10 reasons why Dubai should be your late summer escape

Time Out Market Dubai adults eating - Dubai Tourism
Time Out Market Dubai adults eating - Dubai Tourism

For those that have never considered Dubai for a holiday, what you need to know is that it is a multiple-choice destination. You can take your pick from a triptych of landscapes; sky-high sunbaked desert dunes, velvet to the touch; inspirational city skylines featuring the see-it-to-believe-it Burj Khalifa; and miles of sweeping sandy beaches hugging the warm blue Arabian Sea. Experience all three settings on one trip in this compact coastline metropolis and you will well and truly sate any pent-up desire for a change of scene.

With the UAE having moved onto the amber list at 4am today (Sun, Aug 8), Dubai is the first long-haul travel hub to reopen since the red list was first announced back in January. Visiting Britons can expect sizzling temperatures (above 40C in August, but cooling down nicely by November), and plenty of attractions to choose from.

The new ‘it’ hotels

The destination that gave birth to the expression “seven-star hotel” is famous for its ludicrously glamorous accommodation, and its bastions of luxury hospitality are open for business. Looking for something new? St Regis Dubai, the Palm (stregisdubaithepalm.com; double rooms from £174) occupies the first 18 floors of the recently unveiled Palm Tower, topped with Dubai’s latest observation deck offering a skydiver’s view of Palm Jumeirah. Address Beach Resort (addresshotels.com; double rooms from £200), at the confluence of Jumeirah Beach Residence and Bluewaters Island, is crowned with the world’s highest infinity pool, and the 75-storey SLS Dubai Hotel & Residences in Downtown Dubai (sbe.com; double rooms from £120) makes a statement through design. From a vast stained-glass window in the entrance hall to gold leather sofas in the sky-high, ethereally white lobby lounge, this property exudes a modern art gallery aesthetic.

Atlantis, The Palm family in pool with inflatables - Dubai Tourism
Atlantis, The Palm family in pool with inflatables - Dubai Tourism

Unsuspected depths

Superlatives are a speciality of Dubai; the latest is the world’s deepest swimming pool, Deep Dive Dubai. Not only can visitors free-dive its depths; they can also snorkel and even scuba through its underwater spaces filled with oddities. Submerged in 60 metres of water, swimmers are met with an abandoned streetscape that features a fully furnished apartment, a garage and a motorbike, among other surprises. Experiences start from AED400 (£78) per person with all equipment included (deepdivedubai.com).

Look to the future

It hasn’t even opened yet, and the Museum of the Future (museumofthefuture.ae) is already winning pageants. Admittedly, you don’t need to step inside the museum to see its best angle, so it’s not surprising that National Geographic listed it as one of the 14 most beautiful in the world. The oval, pillarless, seven-storey structure features a void at its centre representing the unknown future. The Arabic calligraphy that adorns the facade includes quotes by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. One line reads: “The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it and execute it.”

Packed with flavour

With the World’s 50 Best Restaurants launching its MENA (Middle East and North Africa) list – and the awards ceremony debuting in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, in February 2022 – the region is finally on the global culinary map. Contenders for the listing include reasonably priced Trèsind Studio (tresindstudio.com) with its ever-changing modern Indian degustation menus; extravagant nine-seat Hoseki honouring the art of sushi-making at Bulgari Dubai (bulgarihotels.com); and affordable Kinoya (kinoya.ae), an ode to ramen, and the manifestation of local resident Neha Mishra’s passion. Neha’s journey as a chef began hosting sold-out supper clubs at her home, but ramen this dazzling needed a bigger stage, and it got one when she opened Kinoya in April 2021.

Dubai-style budget

In recent years, Dubai has successfully introduced a collection of three- and four-star hotels to tempt travellers on a budget. Hip Zabeel House The Greens (jumeirah.com; double rooms from £57), named after the residential community it serves so well with a roster of entertainment, and happening Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown (hotelindigodubai.com; double rooms from £59), with enviable interiors, are among the best. The quirkiest is Hatta Dome Park (visithatta.com; dome suites sleep a family of five from £195), an outdoor “glampsite” overlooking the dramatic Hatta Mountains. The transparent dome tents are air-conditioned, so don’t be afraid of getting too hot.

The oval, pillarless, seven-storey and soon to open Museum of the Future - Dubai Tourism
The oval, pillarless, seven-storey and soon to open Museum of the Future - Dubai Tourism

Homegrown heroes

Time Out Market Dubai (timeoutmarket.com/dubai) opened as recently as April 2021, giving diners access to some of Dubai’s best homegrown concepts, and all to be enjoyed under one roof. Award-winning chef Reif Othman serves his legendary Wagyu “sando” at his eponymous concession; American couple Bill and Michele Johnson slice up premium American pizza with a perfect charred crust at Pitfire; and Lily Hoa Nguyen shares favourite dishes from her childhood at Vietnamese Foodies. Go for a blissful bowl of beef pho.

Here we go again

It’s been 22 years since Mama Mia! premiered in London, and now it’s coming to Dubai Opera. The high jinks shenanigans on a Greek isle of a mother, daughter and three possible dads will unfold to the timeless tunes of Abba within the impressive dhow boat-shaped, 2,000-seat opera house, with an open-air restaurant on top. Don’t forget your camera. Taking a snapshot in your finest formal wear in front of illuminated, man-sized #DubaiOpera sign outside is expected.

Shop ’til you drop

With a jam-packed programme designed to attract tourists during the hotter months, Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) is all about mega sales and incentives. Tourists are invited to enter prize draws (a brand-new 2021 Mercedes C200 is the top prize) and some hotels offer discounts or giveaways. For example, book a room at the Armani Hotel Dubai or the Address Sky View hotel during DSS and you’ll receive free passes to Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, VR Park and At The Top at Burj Khalifa. The summer-long, multi-mall, retail and entertainment fest runs until 4 September 2021 (visitdubai.com/en/summer-in-dubai).

The View at the Palm, woman looking out of telescope - Dubai Tourism
The View at the Palm, woman looking out of telescope - Dubai Tourism

A taste of... the Mediterranean?

New restaurants have satisfied some Dubaians’ need to travel during the pandemic – and they’re also excellent for fussy eaters who miss the flavours of Europe while away. When we couldn’t go to Spain, we went to Lola Taberna Española (lolataberna.com) in Barsha Heights instead. Licensed to sell pork, the croquetas de jamón Ibérico are as good as they come, and a mouthful of traditional black squid ink paella will take you all the way to Valencia without any requirement to pass customs. For Italian food like mamma used to make, SLS Dubai’s female-run Fi’lia (sbe.com) was born. Meals begin with a crusty loaf, grassy olive oil and oregano snipped at the table, followed by dishes tailored to either the moderntastes of a typical Italian figlia (daughter) and the recipes of nonna (grandma).

All the world’s a stage

If you’ve never experienced the surreal megacity pop-up that is a world fair, you now have your chance. Having been postponed due to the pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai looks set to be even better than anticipated. With an extra year to plan everything, both the agenda and pavilions are bursting with curiosities. Special daily events include dance, comedy and world theatre. Cheese lovers can worship at a burrata bar created by acclaimed Italian restaurant Scarpetta, and coffee lovers can have their arabica brewed by robot baristas. Both the dining options and entertainment will be dizzying in a bid to attract 25 million visitors over the course of the six-month fair, from October 1 2021 to March 31 2022. Tickets cost from AED95 (£18.60) for one day; AED950 (£186) for a family pass (expo2020dubai.com/en). You may qualify for a free pass (see above).

How to keep the kids cool

If you’re thinking of making a break for Dubai later this year, you can expect your children to tell
you a hundred times or more that it’s hot. But you’ll be able to silence any complaints with a super-cool itinerary.
There are two new waterpark attractions in town. Jungle Bay at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Waterpark (junglebaywaterpark.com) may sound tropical but it’s actually inspired by the Greek Cyclades islands, so expect a jumble of slides in Santorini-esque blue and white. The six-metre wave pool is wonderful.

Meanwhile, well-established water park Aquaventure at Atlantis, the Palm (atlantis.com/dubai) has grown to become one of the world’s biggest. Brand-new is the 110ft-metre Trident Tower, which sits at its core and uses water propulsion technology to spit entire families out onto a 1,470ft water coaster with back-to-back curves.

Then there are the indoor theme parks – so well chilled, you’ll require a jacket. Dubai’s largest, IMG Worlds of Adventure (imgworlds.com) is inspired by Marvel comics, while Dreamworks at Motiongate Dubai (motiongatedubai.com/en) makes muses of Hollywood cartoon characters, such as Kung Fu Panda.

Intentionally humid, but comfortably so, the Green Planet Dubai (thegreenplanetdubai.com) in City Walk is a transcendental bio-dome that invites visitors to explore tropical rainforests in an urban jungle. Wildlife, encounters are guaranteed.

At time of publishing, overseas holidays were subject to restrictions. Check the relevant guidance before booking and travelling.