For many years, whenever travel agents received inquiries from clients as to where they should go at this time of year to be guaranteed some sun, they invariably were limited to the following choices:
- Head west to the Caribbean
- Fly south to the Canaries, Madeira or South Africa
- Travel east and south to Southeast Asia and or Australia
With the notable exception of the Canaries and Madeira, the other destinations are either too far to travel to or too expensive — particularly if one only wants to get away for a week. True, it is possible to get lucky and enjoy some pleasant weather at this time of year in parts of the Spanish mainland or even the Balearics, but guaranteed? Absolutely not. In recent years, a new destination has reared its head, and which represents a happy compromise in terms of cost and distance to be traveled and that is the UAE or the United Arab Emirates to give it it’s full name. The country is a federation of seven separate emirates of which Dubai is perhaps the best known, although residents of Abu Dhabi might challenge me on that one.
The average flying time to Dubai is just over seven hours which is like flights to New York or Boston and the weather at this time of year is positively balmy at around 32 degrees. But it is not only the weather that Dubai cab lay claim to. It also boasts world-class hotels which won’t break the bank, plus a slew of attractions, water parks, gigantic shopping centres, restaurants serving every conceivable type of cuisine. Above all, Dubai is safe and easy to get around — either by metro, taxi or other forms of public transport. Dubai is home to some iconic buildings as well including the world’s first six-star hotel, the Burj al Arab which must be seen to be believed and the world’s highest skyscraper, the Burj Dubai although it is probably only a matter of time before even it is eclipsed.
Dubai is a great example of a city that has catapulted itself into the 21st century whilst at the same time, refusing to ignore either its cultural or historical heritage. Dubai Creek is the place to go if you want to experience what it’s like to sail in a traditional Dhow or to haggle with the very friendly traders at the Persian spice market.
Dubai used to be relatively cheap, but prices have escalated quite a bit in recent years. Hotels represent excellent value for money given the quality that you get, and taxis are still quite reasonable —Dubai is very spread out. A lot of the shopping centres are a sight to behold but unless you’re minted (or Chinese) you’re unlikely to be purchasing much as most of the stores are very high end. Where you will still get bargains though are in perfumes (if you like the Arabic versions) and sometimes even shoes can be had at reasonable prices, although again, we’re talking about styles that are OTT and only suitable for wearing at gala events etc.
So, if you’re tired of Tenerife, or been to Lanzarote one time too often but are looking for a good alternative winter sun destination that is not going to break the bank, then the Gulf is certainly worth considering as an alternative.