and Turkish coffee, besides olives and dates. Try lesser-known treats like Qamar Al Deen (juice from dried apricot paste) and desserts like baklava, borma, mafroukeh, chaibeyat and Um Ali (creamy bread pudding with stuffed baklava). On weekends, they have special Arabian dance performances and live counters of logmat (Arabic sweet).

One & Only Royal Mirage Eauzone IMG_1821

Even though there are no Michelin star restaurants in Dubai, several Michelin-star chefs run fine-dine restaurants here. In March 2017, Dubai had its first ever pop-up restaurant for world-renowned Indian chef Gaggan Anand at the opulent Celebrities restaurant at One&Only Royal Mirage. Overlooking the Palm Island Bay with a 1km private beach, South African magnate Sol Kersner’s luxurious resort is spread over 65 acres and is a complex of three hotels – The Palace, Arabian Court and Residence & Spa. Its Grand Gallery has seven domes with colours of the mosaic patterns on the floor representing different hues of sand of the seven emirates.

The sculpture of Seven Bedouins astride camels retells the tale of their desert journey from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. As per folklore, they were caught in a sand storm and got lost when a palace appeared before them, where they rested, feasted and were entertained, and as suddenly, it disappeared. They realized it was a mirage and this palatial resort was imagined as that ‘Royal Mirage.’

One & Only Royal Mirage bedouin sculpture IMG_1878

It was as much a museum and art gallery with an award-winning traditional oriental Hammam and eight themed restaurants (from French to the Moroccan Tajine). We headed to Eauzone, a modern restaurant with an Asian twist for some delectable seafood like hammour with tamarind sauce. “We have guests proposing on the beach, dinner under the stars in a private gazebo or helicopter rides for birthdays and anniversaries,” said Elizaveta, the PR co-ordinator. “Nothing is impossible in Dubai!”

If Mall of the Emirates has ski slopes and snow adventures at Ski Dubai, Dubai Mall has a 150 million year old dinosaur. We retired to our hotel Four Points by Sheraton on Sheikh Zayed Road for a terrific 360-degree night view of the cityscape and traffic on the arterial road from the rooftop Level 43 Sky Lounge.

View of Sheikh Zayed Road from Level 43 Sky Lounge IMG_1574

The restaurant also has an art gallery. Being centrally located, it had free shuttles to the beach and was well placed to attractions like City Walk and Dubai Mall. Their other branch in Bur Dubai is close to Dubai Museum, Meena Bazaar and the old Al Fahidi historical precinct also known as Bastakiya.

Dubai Mall saw 85 million visitors last year. Not content with footfalls, it created the world’s largest video wall as advertising space to catch eyeballs! The Underwater Zoo and Aquarium offers experiences that are truly immersive – from shark encounters to feeding frenzies of giant trevally and sharks. We took a backroom tour to see how they prepare fish food and take care of the 10 million liter tank with 23,000 fish and 300 species.

Dubai Aquarium tour IMG_1429

The city’s hot new attraction is Dubai Parks & Resorts, a vast complex of entertainment parks located far south just short of Abu Dhabi. It had by far the largest parking lot I have ever seen. The best way to negotiate it is a VIP tour so you skip the cues, get your own tour guide who plans out your rides with a buggy drop to your vehicle.

We started from Motion Gate and its 5 theme zones – Studio Central, styled like 1920s New York with old Hollywood songs blaring, Smurf’s Village, Dreamworks, Colombia Pictures and Lion’s Gate, which opened in October 2017, with a Hunger Games hovercraft simulator. Each zone has its own rides, roller coasters, simulators, F&B outlets and retail shops.

Bollywood Park IMG_2258

There’s a separate Legoland water park for kids between 2-12 and Riverland. At Bollywood Parks Dubai, the world’s first Bollywood theme park, chase Don down the streets of Dubai in ‘Don: The Chase’ or try the Krrish flight simulator and Ra:One 4D in the Hall of Heroes. The largest zone Rustic Ravine has faux mud floors, lanterns and a rural setting for a Sholay interactive dark ride, a Dabangg live show and a Lagaan roller coaster simulator!

Costumed dancers burst into live performances at Bollywood Boulevard while the Royal Plaza serves as an event space with Broadway style theatrical Jaan-e-Jigar staged at Rajmahal Theatre. FYI, Mughal-e-Aazam fine dine restaurant is the only establishment that serves alcohol. You could even reshoot epic sequences of skydiving, bull racing and Tomatina from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, with yourself in it! Indeed, in Dubai, everything is possible…

Dubai Parks & Resorts IMG_2184


Getting there
Direct flights from India to Dubai take 3-4 hrs. National carrier Emirates has the world’s biggest fleets of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. www.emirates.com

When to visit
Nov-Mar is ideal with events all year round – Dubai Shopping Festival (Jan), Dubai Food Festival (Feb-Mar), Al Marmoom Heritage Festival and camel race (April), Al Gaffal Dhow Race (May), Ramadan/Eid (June), Dubai Summer Surprises (July-Sep).

Where to Stay

Four Points by Sheraton
Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai
Ph +971 4 3230333

One & Only Royal Mirage
Ph +971 4 399 9999

Four Points by Sheraton Bur Dubai
Khalid Bin Walid Street
Ph +971 4 397 7444

Anantara The Palm Dubai
Palm Jumeirah
Ph +971 4 567 8888

The Green Planet IMG_1724

Things to Do

The Green Planet
City Walk, Al Wasl and Al Safa road junction
Ph +971 4 317 3999
Entry Adults AED 95, Kids AED 70

Dubai Parks & Resorts
Sheikh Zayed Rd, Opp Palm Jebel Ali
Ph +971 4 820 0000
Entry MotionGate AED 235, VIP AED 595, 11am-10pm

Bollywood Parks Dubai
Ph +971 800 2629464
Entry Q-Fast AED 100 onwards, 4pm-12

Ripe Organic Food & Craft Market
Fri: 9am-4pm, Zabeel Park, Gate 2
Sat: 9am-3pm, Times Square Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road
Sat: 12pm-9pm, Al Barsha Pond Park
Ph +971 4 315 7000, 380 7602

Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
Ground & Level 2, The Dubai Mall
Ph +971 4 448 5200

Ski Dubai
Mall of the Emirates
Ph +971 44094000

For more info, visit www.dubaicalendar.ae, www.visitdubai.com

Author: Anurag Mallick. This article appeared in the January 2018 issue of JetWings magazine.

Stags Only: The best bachelor holidays


Planning a bachelor party with the boys? Skip Las Vegas and Bangkok and try these holiday ideas from ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY.


So you’re getting hitched and your wild lifestyle is threatened by an Extinction Level Event (read marriage). Mad drunken parties with the boys, binge eating, dirty weekends, scanning dance floors and bars for fun, checking out the ‘scene’, ah the joys of bachelorhood… All this might seem history to the groom apparent, however, your friends couldn’t care less. They just want you to ride into the sunset of marital fidelity with all guns blazing. The idea is to go out and have fun. Here’s how to make it a bachelor party to remember… or forget!


Get high in Dubai
What better way to celebrate with your mates than getting high together? And what better place than the world’s tallest building and the loftiest observation deck? Just short of a kilometer (828 m, 160 stories) At The Top in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is as high as it gets. Make it special with a signature taster menu (caviar, truffles, foie gras) at the stylish SKY lounge and Atmosphere restaurant at level 148, manned by top chef Jerome Lagarde.

But there’s no reason you can’t get higher! Feel the adrenaline rush as you skydive from 13,000 ft over Palm Jumeirah or get on a hot air balloon, chopper, gyrocoptor or a Sea Wings seaplane for an aerial tour. Dubai is the place for bad boys to have a good time, with dune-bashing, belly-dancing and adventures like Ski Dubai (Middle East’s first indoor ski resort) and iFLY Dubai (indoor sky diving and wind tunnel experience).


Easy rentals make it easy to zip around in your dream luxe car or set sail on the Persian Gulf in a luxurious yacht with Jacuzzi, barbeques and champagne. Pimp it up with model hostesses, resident DJ and bouncers. And if you don’t mind getting wet, strap on a hydrojet equipment and get set for shred sleds, jet packs and jet blades.

Stay in style at Palm Jumeirah at Anantara Resorts as you go party-hopping at Sanctuary in Atlantis nearby, Zero Gravity, White Dubai, Trilogy, Rattlesnake, Ku-Bu, Cyclone or Ibiza club Blue Marlin, a weekend-only beach bar. With Dubai’s diverse expat mix, it’s like attending the UN’s sorority bash.

Jet Airways flies to Dubai and Abu Dhabi

For more info, www.visitdubai.com


Get lucky in Hong Kong
For King Kong fun, head straight to Hong Kong. Terrific street food, night markets, rooftop bars, a vibrant ‘scene’ and the world’s largest permanent light and sound show Symphony of Lights; what’s not to like? The central party district of Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai and SoHo buzz with bars and clubs like Magnum, Volar, Play, Dragon-i, Ce La Vi, the world’s highest bar Ozone at Ritz Carlton and Aqua Spirit rooftop bar overlooking Victoria Harbour.

To up the ante, take the hour-long ferry to Macau, a mecca for boys who like to party hard. Like HK, a Special Administrative Region (SAR), the Portuguese presence in Macau over four centuries gives it an exotic appeal – from its food, culture to architecture. Having the world’s highest population density (20,497 people per sq km), two islands south of the mainland Coloane and Taipa were joined in a massive land reclamation project to form the Co-tai Strip, a 5.2 sq km gambling haven.


In 2007, it turned the tables on Las Vegas as the world leader in gambling revenue. Most of the 30 million visitors to Macau are drawn by 24-hour gambling at the 33 casinos and integrated resorts – Venetian Resort, City of Dreams, Sands Cotai, Galaxy Macau Resort and Wynn Palace, which opened this year. Event planners like Ludih can help you organize the ultimate stag bash with stretch limos, VIP access at clubs and private parties in luxury hotel suites.

Jet Airways flies to Hong Kong

For more info, visit www.macaotourism.gov.mo


Go beer guzzling in Germany
Beer by the tankards or ‘ein mass’ (one measure in a large mug), pigging out on red meat (sausages to steaks) and busty bier mädchen (beer maidens) dressed in dirndls (Alpine peasant costume) and tight-fitting bodices that make Hooters seem like a church choir; Germany is custom-built for a boys’ week out. Beer Bike Tours combine two of the best German specialties – beer and engineering – plonk with your pals on stools around a small bar and quaff beer while pedaling your beermobile. It’s a good way to burn off what you’ll put on.

Drive from north to south Germany on the Deutsch Fachwerke Strasse (Half-Timbered House Road), checking out local brews at the 1200 breweries between Bremen and Munich. Pop in at Munich’s famous beer hall Hofbräuhaus and the Bier & Oktoberfest Museum. Or head straight to Berlin, legendary for its hedonistic club scene and endless party hours. There’s hardly a block in Berlin without a bar though the top spots are in the hipster district of Kreuzberg.


Check out Berlin’s oldest biergarten Prater or rent a raft and float down the Spree River. Go dancing at the open-air Club der Visionaire off the Spree or Matrix in an abandoned train station – almost every club in Berlin is built in an abandoned something! Split up into smaller groups to get into clubs like Sysiphos or the infamous techno haven Berghain.

The German love for kink is apparent in strip clubs like Golden Dolls or CP Club and adult entertainment venues like Artimis and Kit Kat Club. For a mad time, visit during the 16-day long Oktoberfest (mid-September to first Sunday in October)! Don’t forget to take home a stein (no, not a stain but a stoneware mug) as a memento.

Jet Airways flies to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, from where its codeshare partners Etihad and KLM have several connections to Frankfurt, Munich or Berlin.

For more info, visit www.germany.travel


Rum tasting in Mauritius
If you were considering Mauritius for your destination wedding or honeymoon, your bachelor party might be a good way to scope it out. Sensuous Sega dancers and fire-eaters by the beach, endless rum tasting sessions at rhumeries like Chateau de Labourdonnais, Chamarel, L’Aventure du Sucre and Saint Aubin and riding out to reefs for diving or snorkeling with the boys; Mauritius is not your average lazy tropical paradise.

There’s a lot for the adventure enthusiast – SeaKart, UnderSea Walk, Sub Scooter and Submarine tours with Blue Safari (the only sub operation in the Indian Ocean), the world’s third longest zipline and Quad Biking at La Vallée des Couleurs and Casela Nature Park. And if you’re into golf, there are over a dozen world class courses.


With all the action packed in a relatively small island nation (65km long, 45km wide) and plush beachside resorts like Shanti Maurice, Sofitel Imperial and Radisson Blu Azuri, no adventure is far away. Dine on the best of French, Caribbean and Creole cuisine and wash it down with rum macerated with tropical fruits and spices.

Jet Airways flies twice a week from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai to Mauritius

For more info, visit www.tourism-mauritius.mu


Bar hopping in Dublin
Few cities have the pulse and vibe of Dublin where the pub, the poet and the pint are seemingly inseparable. The Irish are a friendly lot and it’s easy to strike up a conversation, make new friends and party like a local. Start your pilgrimage with a visit to the Guinness Storehouse and their St James Gate Brewery where they teach you everything from how to pour the perfect pint o’ Guinness and how to drink one!

For a traditional Dublin pub experience with a live band, Irish music and food, The Merry Ploughboy Irish music pub is a must do. Wowing audiences since 1989, they even have a pick-up and drop facility from town. Go on a Dublin Literary Pub Crawl with quirky book-themed tours in the footsteps of famous authors through Dublin’s cobbled streets. Professional actors double up as guides performing from the works of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.


Sounds too dense? Hit the Temple Bar area to wet your whistle at Kitty O’Shea’s, The Hole in the Wall and The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub that opened in 1198. Not into beer? Take the scenic Giant’s Causeway Coastal route and head for an Irish whiskey experience at The Old Jameson Distillery (reopening after a makeover in March 2017).

Jet Airways flies to London, from where you can fly to Dublin or Belfast.

For more info, visit www.ireland.com


Go Down Under in style in Australia
If you’re all set to change your FB status from Single to Married (or It’s Complicated), go down under in style by celebrating Down Under. Base yourself in Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) and you’re just a hop, skip and jump from all the entertainment – bars, restaurants, gentleman’s clubs and a variety of shows. Plus, in CBD, the trams are free!

Stay at Citadines on Bourke Street or check into luxe tents at St. Jerome’s with scenic views and bespoke brewery tours run by the Temple Brewing Co. For whiskey tastings, there’s The Humble Tumbler, Bar 1806 and Whisky & Alement. Australia is the perfect place for XXXX fun and we don’t mean Castlemaine!


Take the fun out to sea with a stripper cruise or have a poker party with topless barmaids and nude waitresses. Drive out of town with your mates to Philip Island for surfing and to watch penguins, seals and wallabies in the wild. The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit which hosts the Moto GP in October also has a 720m go-karting track. Continue the party on the Great Ocean Road past the Twelve Apostles to Sydney if you have more time… and stamina!

Jet Airways flies to Singapore, from where its codeshare partner Qantas flies to Melbourne and Sydney

For more info, www.visitmelbourne.com


Island hopping in Indonesia
Imagine this. The moment you land in Bali, you and your Wolf Pack is whisked from the airport to your private pool villa in Semenyak where party girls welcome you with chilled Bintangs. Your pool party has its own DJ, with VIP access to top clubs at night and cruising on a luxury yacht with your bevy of beauties. Yes, in Bali, everything is possible.

If you don’t want to depend on an event planner, DIY, but don’t DUI. Choose a regular hotel in the main tourist hub of Kuta so you’re never far from action. Catch the sunset at beach shacks like Ku De Ta, Potato Head, Cocoon or Mozaic, then go late night clubbing at Sky Garden in Legian. The next day, recover with Balinese massages and foot reflexology. In the posher precinct Semenyak, you can have your own pool villa with party spots like Bounty, Mirror and Koh close by.


Fly out to Labuan Bajo in Flores, where you can go diving and deep sea fishing or head out on a boat trip to Komodo Island to watch giant reptiles. With getaways like Sulawesi, Lombok and nearly 18,000 islands (of which 8844 are named and 922 permanently inhabited), you are indeed spoilt for choice.

Jet Airways flies to Bangkok and Singapore, from where its codeshare partner Garuda Indonesia flies to Bali

For more info, visit www.indonesia.travel


Glamping in Oman
Oman may not seem like the most obvious choice for a bachelor party, but if you’re looking for good clean fun, the Desert Nation has quite a few surprises. Smoke sheeshas on the sands like a Bedouin, swim in wadis with barbecue parties at Wadi Bani Khalid, trek in the Al Hajar mountains or go dune bashing, quad biking and sandboarding with your buddies at Sharqiya Sands.

But perish the thoughts of basic ‘Abdullah and the Camel’ sort of tents, Desert Nights Camp will spoil you silly with glamping (glamour-camping). Tents fit for sultans dressed up with plush rugs and drapes, the nomadic strains of the darbouka (stringed instrument) and oud (percussion) and the tantalizing aroma of barbecued meat, Oman is as sensory as its aromatic frankincense. Fly from Muscat to Khasab for 4X4 drives across rugged terrain and luxury dhow cruises with dolphin spotting and snorkeling at Telegraph Island.

Jet Airways flies to Muscat

For more info, visit www.omantourism.gov.om


Explore the coffee shops of Amsterdam
Amsterdam has all the ingredients to threaten your marriage, so go at your own peril. A lot of the stuff illegal elsewhere is legit here. Much as the city likes to shrug the tag, over half a million tourists are drawn by visions of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Amsterdam’s legendary coffee shops, currently trimmed down to 220, come with elaborate menus offering everything from Moroccan Ice to Malana Cream for a Cheech & Chong stoner holiday.

There’s no better example of Amsterdam’s drug tolerance than Bulldog Leidseplein, formerly a police station, decorated with criminal artifacts! Scour the top forty listed in the local Mellow Pages: A Smoker’s Guide to Amsterdam and pop by at the award-winning Green House, The Grasshopper or Barney’s for a hit. The Cannabis Cup in November used to be a great time to visit until the recent clampdown. Another mandatory pitstop is Amsterdam’s red light district De Wallen, where you’ll learn a new meaning to the term ‘window shopping’. For those racked by guilt, look out for the “Pimp Free Zone” sticker.

Jet Airways flies to Amsterdam

For more info, visit www.holland.com


Get unreal in Montreal

With its trendy bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, every sort of club, Montreal is not called Sin City of the North for nothing. Get party girls to go clubbing with you, visit lap dance bars, try naked sushi or get your freak on at Kamasutra Club and Club Supersexe. St Laurent is a buzzing entertainment quarter while Crescent Street has great bars like Mad Hatter and Churchill’s, which has daily happy hours.

Montreal has a certain French flair and many time their bachelor parties in time for the cold winter sports season (thus justifying the need for warmth) or events like the jazz festival. Looking for an all-expense paid pre-arranged tour? Connect with www.connectedmontreal.com

Jet Airways flies to London Heathrow from where its codeshare partner Air Canada flies to Montreal, Toronto and other destinations

For more info, visit www.canada.travel

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This is the unabridged version of the article that appeared in the October 2016 issue of JetWings International magazine.

The High Life: Dubai De Luxe


From diving for pearls to touching the skies, Dubai has come a long way. ANURAG MALLICK lives the high life…

Downtown Dubai

Tom Cruise may have climbed, rappelled and swung around Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol but I wasn’t letting that deter me from dining calmly at At.mosphere, the 122nd floor restaurant in the world’s tallest building. Ushered past the quiet Armani Hotel reception by a graceful hostess to the express elevator, in 45 seconds, I was transported 670 feet to the world’s highest restaurant ‘from ground level’. The change in air pressure is so drastic, you’ll be popping more than the bubbly.

A cantilevered staircase connects the restaurant to the lounge with the best view in Dubai. Our mission impossible? A nine-course festive ‘taster’ menu of Oscietra caviar, Maison Soulard foie gras, Portugal Langouste, truffles, oysters and sea scallops. It was as if Ethan Hunt had sleepwalked onto the sets of Casino Royale with the memory of Jason Bourne. Thus stuffed, the only danger lay in rolling off while admiring the view…

At.mosphere Dubai (54)

Two floors up, the world’s highest observation deck, At The Top, was voted recently as the ‘Best Attraction’ in the world. Storming the 2015 Worldwide Attractions Awards, Burj Khalifa surpassed tourism heavyweights like London Eye and Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

The viewing deck also came second to the Empire State Building in the ‘Best Observation Deck’ category and was voted the ‘Most Romantic Attraction or Tour 2015’ alongside the Eiffel Tower. The fireworks display from Burj Khalifa easily ranks among the most spectacular year-end celebrations.

Seawings Seaplane Taking Off

While Burj Khalifa offers a terrific bird’s eye view, it is quite another thing to leave the stationary perch and see Dubai from the air, like a bird in flight. SeaWings, Dubai’s ultimate luxury excursion, took off from Dubai Creek for a 25-minute seaplane tour of the city. Barring 5 minutes each for take off and landing, it was 15 minutes of pure flying time. The New York Times calls it the No.1 thing to do in Dubai for good reason. The 10-seater Cessna Caravan cruised along the coastline past landmarks like Port Rashid, Dubai’s old port that’s now a cruise terminal.

It’s only from the air that the 300 man-made islets of The World Islands, using sand dredged from the sea, can be seen in the shape of a world map. Most are still uninhabited, except the Sultan’s pleasure playground ‘Greenland’ and ‘Lebanon’, the only island in commercial use. We flew past Downtown Dubai’s skyscrapers, dwarfed by the Burj Khalifa. The iconic sail-shaped Burj Al Arab stood like a yacht at the edge of the Arabian Gulf, almost poised to set off.

SeaWings seaplane tour-Burj al Arab 2015-12-17 18.15.19

There was a collective gasp as the seaplane swooped towards the fronds of Palm Jumeirah. Nakheel Group’s flagship artificial archipelago is Dubai’s most exclusive address with several mega hotels like Waldorf Astoria, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and Atlantis. Shaped like an Arabic portal to another dimension, Atlantis featured extensively in Shah Rukh Khan’s heist flick ‘Happy New Year’, described by critics as ‘Ocean’s 11 written by baboons’. Indian cinema is huge here and the world’s first Bollywood-themed park is slated to open this October. SRK is a big celeb here as well and owns a villa (k..k..k..K-93) at Palm Jumeirah.

“That’s where I’m staying,” I pointed to Anantara’s unmistakable orange gabled roof on the eastern crescent. Another gasp and envy, as we splashed down near Jebel Ali Golf Resort where my chauffer-driven Merc whisked me back to Anantara at Palm Jumeirah. The word Jumeirah is derived from the Arabic jamilah, meaning ‘beautiful’. And it sure was! The blue waters of the Persian Gulf looked so inviting one could jump in. Fortunately, my lagoon villa provided the perfect opportunity to do so. Overlooking an exclusive beachfront, The Beach House serves excellent seafood and signature cocktails like ‘After the Storm.’

Anantara The Palm Dubai 2015-12-18 10.46.25

After a relaxing spa session in the new Turkish hammam, I headed to the in-house Mekong, Dubai’s top Pan-Asian restaurant, where I was welcomed with miang kham, a traditional Thai snack of roasted coconut shavings, chilli, ginger, garlic, shallots, peanuts, dried shrimps and raw mango, wrapped into a betel leaf. Miang kham translates to ‘eating many things in one bite’.

In the dimlit interior, I leafed through the menu – it came with its own clip-on torch. My steward Sunday (born on a Sunday in Myanmar) suggested that despite dining alone, I should try the ‘sharing platter’ of spring rolls, crab cakes, satay and chicken pandan. Sunday made my day.

Mekong-sharing platter 2015-12-17 21.34.53

Now I’m a big fan of eating local and purists may question the logic of eating Thai in Dubai! But with 200 nationalities making Dubai their home, there’s mind boggling cultural and culinary diversity. Lebanese, Japanese, Turkish, Mexican, Egyptian, French, Italian, American diner, Australian Outback, you name it, they got it. Like the UN went to a party and forgot to report back to duty.

There are other multi-cultural cities too, but Dubai is unique because expats comprise nearly 80% of its 2.45 million population. So whatever the cuisine, it’s top-notch. Here, they throw around ‘Michelin star chef’ with the same casualness as we use ‘hotel management course from Switzerland’ in India.

La Serre bistro

As a city, Dubai believes in the best, the biggest and the tallest. After seducing immigrants with tax-free income and quality of life, it provides every avenue to make sure they spend it all. And the more you spend, the more you must earn. It’s a neat little cycle; a whirlwind ride that’s easy to get in but hard to get out of! Over 50 shopping malls – Ibn Battuta Mall, Deira City Centre, Dubai Marina Mall, Burjuman Centre, Mall of the Emirates with its own indoor ski slope and Egyptian-themed Wafi Mall – let you buy any brand or product in every variation possible. However, Dubai Mall took not just the cake, but the entire boulangerie.

It was as if someone went to God or Santa Claus and made the most impossible wish. “I want the largest and best mall in the world”. (Granted) “Er… with a Dancing Fountain and an Aquarium. And the world’s largest collection of sharks and rays. (Will 33,000 marine creatures do?) “Ya, but behind the world’s largest acrylic panel! And an Ice Rink, with intermittent snowfall like the real thing.” (Ok…) “Hang on, also a waterfall, across four floors.” (Anything else?) “Umm maybe a dozen fiberglass divers plummeting down the cascade? And a 155-million-year old dinosaur to round it off.” (OKAY already, it will have every goddamn thing you ever need!)

Dubai Aquarium

Spread over 13 million square feet (and still expanding), Emaar Group’s Dubai Mall also has its own indoor theme park SEGA Republic, the world’s largest sweet shop Candylicious, the largest shoe store in the world by Chalhoub, a 22-screen cineplex with 4-D, edutainment zone KidZania, a Gold Souk, Hamley’s from London, Bloomingdale’s from New York and Galeries Lafayette, their only store outside Paris.

And a flight simulator for Emirates A-380, the largest aircraft in the world, because you always wanted to fly a plane, right? With over 1200 stores, you can be here for a while. Thankfully, we had a buggy for the mall crawl and Karim from Emaar as our guide. Amidst all the action, it’s easy to miss the daily show at Dubai Fountain (every half hour 6-11pm) just outside the mall.

Anantara Thai long tail boat ride - Burj al Arab view 2015-12-18 12.14.07

Dubai wasn’t always like this. Its humble origins lay in a nondescript fishing village of makeshift dwellings, home to Bedouins who depended on pearling, dhow making and trade. In the 1930s, the Japanese learnt how to artificially manufacture pearls and road and air travel reduced the dependence on boat building.

Dubai lived in relative obscurity till the discovery of oil in 1966. Though Dubai’s foundations were laid on oil and gas, its present economy is run on real estate, gold, diamonds and free-market capitalism. “Dubai, Do Buy, get it?”, my Sri Lankan guide Wickeramasinghe cackled at his profound joke.

Dubai Creek 2015-12-18 18.34.02

The best place for a sense of the old traditions is Dubai Museum, housed in the Al Fahidi Fort built in 1787, the oldest existing building in the city. The 20-seater abra (boat) ferries passengers across the creek from Bur Dubai to Deira, the old commercial quarter with its gold and spice souks. For a dirham it’s the cheapest thrill to be found in Dubai.

Cheaper still is hearing Malayali men in thick accents selling ‘Rolllexxx and original fake watches.’ A more leisurely experience is the Thai long tail boat ride at Anantara – ‘a touch of Thai in Dubai’. It was a lazy cruise to Dubai Marina past parked yachts and looming skyscrapers. The danger was, you could get used to this life of luxury…

Al Mahara-Line caught sea bass with almond sauce, black truffles and forest mushrooms 2015-12-18 15.52.06-2

By Day 3, I was ordering ‘Grilled tiger prawns a la Provençale with crispy olive polenta’, like I had been having polenta for lunch everyday back home. Google informs you, in chaste Devanagari, that polenta’s Hindi equivalent is ‘Makai ki khichdi’. Perhaps I wasn’t too far from the truth. “So what did you have in Dubai?” “Umm… khichdi”. Nah, polenta was fine.

That’s the thing about fine dine – it makes anything sound good. Before being presented with magical flourish, nearly every dish was preceded by a 1-minute introduction, as if it were nobility, listing its pedigree and parentage. When confronted by words like Moelleux and Cremeux that you might mispronounce, ask for recommendations and snootily confirm.

Al Mahara interior 3

The sheer choice in Dubai is mind boggling – dine next to a ceiling-to-floor aquarium in the opulent Al Mahara restaurant at the 7-star Burj Al Arab or al fresco by Jumeirah Beach at Four Seasons’ SeaFu, dig into a whole seabass baked in salt crust at the Chef’s Table at La Serre or try Indian cuisine with a twist at Atul Kochhar’s Rang Mahal.

After eight elaborate courses in Rang Mahal’s orange and black interiors dominated by massive temple pillars, we hankered for dessert and were frostily informed, ‘The chef is painting.’ We wondered if this was indeed a tall tale in the world’s tallest hotel JW Marriott Marquis, when five minutes later the Dessert Canvas of assorted Indian sweets was presented like Modern Art. “Is that Gouda?” “No that’s Gaudi”, went my imaginary conversation with the steward.

Rang Mahal

That’s Dubai for you, where dessert can be made into art and an oasis can be carved out of a desert. Clearly no mission is impossible, if you have the audacity to dream it. Despite a slowdown after the 2009 economic crisis, development continues at a furious pace. Dubai Creek is being deepened and extended through the city.

The heritage quarter of Al Bastakiya is being shaped into a Historic District. Large scale construction with buildings, cranes or South Asian workers in overalls are seen in every frame. If Dutch comfort is ‘Thank god it’s not worse’, Dubai lies at the other end of that scale. ‘We know it’s great, but it will only get better.’

Burj Khalifa - 148 floor


Getting there
There are several direct flights from India to Dubai International Airport (3-4 hrs). Emirates, the national carrier, boasts the world’s biggest fleets of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. www.emirates.com

When to visit
Weather-wise Nov-Mar is the best time to visit, with big sporting, entertainment and shopping events all year round – Dubai Shopping Festival (1 Jan-1 Feb), Dubai Food Festival (25 Feb-12 Mar), Al Marmoom Heritage Festival and camel race (April), Al Gaffal Dhow Race (May), Ramadan/Eid (June), Dubai Summer Surprises (July-Sep), among others.

For more info, visit www.dubaicalendar.ae, www.visitdubai.com

Anantara view from Lotus Lounge 2015-12-19 12.58.05

Where to Stay

Anantara The Palm Dubai
Ph +971 4 567 8888 www.dubai-palm.anantara.com
Located on the eastern crescent of Palm Jumeirah, the Thai chain offers excellent lagoon rooms, beach pool villas and the only over-water villas in the UAE.

St Regis, Al Habtoor City
Ph +971 4 435 5555 www.stregisdubai.com
Dubai’s newest 5-star hotel that’s centrally located on Sheikh Zayed Road. A grand staircase, huge chandelier and excellent food at its specialty restaurants like Brasserie Quartier. Try the ‘Brunch at the Manor’ on Friday.

Al Mahara lounge 2015-12-18 16.27.26

Where to Eat

Al Mahara, Burj al Arab
Ph +971 4 301 7600 www.jumeirah.com
Sheer opulence with gilded interiors and a giant aquarium; try the sea bass with Almond Sauce, Maine Lobster with seaweed butter or poached tsarkaya oysters in cucumber and apple broth

At.mosphere, Burj Khalifa
Ph +971 4 888 3828 www.atmosphereburjkhalifa.com
French cuisine by Michelin chef Chef Jerome Lagarde, the Lounge has a minimum spend policy of 200 AED per person at lunch and 250 AED for dinner, with guaranteed window seating. The same seating privilege for lunch at the Restaurant will set you back by 500 AED. The festive menu comes for 880 AED.

Mekong, Anantara The Palm Dubai
Ph +971 4 567 8304 www.dubai-palm.anantara.com/mekong/
Rickshaw style seating at oriental tables with overhead lights in bird cages and excellent Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese. Try the sharing platter – crispy spring roll, Vietnamese spring roll, Tod Mun Goong (Thai shrimp cake), Plah Goong (prawn salad with lemongrass), BBQ minced prawn on sugarcane skewer, Gai Hor Baitoey (Chicken pandan), Chicken satay

Mekong 2015-12-17 21.34.22

Rang Mahal, JW Marriott Marquis
Ph +971 4 414 0000 www.jwmarriottmarquisdubailife.com
Indian cuisine with a twist by Atul Kochhar; the Navratan Menu features Chowk kee Aloo Chat, Lasooni Scallops, Meen Moilley, Limbu Rubiyan, Tandoori Murg & Gosht Boti Korma

La Serre, Vida Downtown Dubai Hotel
Ph +971 4 428 6969 www.laserre.ae
Classy Parisian-style café with boulangerie on the ground floor and upstairs bistro in white, serving Med fare like Tarte Flambée, Burrata with tomatoes, Lentil salad with pickled vegetables, Rigatoni with white truffles and the most succulent Grilled veal chops

Sea Fu, Four Seasons
Ph +971 4 270 7777 www.seafudubai.com
Asian-influenced dishes presented Med-style in a cool, loungey atmosphere overlooking Jumeirah Beach. Great for sundowners; try the Sea Fu platter, homemade seafood fettucini and crispy prawn with wasabi lemon dressing.

SeaFu-Fettucine with seafood

What to Do

Sea Wings Dubai
Ph +971 4 807 0708 www.seawings.ae
The 40-min Dubai Silver Tour takes off from Dubai Creek near Park Hyatt and costs AED 1695 per person. They also do Dubai Creek heritage walking tours.

Dubai Museum
Ph +971 4 353 1862 www.dubaiculture.gov.ae
At AED 3, it’s quite a bargain for insights into Emirati culture and the history of Dubai in neatly laid out galleries in an old fort. Also has a souvenir shop near the exit.

Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
Ph +971 4 448 5200 www.thedubaiaquarium.com
Located on the ground floor of Dubai Mall, the 10-million litre aquarium can be viewed from a distance for free, besides a range of immersive experiences like cage snorkeling, scuba dive and encounters with rays, otters and sharks for AED 100-200.

Author: Anurag Mallick. This article appeared as part of the Cover Story ‘Experiential Holidays: International Special’ in the March, 2016 issue of Outlook Traveller magazine. Read the story on OT at http://www.outlooktraveller.com/trips/dubai-the-ultimate-luxury-destination-1008693

DSF 2016: Unwrap the Exceptional


ANURAG MALLICK gives a preview of Dubai Shopping Festival 2016, the 21st edition of the world’s longest running festival


As a city that believes in the best, biggest and tallest, Dubai kickstarts the new year with DSF 2016, the 21st edition of the world’s longest-running festival. The Dubai Shopping Festival or simply DSF (1 Jan–1 Feb) is back with a line-up of over 150 events in a month-long celebration and millions of dirhams in prizes.

Beginning with a grand DSF Global Village World Party heralded by fireworks, mega discounts and raffle promotions, the shopping extravaganza is a big draw for tourists from across the globe and the Arab world. For the first time, DSF is running weekly themes dedicated to key retail categories – beauty, jewellery, fashion and perfumes.


Week 1 (1-7 Jan) is dedicated to ‘Beauty’, with a Fashion Catwalk inside The Dubai Mall. Spread over 13 million sq ft (that’s 50 football fields), it is the world’s largest mall and the most visited shopping and leisure destination. A special Beauty District has been created with new product launches, makeup tutorials, beauty pageants and a 360o Glam Cam where shoppers get a 360o view of their makeover!

Besides big deals, catch local attractions like The Dubai Mall Ice Rink and The Waterfall – an art installation spanning four floors with dramatic fiberglass sculptures of divers plummeting down the cascade. The fascinating Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo houses nearly 33,000 marine creatures behind the world’s largest acrylic panel. Walk through the tunnel as sharks and rays glide over you.


The Dubai Mall is the perfect venue for families with edutainment zone KidZania, indoor theme park SEGA Republic, the world’s largest sweet shop Candylicious, Hamley’s toy store from London, Bloomingdale’s from New York and Galeries Lafayette, their only store outside Paris. Don’t miss the daily show at Dubai Fountain every half hour between 6 and 11pm just outside the mall.

The second week (8-14 Jan) celebrates ‘Gold and Jewellery’ with unbelievable offers from international luxury brands. Dubai Gold & Jewelry Group is giving away 5kg gold and daily prizes with “100 Winners in 32 Days.” Over four weeks, four lucky winners can win 200 grams at each weekly draw and the final winner will win a kilo of gold on the last day of DSF! The more you shop at the select community malls, the higher your chances of winning.


Damas is presenting a unique pop-up display on diamond mining besides showcasing antique collections. Three locations in the Al Fahidi Historical District on either side of the Dubai Creek (Bur Dubai and Deira) will be decked up. After a peek into the Dubai Museum, take a ride across the creek in an abra (traditional ferry) for only a dirham. At Gold Souk, marvel at the heaviest ring in the world pop at the Kanz store and browse through the Spice Souk overflowing with herbs and spices from across the world. This year’s highlight is Creek Chic, a vintage market featuring vintage fashion, furniture and art.

Week 3 (15 – 25 Jan) highlights ‘Apparel & Fashion’ with a special Fashion Central created in the Mall of the Emirates introducing ‘New to Dubai’ fashion brands and collections. The key attraction is Fashiontainment, a fusion of fashion shows and music performances. Besides in-store activations, catch Fashion Express, a mash-up of a flashmob and a pop-up at Dubai Festival City Mall (15-16 Jan) and Ibn Battuta Mall (22- 23 Jan).

Shopping - Spice Souk

Fashion On Ice (17 Jan) is a dazzling skating fashion show at The Dubai Mall Ice Rink featuring professional figure skaters modelling avant-garde collections from Galleries Lafayette. Watch out for live snowfall and video projections! As part of Street Runways, Dubai’s famous landmarks will serve as a dramatic backdrop for showcasing high-street fashion at Al Fahidi District (18 Jan), Burj Plaza (23 Jan) and Meena Bazaar (25 Jan).

DSF builds up to a climax with the last week dedicated to Perfumes (26 Jan– 1 Feb) with City Centre Mirdif’s “Central Galleria” serving as the flagship venue. A specially set up Perfume Village will host a perfume museum with experts sharing tips on how to match perfumes. And if you’re travelling to Dubai on 26th Jan, leave your cologne at home. In a world-record breaking attempt, over 200 personnel will simultaneously spray perfume worth AED 1 million at Terminal 1 & 3 of Dubai Airport and MAF malls at Deira, Measem and other locations in the “The Biggest Perfume Sampling” event ever!

burj-khalifa fountain-42

The 21st edition of DSF also features the Middle East debut of Wanderland, a unique exhibition by French luxury house Hermès, which opens to public on 21st Jan at the Dubai Fountain. The exhibition will be afloat across a 1000 sq m area at the Dubai Fountain next to Souk Al Bahar. After London and Paris, Dubai will be the third city in the world to host the astounding fashion and art installation based on the Parisian theme of flânerie or the act of strolling.

Another treat for connoisseurs is the Carpet & Art Oasis 2016 – one of the world’s largest exhibitions of hand woven carpets. Spread over 54 pavilions, it showcases 250,000 silk and wool rugs worth AED 2 billion, crafted in Persia, China, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, besides India.

Global Village

With VISA’s Impossible Deals, shoppers can get almost 80% off across electronics, travel, entertainment, luxury goods and automobiles. A great location to catch all the DSF action is Global Village, Dubai’s leading family entertainment and cultural attraction. It features a unique shopping experience at 65 pavilions, representing the culture, cuisine and handicrafts of various countries. Enjoy shopping hours till midnight from Saturday to Wednesday with timings extended to 1am on Thursdays and Fridays.

Built on the three main pillars of Shopping, Winnings and Entertainment, the festival is a chance for anyone to strike it big. Over the years, there have been many heart-warming stories of success. This year, the annual Infiniti Mega Raffle lets one lucky shopper drive home an Infiniti QX70 with AED 200,000 in cash every day.

Nissan Raffle

The raffle draw takes place daily at Global Village next to Gate 2 at 10pm. For every AED200 you spend, Shop, Play & Win gives you a raffle ticket and a chance to win a Nissan Pathfinder every week. If you’re finicky about the car, try your luck at the daily Nissan Grand Raffle where you can win one of the eight cars from Nissan’s stable – from an X-Trail to Patrol.

All this, thrown in with some mega entertainment. From plays and ballet to dance and theatre, there’s a lot on offer during DSF – Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Russell Peters Almost Famous World Tour (19 – 20 Jan) at Dubai World Trade Centre and a rock concert featuring Simple Minds (28 Jan).

Global Village carnival 2

The DSF Carnival at THE BEACH Piazza features jugglers, fire eaters, acrobats, stilt walkers, unicyclists, musicians, dancers and entertainers. BoxPark, a trendy mile-long entertainment quarter of restaurants and funky stores in renovated shipping containers will host beat-boxing, live shows and DJs spinning tunes from food trucks.

For a touch of tradition, Emirati heritage events like Fazza Championships mark the best in falconry, shooting and pearl diving. Glam up your spirit of adventure and try SkyDive Dubai, go on a seaplane tour for an exhilarating aerial view of landmarks like Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa or try dune-bashing on jeep and quad bikes, camel rides and horse riding at the DSF Desert Camp. There’s also spectacular fireworks display at The Beach, Creek Park and Global Village. DSF truly lives up to its tagline of “Unwrap The Exceptional”.


Choose from world class hotels like Anantara Resorts at Palm Jumeirah with stunning lagoon villas, excellent cuisine at Mekong and the only Thai long-tail boat ride experience in Dubai. With exciting DSF packages being offered by travel agencies, great flight connectivity by Emirates and promotions from leading five-star hotels and resorts, it’s a great time to visit Dubai. Just download the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank or ADIB’s DSF Mobile App for the schedule and latest offers. And put some ‘buy’ in Dubai.

Close on the heels of DSF, the DFF or Dubai Food Festival (25 Feb-12 Mar) will bring the best flavours from around the world to the city. Signature dishes, celebrity chefs, beach canteens and food n wine tastings at Michelin star restaurants as part of Dubai Restaurant Week; there’s plenty of exploration for your taste buds. To see Dubai’s action packed festive calendar, visit www.dubaicalendar.ae.

Anantara lagoon villas 2015-12-19 12.51.49

For more info, http://www.visitdubai.com or www.dubai-palm.anantara.com

Author: Anurag Mallick. This is the unedited version of the article that appeared on 8 January, 2016 in Conde Nast Traveller online. Read the story on CNT at http://www.cntraveller.in/story/how-to-navigate-dubai-shopping-festival-2016/#s-custweek-1-1-7-january