Dubai hot spots

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NIGHTLIFE: Due to its strict alcohol laws, Dubai's nightlife centers around its hotels, so you'll often spend evenings partying in five-star hotels. As you'd expect from Dubai, the venues can be incredible, with cutting-edge interiors and spectacular views. Clubs often draw world-class DJ's and celebrities flock to some of the more prestigious locations. Be prepared to dress to impress; the motto of clubbers in this city is "the blinger the better."

Barasti
Location: Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Jumeirah
Opening times: 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Telephone: 04 399 3333
This laid-back beach bar is always packed. Recently voted the best bar in the world, Barasti caters to everyone, whether you want to relax with a shisha, sip a mojito on the beach or dance the night away. There's always something on at Barasti -- from beach volleyball games to sporting action on their huge screen and wakeboarding, which all adds to the fun vibe of the bar.

Club 400
Location: The Fairmont, Sheikh Zayed Road
Opening times: 10 p.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Telephone: 04 332 4900
See and be seen at Dubai's most exclusive club. With its plush interior, talented resident DJ and cocktails to-die-for, it's easy to see why Dubai's beautiful people flock to this chic haunt. If ever there's a top celebrity in town, you can be sure that they'll be heading to this up-market venue when they want to let their hair down.

Rooftop Terrace
Location: The One & Only Royal Mirage, Jumeirah
Opening times: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily
Telephone: 04 399 9999
This beautiful bar is the ideal venue for a sun-downer. Overlooking the Palm Jumeirah, this outdoor, traditional Arabic-themed bar has some of the best views in the city, not to mention some of the best cocktails. From the chill-out tunes that filter through the bar to the laid-back service, this is one of the most relaxed venues in the city. Completely unpretentious, it's a great bar to head to after a hard days sunbathing. Just get there early if you want to bag yourself one of the tables with views of the Gulf.

JamBase
Location: Souk Madinat Jumeirah
Opening times: 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Telephone: 04 366 6730
If live music is more your scene than DJ's banging out house music, you'll do well to head to JamBase. Its brilliant resident jazz and blues band has the dance floor packed every night of the week. Billed as a dining club, tables are angled around the stage, giving the place more than a passing resemblance to a smoky 1950s blues bar. Far from being pretentious, JamBase has a friendly, hipster vibe that is unique in Dubai.

Next page: Middle Eastern dining



MIDDLE EASTERN DINING: Dubai is a social city, and the locals like nothing better than to catch up with friends over a shisha pipe and a table loaded with Arabic mezze. There are plenty of good authentic Middle Eastern restaurants in the city, ranging from Lebanese to Iranian and Moroccan. Cast your diet aside for the evening and indulge in local delicacies including fatoush -- a salad made with toasted bread -- hummus, shawarma and lots of hot flat bread. Arabic restaurants usually don't serve alcohol, but there are always a great range of juices and you can often smoke shisha.

Khan Murjan restaurant
Location: Khan Murjan Souk, Wafi
Opening times: 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Telephone: 04 324 4555
Buried away in the underground souks at Wafi is Khan Murjan. The menu is divided by country, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and Morocco, allowing you to sample cuisine from all over the Middle East. Though the setting is as faux as it gets -- being set inside a traditional-inspired souk with waiters in harem pants and fezes -- the dishes are exceptional. Despite its tourist hot-spot location, the restaurant is always packed to the rafters with locals, which goes to prove its authentic Arabic credentials.

Al Hallab
Location: Next to Eppco Petrol Station, Garhoud
Opening times: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily
Telephone: 04 282 3388
Well-known among expats and locals alike as one of the best Arabic restaurants in the city, you may have to make a reservation. The atmosphere is hectic, while the decor errs on the kitsch side, but that all adds to the eccentric charm of Al Hallab. With a vast menu of delicious Lebanese treats there's something to suit both play-it-safe and adventurous eaters. Lamb tongue, anyone?

Bastakiah Nights
Location: Bastakiah, Bur Dubai
Opening times: 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily
Telephone: 04 353 7772
Firmly focused on the tourist market, this tucked-away little venue has more than a touch of Arabian Nights about it. Get swept up in the romance of the open air seating, the attentive service and the flickering Arabic lanterns. The menu is limited, but the intimate setting of this converted courtyard more than makes up for its shortcomings.

Almaz by Momo
Location: Harvey Nichols, Mall of the Emirates
Opening times: 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily
Telephone: 04 409 8877
If you're after an intimate meal with a romantic atmosphere or a lively night out with friends, this Moroccan restaurant will fit the bill on both counts. Low lighting, beautiful Arabic lamps and a DJ spinning Middle Eastern music make this one of the hippest places in town. Opt to sit in the smoking section to see this restaurant come to life as friends huddle around tables to smoke shisha and eat generous and tasty portions of lamb shoulder or vegetable stews.

Next page: Art



ART: Though the art scene in Dubai isn't as advanced as in other cities, it's fast catching up. The Al Quoz industrial area, with its spacious tucked away warehouses and urban feel, is slowly becoming the creative hub of the city. Keeping their fingers on the pulse, word among residents is spreading about quirky art events, such as Pecha Kucha, which is helping the scene expand. So far, art galleries in Dubai are small and quaint, but they can still draw in the big names, as XVA's recent Andy Warhol exhibition proves.

XVA Gallery
Location: Bastakiah, Bur Dubai
Opening times: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday
Telephone: 04 353 5383
One of the trendiest venues in Dubai, XVA is a vegetarian cafe, art gallery and B&B all rolled into one -- it even has a kitsch trinkets shop, S*uce Gifts, attached. Though art often plays second fiddle to the food, exhibitions are always changing and are of high caliber. For instance, in 2008, XVA has played host to a Fendi Baguette party to mark the anniversary of the iconic bag and an Andy Warhol exhibition. Based in the cultural center of Dubai, Bastakiah, you can make a day of it by visiting the Creek and its souks, too.

The Jam Jar
Location: Al Quoz, behind Dubai Garden Center, Sheikh Zayed Road
Opening times: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, closed on Sunday.
Telephone: 04 341 7303
Priding itself on making art accessible to all, the Jam Jar serves a dual purpose. Not only does the venue exhibit the art of both local and international art talent, but the space doubles as a studio, allowing the public to try their hand at painting. You don't have to have any prior experience -- just bring along your imagination (Jam Jar will supply the rest) and let your paintbrush run riot for three hours of creativity, or messmaking.

Pecha Kucha
Location: The American University, Sheikh Zayed Road
Opening times: See Web site for details.
Telephone: 04 399 9000
Dubai has its own version of the hugely successful global arts event, Pecha Kucha -- and it's getting bigger every time. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it works as a forum for anyone who wants to present their thoughts, ideas or creations. In this unique event, each presenter is allowed to use 20 images which are shown for 20 seconds each, giving everyone a 6-minute, 40-second slot to air their gripes, share their poetry or whatever else they feel like presenting to Dubai's culture vultures.

The Third Line
Location: Al Quoz 3
Opening times: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Telephone: 04 341 1367
Representing Middle Eastern art, the Third Line is the perfect place to go for a hit of local culture. Exhibitions change regularly, so it's a great venue to visit again and again. Always looking to make art fun, you're just as likely to find rows of canvases as you are more original access points to art. Recent exhibitions have ranged from showcases of short Emirati films to kids' architecture contests.

Next page: Shopping



SHOPPING: With a reputation for being one of the best cities in the world to part with your hard-earned cash, Dubai's shopping malls are a major attraction. With cinemas, restaurants, arcades, ski slopes and aquariums among the many attractions housed within, it's easy to spend the whole day trawling the malls without venturing into any shops. Shopping is a late-night sport in Dubai and it's worth heading over in the evenings to watch them really come to life.

The Dubai Mall
Location: Downtown Burj Dubai
Opening times: 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily
Telephone: 04 367 5588
The biggest and newest of Dubai's malls is already a big hit with tourists thanks to its enormous aquarium, home to some 33,000 living animals. The huge mall is opening in stages, so don't expect to be able to spend the whole day here. Bigger stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Bloomingdales are yet to open, but it's still well worth a visit for the Olympic-sized ice rink and aquarium alone.

Mall of the Emirates
Location: Sheikh Zayed Road
Opening times: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday to Saturday
Telephone: 04 409 9000
The Middle East's most famous mall is still a huge hit with tourists. Up there with the Burj Al Arab and the Madinat in terms of must-sees, the Mall of the Emirates is home to the iconic Ski Dubai, the world's largest indoor ski slope. Housing high street favorites, including H&M, Zara and Debenhams and high end stores such as Harvey Nichols, Dolce & Gabbana and De Beers, there'll be no problem filling the whole day.

Souk Madinat Jumeirah
Location: Jumeirah Beach Road
Opening times: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Telephone: 04 366 8888
Unashamedly touristy, taking a trip through the Madinat, with its traditional-looking decor and winding waterways chugging hotel guests around the resort on abras feels like Disney meets Arabia. The perfect place to pick up your holiday gifts, there are trinkets aplenty in its maze of boutique souks. Beautifully embroidered textiles, amber jewelry, Arabic lanterns and shell wind chimes are just some of the wares on display. Prices are high and haggling isn't expected, but even if you're on a budget it's worth visiting for the photo ops alone.

Dubai Outlet Mall
Location: Al Ain Road, Route 66
Opening times: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday to Saturday
Telephone: 04 367 9600
Thanks to its tax-free status and immense passion for fashion, Dubai attracts bargain-hunting shoppers from around the globe. For designer discounts, there's no better mall to head to than this. It's a fair distance from the rest of the city, but if you're looking to shop till you drop, it's worth the trek. Stores include Priceless, stocking Balenciaga, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent; a Rodeo Drive outlet; and the Outlet, including brands such as Miu Miu, Mulberry and Prada, with up to 70% off.

Next page: International dining



INTERNATIONAL DINING: If it's fine dining you're after, Dubai has a plethora of great venues. Most celebrity chefs you care to mention have a place in Dubai, including Gordon Ramsey's Verre in Hilton Dubai Creek, Marco Pierre White's Frankie's -- a joint venture with Frankie Detorri at the Oasis Beach Tower -- and Gary Rhodes' Rhodes Mezzanine at Grosvenor House. For those who are more into cafe culture than Michelin stars, there are several great options for laid-back lunching, including the bohemian-vibed Lime Tree Cafe.

Fire & Ice
Location: Raffles, Wafi
Opening times: 7 p.m. to midnight
Telephone: 04 324 8888
Eating at Fire & Ice is more than just a meal, it's entertainment. It's unbeatable if you're looking for a jaw-dropping venue that's got it all -- great service, first-rate food and an atmosphere that is second-to-none. Flames line the open kitchen, while liquid nitrogen swirls around the food. But this is no all-style-no-content venue; the food at Fire & Ice is delectable. It's pricey, but this steakhouse is one of the best eateries in the city, and if you like your food with a side order of theatrics, you're in the right place.

Nobu
Location: Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah
Opening times: 7 p.m. to midnight
Telephone: 04 426 0760
Dubai's latest place to be is Nobu. The 16th outlet in the hugely successful, not to mention expensive, Japanese restaurant already has a two-month waiting list at Dubai's latest luxury hotel, Atlantis. Co-owned by master chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert DeNiro, this chain is a popular celebrity stomping-ground. The first Nobu in the Middle East is experimenting with a fusion of contemporary Japanese dishes and Arabic-influenced food and features a sushi bar and wood-burning stove. Prepare to be impressed.

Lime Tree Cafe
Location: Next to Spinney's,
Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1
Opening times: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Telephone: 04 3498 498
It's no exaggeration to say that the Lime Tree Cafe is an institution in Dubai. Situated on Jumeirah Road, it's a great location for a post-beach lunch. Fresh, wholesome dishes such as cous cous salads and roasted pumpkin ciabattas, plus its great range of juices and smoothies make it a huge hit for a health-conscious, lazy weekend lunch. The cafe is buzzing with beachgoers on the weekend, so although it's not a peaceful haven, it is a great spot for people-watching. Make sure you sample the carrot cake, which is famous among expats for being the best dessert in the city.

The Boardwalk
Location: Dubai Creek
& Yacht Club, Garhoud
Opening times: 8 a.m. to midnight
Telephone: 04 295 6000
In cooler winter months, head to the outdoor tables in this beautiful, decked restaurant on the Creek. Overlooking Sheikh Zayed Road's impressive skyscrapers glittering across the water, you'll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant with a better view. For relatively cheap eats, the service is great, the international cuisine is tasty and comes in huge portions, and the atmosphere is relaxed.

Next page: Adventure



ADVENTURE: In a city where it's almost impossible to walk anywhere thanks in part to the extraordinary heat -- and the lack of pedestrian-friendly areas -- some action is a welcome weekend activity. Tour operators cater for residents just as much as tourists with kayaking, hiking, water sports and boat trips all being popular weekend activities. With so many operators, you can bag yourself a real bargain if you call around. Some companies are even open to giving discounts if you're brave enough to ask.

Desert safari (Click here for Web site)
Telephone: 04 303 4888
Partaking in a desert safari is almost an initiation for tourists in the region. There are several tour operators offering a day in the desert -- dune-bashing in a 4x4, a camel ride and sand surfing followed by a BBQ, a spot of shisha smoking and a belly dance. Most companies will negotiate a new itinerary if you'd rather skip the belly dancing for some more sporting action. It's a great way to see some of the UAE's vast expanse of desert, but be warned that the dune-bashing can be a bit scary, and isn't recommended for those with a delicate stomach.

Hot air ballooning (Click here for Web site)
Telephone: 04 436 8100
Take a break from the throng of Dubai with a tranquil balloon ride over the dramatic backdrop of the Hajar Mountains and desert. This has to be one of the best ways to get acquainted with the dunes and the desolate mountain range, as you soar over the peaks, watching the sun rise. Be warned that an early start is required, but you'll soon forget how tired you are when you're peacefully floating, far away from the city.

Catamaran cruise (Click here for Web site)
Telephone: 04 266 9906
There are various boat trips available in Dubai, but perhaps a catamaran cruise is the most thrilling. It's one for the fun-seekers; fast-paced, bumpy and more than a little wet. Take in the stunning Dubai coastline, whipping past Atlantis and the Burj Al Arab while you indulge in various watersports, snorkeling and a BBQ dinner, before heading back to shore. The perfect precursor to a night on the town, this should be a must for all out-of-towners.

Scuba diving/snorkeling (Click here for Web site)
Telephone: 04 345 9900
Though it's possible to dive off the coast of Dubai, it's worth venturing a little further out for better water clarity. Lots of tour operators will pick you up from Dubai before whisking you away to Musandam in Oman to dive in its clearer waters, bristling with exotic sealife such as barracudas, whale sharks, turtles and rays. Bring a camera, because groups of curious dolphins often follow dhows packed with divers.

Next page: Culture



CULTURE: Those in search of rich history and culture will need to look hard in this ultra modern city. Bur Dubai is a great place to start with its popular textile souks as well as the Dubai museum. Dubai is a relatively new city that's exploded in size in the last 20 years, so relics from the past are hard to come by. Down by the Creek is where you'll get the best idea of how life used to be, as abras cruise up and down the creek, bringing commuters to and from work, the souks bustle with activity and Bastakiah heaves with old-fashioned courtyards.

Souks
Location: Bur Dubai and Deira Creek
Along either side of the creek in Deira and Bur Dubai lie walkways of busy traditional souks, selling gold, textiles and spices. Though they're not particularly old, they do represent some of the oldest parts of the city and a way of life that's easy to forget when you're sipping cocktails in five-star hotels. Unlike many markets and souks in other parts of the world, you won't feel too harassed here even though vendors will try and catch your attention -- particularly with bargain 10 dirham pashminas. Be sure to venture off the beaten track into narrow passageways and alleys where the real bargains lie.

Mosque Tour (Click here for Web site)
Location: Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1
Opening times: Sunday and Thursday
As part of Sheikh Mohammed's mission with his Center for Cultural Understanding, Jumeirah Mosque is open for hour-long tours. It's a stunning landmark situated on the Beach Road near the Village Mall. Non-muslims are encouraged to take this rare opportunity to see inside, take photos and learn about Islam. Prior booking is necessary and you'll need to dress appropriately; women should be covered in a long skirt or trousers as well as a head scarf while men should wear trousers and a shirt with no shoes.

Dubai Museum
Location: Bur Dubai
Opening times: 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday to Thursday, 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday
Telephone: 04 353 1862
Proving that not all of Dubai is shiny and new, Dubai Museum is based inside Al Fahidi Fort. Built in 1787, it's believed to be the oldest building in Dubai. The fort itself has an interesting history as it has served as the seat of government, a jail, an ammunition store and the ruler's residence. The museum presents, through local artifacts and exhibits from countries that have traded with Dubai, an overview of traditional Emirati life before the discovery of oil in the region.

Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (Click here for Web site)
Location: Bastakiah, Bur Dubai
Telephone: 04 353 6666
SMCCU aims to break down cultural boundaries through education. Providing mosque tours, eight-week Arabic courses, lunches and breakfast to introduce Arabic cuisine and walking tours of Bastakiah. You'll need to book ahead for everything, but if you want to explore below the city's gloss, it's well worth the effort.

Next page: Events



EVENTS: In the winter months, Dubai comes alive with events, including marathons, yoga under the stars and lots of world-class sporting events. Golf, tennis, horse racing and rugby are all huge events here and after a long, hot summer spent indoors, the crowds eagerly flock to every event. Dubai also is coming into its own as a music venue, bringing in such big-name stars as Kylie and Fergie as well as a host of well-known DJs.

Dubai World Cup (Click here for Web site)
Date: March 2009
Location: TBC
More about the fashion than the racing, it's very possible that you'll attend the Dubai World Cup without seeing a single horse. For months, as local tailors and milliners go into overdrive, the only subject on Dubai-dwellers lips is what they'll be wearing on the big day. Everybody who's anybody attends, dressed in their finery and, while gambling is strictly prohibited, the event is seen as the city's biggest party of the year.

Shopping Festival (Click here for Web site)
Date: Jan. 15-Feb. 9
Location: All of Dubai
If there's one thing Dubai excels in, it's
shopping. The city doesn't have sales, it
has festivals. Dubai Summer Surprises is a great way of getting the masses through the shop doors when it's too hot to hit the beach in summer, while the Dubai Shopping Festival is perfect for a post-Christmas blow-out. Both events involve huge discounts across most stores as well as various giveaways, attractions and offers.

Dubai Rugby Sevens (Click here for Web site)
Date: November
Location: TBC
Dubai's first big event of winter is the Rugby Sevens, in which the biggest teams in the world battle it out in the weekend-long games. Bringing sports fans from all over the world as well as non-rugby fans who like to socialize, this event is a massive two-day party. Aside from the on-pitch action (which tends to play second fiddle to the partying), drinking is the name of the game, with after parties rolling well into the night across Dubai.

Swim Burj Al Arab (Click here for Web site)
Date: To be determined
Location: Burj Al Arab
Every year, swimming enthusiasts gather to take to the waters around the iconic seven star hotel built on its own island, the Burj Al Arab. Supervised by lifeguards from nearby water park, Wild Wadi, swimmers set off around the 1km course. Take part in one of the three races -- the Competitive Swim, Family Swim or Children's Swim -- to raise money for Medecins Sans Frontieres, a charity aiming to provide healthcare to everyone, regardless of race, religion, politics or sex.
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