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Exploring Dubai on a Budget – Here’s How

Frugal fun in the city of gold? Yes, really.

Something Fishy 

If you’re into cooking, exploring, or just enjoy a fish-out-of-water adventure(pun intended), Waterfront Market is a great place to spend an early morning. While away the hours checking out the different types of locally caught fish and meeting the melting pot of people who catch your fish in Dubai.

Cost: Free (fish not included)

Waterfront Market, Al Khaleej Road, 800 627 538

Street Eats

O’Pao is the definitive hidden gem in Karama, known for serving wallet-friendly sliders from the streets of Mumbai – a.k.a. O’ Vada Pao – at a bargain price of only AED 7 each! A literal treat for your taste buds, this vegetarian delight is made of a spiced potato dumpling, garnished with chutney, and sandwiched in a homemade bun. 

Cost: AED 7 

O’Pao, ground floor, behind Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel, Karama, 04 349 6726

Old-School Cruising

Hop on board a traditional abra and explore Dubai’s original downtown through the creek that cuts right through it. Did we mention that it only costs AED 1? Head out at sunset for the perfect Instagram picture, or take the time to reflect on Dubai’s evolution as you pass by the historic buildings of Al Fahidi and Al Seef. And if you rather cruise through the creek, you can even book an abra as a private charter for AED 120 per hour. 

Cost: AED 1

Various abra stations across the creek

Make a Splash

With access to some hotel pools in Dubai costing up to a whopping AED 250, Barasti Beach pool is a perfect frugal hack. And trust us when we say the early bird definitely gets the worm – or a sun lounger in this case. Ladies, make sure to also look out for their ladies days to get an extra (sometimes, even free) bang for the  buck!

Cost: Free

Barasti Beach, Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, 04 318 1313

But First, Coffee

Take a trip down memory lane in Old Dubai, courtesy of The Coffee Museum. What better way to celebrate the city than learning all about coffee and the rich history it has in Arabic culture? 

Cost: Free entry

The Coffee Museum, Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood, 04 353 8777

The Cool Factor

If you’re looking for the perfect place to people-watch (we have spied the major artists, designers, and all-round cool kids of Dubai) then Dubai Design District is the place to see – and be seen. Stroll through this concrete and glass jungle, passing stunning art installations, homegrown designer boutiques, a skate park, and some of the best homegrown restaurants and bars along the way. Our favourites? The beloved One Life Kitchen and contemporary Indian eatery Mohalla.

Cost: Free

Dubai Design District, adjacent to Business Bay 

Blast from the Past

Located by the banks of Dubai Creek, Al Shindagha Museum offers fascinating insights into the UAE’s rich past. Step inside and discover various facets of Emirati culture and heritage from traditional remedies and food to the history of trade in the Dubai Creek. Bring friends or family along and avail the group ticket price of just AED 10 per person!

Cost: AED 5 for children, AED 15 for adults, AED 10 for a group of five

Al Shindagha Museum, near House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, 04 515 5336

Free as a Bird

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is a haven for birdwatchers, nature enthusiasts, or those just looking for an epic photography site! This wetland reserve is home to several species like the grey heron, flamingo, and cormorant. A visit to the sanctuary also features the famous salt flats, mangroves, and lagoons. Our tip? Pack water, snacks, and sunscreen as this really is the perfect all-day adventure.

Cost: Free 

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, Ras Al Khor Road, 800 900

Social Media Star

You’ll never look at Starbucks the same way after visiting the iconic branch in Al Seef. Located in the heart of the city, this one-of-a kind outpost has become one of the most talked about Starbucks locations thanks to TikTok and Instagram. Trust us, seeing is believing. 

Cost: Free/Your Starbucks order

Starbucks, Al Seef, 04 419 0014

Another Woman’s Trash 

If shopping is a sport, then a trip to Dubai Flea Market is an all-out war! Arm yourself with small notes (store holders love change) and make sure you get to the markets as soon as they open. We’ve picked up designer shoes for as little as AED 10 – true story!

Cost: Free entry 

Dubai Flea Market, various locations across Dubai, click here for schedule of upcoming events

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6 Travel Destinations to Explore with the Kids

Wildlife, beaches, city breaks, and more.

With spring break for students and Eid al-Fitr holidays on the horizon, parents across the country are putting family vacations back on their radars. Admittedly, it feels a little counterintuitive to address family-friendly travel destinations considering we’re residents of the UAE. Not only was Dubai ranked the world’s number one destination in 2023, according to Tripadvisor, but Abu Dhabi was also named the world’s best city for a family getaway in 2022 by the experts at The Family Vacation Guide. Still, we’d be remiss not to reveal our favourites, and this guide features a bit of everything – wildlife, history, beaches, theme parks, and enough adrenaline to excite children of all ages.

Costa Rica

It may seem like an unlikely choice to begin with, but Costa Rica is actually one of the world’s best places to holiday as a family – particularly if an adventure is in order. This tiny Central American country has it all – untouched wilderness in the form of tropical rainforests and legendary volcanoes, an excellent ecotourism system, and additional security resources in areas frequented by tourists. We’d go as far as saying that it’s the ultimate starting point if Latin America is on your bucket list. And if the likes of waterfall rappelling, white-water rafting, or whooshing along ziplines feels too intense, you and your little ones can build sandcastles on Costa Rica’s beautiful palm-backed beaches.

Stay: The Springs Resort & Spa
See: The majesty of Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica’s most famous volcano, before discovering the ancient secrets of cacao through the Rainforest Chocolate Tour.
Do: Walk through the clouds at the truly unique ecosystem of Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

Iceland

Iceland regularly ranks among the safest countries in the world, making it a no-brainer for those new to travelling with the kids in tow. It also boasts a whole host of otherworldly attractions, each guaranteed to impress even the most jaded of teenagers. Nicknamed the “land of fire and ice”, this Nordic island nation is one of the best places to see the northern lights, especially between September and April. Elsewhere, activities such as whale watching, puffin tours, and dog sledding cater to all ages. As for an activity that’s unique to Iceland? Living like a Viking, of course! Head to Viking Village, where you’ll dine on traditional Viking meals as actors in Viking and Valkyrie costumes dance, sing, and tell stories – it’s just the right amount of kitsch.

Stay: Reykjavik Marina
See: The Golden Circle – Iceland’s most popular sightseeing route – by taking a bus tour that departs from Reykjavik.
Do: Bathe in the Blue Lagoon, arguably the most famous of Iceland’s many geothermal pools.

Japan

While travel is always engaging, opening the minds of young explorers, few places are as fascinating as Japan. In the capital of Tokyo, futuristic museums, robot-themed restaurants, and bullet trains stand seamlessly alongside ancient traditions like tea ceremonies. The city is also home to some of the best theme parks in the world – Joypolis and Tokyo Dome City included – with the likes of Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea under an hour away from the city centre. Your kids will also love immersing themselves in cultural obsessions such as anime, manga, Hello Kitty, and Harajuku style. As for activities you all can enjoy as a family? A hands-on taiko drumming class, a walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and a visit to the whimsical Ghibli Museum.

Stay: Hotel Gracery Shinjuku
See: The snowy faces of wild macaques bathing in hot springs at Jigokudani Monkey Park.
Do: Attend a Matsuri festival to indulge in street food and observe locals carrying huge, intricately decorated portable shrines.

Jordan

History, natural wonders, surreal landscapes – that is the appeal of Jordan in a nutshell. As for its famously hospitable people? Just the proverbial cherry on top. Located within a four-hour flight of Dubai, the capital of Amman will appeal to history buffs as it was once home to ancient Roman and Byzantine civilisations. The beautifully restored Roman Amphitheatre, for example, was built in the built in the 2nd century and used to hold 6,000 spectators during its heyday. Adventure-seeking families, meanwhile, can snorkel off the coast of the Red Sea and ride in the back of a 4×4 across Jordan’s seemingly endless desert. Above all, it’s the ancient Nabatean capital of Petra that’s carved from sandstone that makes this Arab country a real winner, especially if an easily accessible holiday is what you’re after.

Stay: Petra Bubble Luxotel
See: The Treasury – Petra’s most famous monument – late in the afternoon, when the whole facade is bathed in a reddish-pink glow from the walls all around.
Do: Float in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth.

Kenya

A dream destination for any family with a safari on its bucket list, Kenya features an embarrassment of riches when it comes to incredible wildlife and natural beauty – but more on that in a second. This East African country has long been popular due to exhilarating offerings like hot air balloon rides over the Maasai Mara National Reserve and feeding and photographing a herd of Rothschild giraffes over breakfast at Giraffe Manor. They famously visit morning and evening, poking their long necks into the windows in the hope of a treat before retreating to their forest sanctuary. Still, going on safari is what brings people of all ages to Kenya, with older children in particular getting a thrill out of spotting lions, cheetahs, elephants, and zebras from a 4WD with a pop-top roof. It is the ultimate game of I-Spy, after all.

Stay: Baobab Beach Resort and Spa
See: The Great Rift Valley, a geological force that almost separated Africa into two, creating one of the most serene landscapes in the world.
Do: Plan your trip between July and October in order to witness the extraordinary spectacle of the Great Migration, an annual movement by millions of wildebeest.

Sri Lanka

Another easily accessible destination for residents of Dubai? The coastal city of Colombo, which happens to be pretty relaxed compared to most capital cities in Asia. The kids – regardless of their age – are bound to appreciate the many attractions of this teardrop-shaped island. Family-bonding on pristine beaches aside, you can feed orphaned elephants at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, climb Little Adam’s Peak in Ella, absorb the country’s colonial past in Galle, and dine on interesting local delicacies like string hoppers. Incidentally, mass tourism hasn’t returned to Sri Lanka since civil unrest and the pandemic overlapped, which means you can enjoy the island with fewer crowds. Bonus: it’s also a lot more affordable than some of the other recommendations in this list.

Stay: Living Heritage Koslanda
See: The world’s biggest concentration of leopards, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, peacocks, and crocodiles at Yala National Park.
Do: Take the iconic train journey from Kandy to Ella, viewing scenic hillsides and lush tea plantations along the way.

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Everything We’re Looking Forward to This Year

2023 will be a good one.

With Mercury in retrograde until January 18, the start of the new year brought with it technology breakdowns, communication issues, plans gone awry, and all-round chaos. But it’s not all bleak – between hotel launches, new restaurant openings, the return of beloved festivals, and a handful of big names headed to Dubai, there’s plenty to look forward to in the months ahead. Welcome to 2023. 

Hotels

Another year, another slew of staycation spots to consider. Dubai is set to welcome several new hotel properties in the coming months, but none will be quite as decadent as Atlantis The Royal. Expected to debut in March, the resort will feature 90 swimming pools, 17 restaurants, a day-to-night entertainment venue from Tao Hospitality, the largest jellyfish aquarium in the world, and more. Also opening soon and taking up residence on Palm Jumeirah? NH Collection Dubai The Palm. Incidentally, this 533-room hotel marks the first property by Spanish luxury brand NH Collection in the UAE.

Elsewhere, FIVE Hotels will launch a third property – FIVE LUXE – bringing its signature party atmosphere to JBR, while Kempinski will unveil a luxe floating hotel aptly named Kempinski Floating Palace off Jumeirah Beach Road. And if you’re curious about that architecturally striking building in Business Bay, we can reveal that come September, it will be home to The Lana. Designed by Gilles et Boissier, its interiors will reflect both the waters of Marasi Marina and elements of Emirati culture. As for a more affordable option with personality to spare? The always-hip Mama Shelter is scheduled to open later this year, giving tech-savvy millennials a new social hotspot in Business Bay.

Festivals

The sheer diversity of Dubai makes for a calendar packed with festivals catering to all manner of interests. With shopaholics catered to – the ongoing Dubai Shopping Festival will run until January 29 – the rest of you can mark your calendars, starting with Quoz Arts Fest from January 28 to 29. Themed ‘Shift Away’, the popular festival returns to Alserkal Avenue for two days of art, culture, markets, food trucks, workshops, and plenty of surprises. The upcoming tenth edition will be headlined by Syrian rapper Bu Kolthoum and Palestinian artist Saint Levant, both of whom will make their UAE debut.

The start of February will be all about celebrating storytelling as the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature returns its 15th edition, this year taking place at InterContinental Dubai Festival City and Mohammed Bin Rashid Library. On the roster? Comedian David Walliams, best-selling author Cecelia Ahern, Succession star Brian Cox, Indian politician Shashi Tharoor, and plenty more. Foodies, meanwhile, should make a beeline for Taste of Dubai. Taking over Dubai Media City Amphitheatre from February 3 to 5, this three-day event is popular for its bite-sized portions of beloved dishes from some of the city’s best restaurants alongside live music, appearances by some of the region’s best chefs, interactive masterclasses, and more.

High-brow entertainment comes courtesy of InClassica, a festival anchored in an engaging repertoire of classical music performed by talented musicians from around the world. Kicking off with a performance by the Çukurova State Symphony Orchestra, Massimiliano Caldi (conductor), and Fumiaki Miura (soloist), the event will be held from February 12 to March 10. The following month will immerse us right back into Dubai’s culinary scene as the Dubai Food Festival celebrates its 10th edition, which will take place April 28 to May 7. Expect offerings ranging from unique dining experiences and beach pop-ups to gastronomic set menus at affordable prices.

Heading off for the summer? You can look forward to the Dubai Home Festival upon your return. With incredible deals offered on furniture, homeware, and appliances across the city from October 13 to 27, an exciting home makeover awaits. A month later, you can dive into design through workshops, talks, and experimental mediums at the region’s largest creative festival, Dubai Design Week. Additionally, Downtown Design – the commercial centrepiece of this annual design festival – will be a certified zero carbon event.

Performances

Considering January alone entailed exclusive performances by Beyoncé and Tom Jones, we can assume the rest of the calendar will be packed with big names. Singer-songwriter Ashanti will be joined by Fat Joe and Ja Rule at Coca-Cola Arena on January 21, taking the stage to belt out R&B classics. The City Walk venue will also host Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer on both January 27 and 28, as well as Scottish musician Lewis Capaldi’s rescheduled concert on October 7.

Over at Dubai Opera, culture buffs can catch performances by legendary Egyptian pianist Omar Khairat on February 3, British electronica star Bonobo on March 11, and monk-turned-storyteller Jay Shetty on May 11. And if loud and cheery megamusicals are more your speed, you’ll want to book your spots for Shrek The Musical (February 22-26) and West Side Story (April 25-30) before tickets sell out.

Restaurants

Dubai’s dining scene evolves at a dizzying pace, now boasting a whopping 11 restaurants recognised by the Michelin Guide. Yet to meet the newcomers? Mott 32 (elevated Chinese cuisine), August (French-Mediterranean fare), and Sumosan (contemporary Japanese dishes) have just opened their doors, each debuting in January and adding something new to discover. As for what’s to come? Above Eleven will take over the rooftop of Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, serving Peruvian bites and colourful cocktails. Nearby, acclaimed Spanish chef Dani García will launch a one-of-a-kind steakhouse by the name of Leña – his first venture in the city of Dubai. Bebek, meanwhile, will add a playful spin to Turkish food in Jumeirah.

Pairing Mediterranean cuisine with the effortless glamour of a bygone era on Pearl Jumeirah, Bungalo34 will be the first beachside dining concept from Tashas Group (of Avli and Flamingo Room fame). Another new eatery by an already beloved talent? Hoe Lee Kow, described as “unconventional Korean BBQ” by chef Reif Othman. And if a global name from the world of gastronomy is what you’re seeking, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Atlantis The Royal is the one to beat. Incidentally, even Dubai’s new beach clubs will bear big names in 2023. Case in point: Nobu by the Beach, which will also take up residence at Atlantis The Royal. Other beachy spots set to debut in 2023? Ría (a new restaurant and beach bar at Club Vista Mare), Ayla (the latest addition to The Club at Palm West Beach), and Baoli (a swish import from the shores of Cannes).

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5 Travel Trends That Will Dominate 2023

Where we’ll go and why.

Optimism is the name of the game when it comes to travel in 2023. After a few years of overwhelming uncertainty and instability, travel is set to make a triumphant return, making travellers bolder than ever before. And nothing will be off limits – while some of us will go off the grid in the name of adventure, others will return to old favourites in search of that warm and fuzzy feeling. Elsewhere, evolving technology will make us more savvy planners. Let’s dive in.

Off-Grid Getaways

Following the path less travelled, burnt-out city dwellers will escape reality by going back to the basics on their trips in 2023 – think: staying in cabins, learning survival skills, and dining on campfire cuisine. Chalk it up the upheaval of recent years that saw political unrest and natural disasters accent the global pandemic.

Planning Ahead

Speaking of which – remember when you were terrified to make travel plans in light of flight bans and border closures? Well, those days are behind us. Travellers will (finally) feel comfortable with locking in trips ahead of time as opposed to waiting until the eleventh hour. Translation: book ahead if a particularly popular destination is on your bucket list.

Nostalgia Tourism

After a couple of years in isolation, family reunions and multigenerational trips will also trend in 2023. Travellers – especially millennials – will seek a feeling of familiarity, returning to destinations that they know and love. Heavy on the feel-good factor, simpler trips rooted in railway rides or seaside R&R will also be popular.

Virtual Voyages

‘Try before you buy’ will influence our holiday choices in the year ahead as technology allows us to experiment with different travel experiences, courtesy of the Metaverse’s ever-evolving 3D virtual space. That’s right – your online avatar will be able to visit a destination before you do, perfect for those anxious about the unknown when it comes to travel.

Revenge Travel

A self-explanatory term that began to dominate the travel industry in 2022, revenge travel will continue to trend in 2023. With the pandemic causing havoc on people’s vacations, revenge travel refers to ‘taking revenge’ on coronavirus, with travellers fervently making up for lost time by booking their dream trips – rising inflation be damned.

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New years evening in Dubai

8 Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Dubai

Let the countdown to 2023 begin!

If there’s one place to be during New Year’s Eve, it’s definitely Dubai – the city has mastered the art of ringing in a new year. And with numerous ways to celebrate the coming of 2023, it can be a little tough to settle on only one. Enter: this round-up of the best in town.

Lotus Mega Yacht

This luxurious boat will take you on a journey past famous Dubai sights like the Burj Al Arab, Bluewaters Island, and Atlantis, The Palm as you cruise in style. Enjoy live cooking stations while you soak up city skyline views, or enjoy some fun in the sun at the onboard swimming pool with your friends and family. Various entertainment decks feature live music and dancing, perfect for getting into the NYE spirit!

Lotus Mega Yacht, Berth L, Dubai Marina, lotusyatch.com, 054 581 5288

New years evening,  Lotus Mega Yacht

The Penthouse

Say goodbye to 2023 at one of Dubai’s most beloved rooftop lounges, The Penthouse. This hotspot will be hosting a night of festivities on December 31 with contemporary Japanese food, live music, and entertainment by local DJs. You’ll enjoy delectable cuisine while watching fireworks over the marina at midnight, so make sure you book your table early. 

The Penthouse, FIVE Palm Jumeirah Hotel, thepenthouse.co, 052 900 4868

Penthouse

CE LA VI

This 54-floor restaurant in Downtown Dubai is another great place to ring in the new year, courtesy of incredible views of Burj Khalifa and delectable Asian-inspired cuisine. Bonus: a special guest star or two is expected to drop by! CE LA VI offers a wide selection of à la carte dishes, so you can tailor your meal to your liking. Celebrating with several friends? Ask about the special packages for groups.

CE LA VI, Tower 2 – Level 54, Address Sky View Hotel, celavi.com, 04 582 6111

Roof top dining

Dubai Opera

Ready to ring in the New Year with a little class? Dubai Opera has got you covered. With a stellar line-up of bands, DJs, and performers playing live all night, this will be one of the best NYE parties in Dubai. Meanwhile, a gourmet dinner with canapés, starters, main courses, and desserts will be served.

Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai, dubaiopera.com, 04 440 8888

Opera house

A Cappella

The NYE bash at this one is going to be one for the books. DJs Alban and Ron will be spinning live sets while you dance, enjoy a delicious meal, and take in the best view of the fireworks display at Atlantis. Whether you’re looking to relax with close friends or dance with a crowd of strangers, this year-end party promises to be unforgettable.

A Cappella, The Palm Fountain, acapelladxb.com, 058 971 9542

bar

Nikki Beach Dubai

Shake off your resolutions and dance until you drop at Nikki Beach Dubai. This one-of-a-kind venue has everything you need to have a night to remember: great food, fantastic music and drinks, and some of the best views of fireworks over the city skyline. Here, performers will include Dutch DJ Bakermat, who’s famed for his tropical house and techno beats.

Nikki Beach Dubai, Pearl Jumeirah, dubai.nikkibeach.com, 04 376 6000

Nikki Beach Dubai

Lucia’s

Want to ring in 2023 on a musical note? Then consider Lucia’s at Address Sky View. The Italian cuisine here makes it one of the most popular restaurants in the city. As for December 31? Lucia’s is taking things to a new level with an outstanding celebration that will feature popular jazz combo Bandakadabra, saxophone sensation Anastasia McQueen, and Italian musician Mr. T-Bone. 

Lucia’s, Sky View, luciasdubai.com, 04 422 4321

Lucia’s

Sal

Usher in the new year with a bang by spending it at Burj Al Arab. This iconic hotel’s open-air afterparty will take off at midnight and continue late into the night. There’s a minimum spend of AED 5,000 per person, but you’ll get access to amazing food, plenty of drink options, and live entertainment to fuel you all night long.

Sal, Ground Mezzanine Floor, Burj Al Arab, jumeirah.com, 800 032 3232

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Where to Celebrate UAE National Day in Dubai

Let the festivities begin.

In Dubai for the long weekend and unsure how to spend it? Check out the best spots to view the spectacular fireworks planned to celebrate the UAE’s 51st National Day. The festivities will run from December 2 to 11 and include way more than just fancy firecrackers – most venues also feature kid-friendly entertainment, shopping, dining outlets, and cultural activities such as henna-painting, camel rides, and traditional dances. Read on and start planning.

fireworks at al seef dubai creek

Al Seef

Head down to the creek on December 2 to take in the air and enjoy fireworks with an iconic view in the midst of Old Dubai’s mix of traditional and contemporary architecture. The family-friendly festivities will start from 4pm onwards, with a parade expected at 7pm. And at 8pm, the sky will light up in the UAE flag’s colours in the city’s historic district. Don’t forget to check out the waterside shops and eateries while you’re around.

Al Seef, Dubai Creek, alseef.ae/en

the pointe dubai palm jumeirah fireworks

The Pointe

The Pointe on Palm Jumeirah will host an array of activities throughout the day at the event plaza – perfect for anyone headed there with kids – topped off with a spectacular National Day fireworks and dancing fountain show that can be seen from any of the fountain-facing restaurants at 9pm on December 2.

The Pointe, Al Mirziban, Palm Jumeirah www.thepointe.ae/en

bluewaters ain dubai fireworks

Bluewaters Island and The Beach

These two popular beachfront destinations – both opposite JBR – will provide spectacular waterfront and Palm Jumeirah views for the upcoming fireworks at 8pm on December 2. The fun starts at 5pm, so get there early to secure a good spot and enjoy the multitude of food and shopping options in the vicinity.

Bluewaters Island, bluewatersdubai.ae/en/ and The Beach, opposite JBR, www.thebeach.ae/en/

dubai festival city fireworks

Dubai Festival City

Catch a concert by Emirati singer Fayez Al Saeed at 8pm, followed by a spectacularly choreographed show that brings together lasers and light alongside fire and water elements at 9pm, ending the night with a set by DJ Bliss at 9:15pm. The celebrations will continue over the weekend.

Festival City Mall, Dubai Festival City, www.dubaifestivalcitymall.com/home/

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Best Places to Travel in 2023

Your 2023 Travel Plans Will Change After This

All hail Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel guide.

The travel gurus at Lonely Planet have released their annual Best in Travel report, detailing their top picks for tourists in 2023. This time around, however, they’ve done things a little differently. Instead of simply sharing their recommendations on where we should be travelling, they’ve sorted 30 must-visit destinations by trip type – Eat, Journey, Unwind, Connect, and Learn – to help you find your next adventure. 

Offering a comprehensive set of itineraries to help travellers explore the world, the new edit is sure to help you navigate the world in the way that’s most meaningful to you – through recommendations from the local voices who know these places best. Cities in Canada, Germany, Japan, Peru, and Malaysia made the cut. How many are on your bucket list?

Eat

This category features destinations that boast exciting culinary scenes ranging from dynamic street food to fine-dining experiences – each perfect for the travelling foodie. Lima, the capital of Peru, is on the list owing to its famed cevicherías and Pisco cocktails, while Umbria in Italy was chosen as its culinary delights are complemented by art and old-world traditions. Further east, both the Japanese city of Fukuoka and the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur made the cut owing to internationally renowned Hakata ramen and food stall-lined streets respectively.

Over in South America, improved airlinks will make access to Montevideo – the capital and largest city of Uruguay – much easier, paving the way for tourists to explore its laidback beaches and under-the-radar food and wine scene. Lastly, complementing its internationally known (and loved) vineyards, South Africa’s new generation of chefs is propelling the country’s culinary scene forward, making it a destination to visit not just for wine, but food as well.

2023 travel plans

Journey

This category is all about those journeys that are transformative, trips that truly move a traveller. Nova Scotia in Canada was selected owing to its postcard-perfect communities that dot its shores and call for a journey of driving between seaside villages. And with the fully restored Trans Bhutan Trail reopening to visitors in September, Bhutan is also on this list, the 250 miles of scenic footpath offering visitors a unique perspective of this Asian country. Elsewhere, Colombia’s 59 protected natural areas – Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia – have been dubbed a must for nature lovers. Along with protecting some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world, 26 of these areas are also inhabited by indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.

Unsurprisingly, a train journey is also on the list – the recently restored overnight service between Sofia and Istanbul whirls two adventures into one, leaving the place where east meets west in Istanbul and depositing travellers in Bulgaria’s laidback capital city 11 hours later. And with Australia now open to the world, the mind-blowingly large region of Western Australia comes highly recommended. Looking to swim on the ledge of a mighty waterfall? Spot wildlife? It’s surprising that Zambia is less visited than other spots on the continent of Africa, and Lonely Planet is ready to remedy that.

best travel destinations 2023

Unwind

Sometimes, you need a trip where you can unwind and reconnect with yourself, your partner, your family or just the world around you. As for the destinations where you will relax and rebalance, according to team Lonely Planet? Jordan, a place where you can experience the buzz of Amman before unwinding in places like Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea. Dominica, a lesser-visited island in the Caribbean and also known as Nature Island. Another lesser-known region on the list? Northern Greece’s Halkidiki peninsula, which stretches into the Aegean Sea and offers blissful beaches that are an idyllic setting to relax and unwind.

Back in the Caribbean, Jamaica wins the hearts of travel experts thanks to its beautiful white sand beaches, scenic mountain peaks, waterfalls, and rivers, making it the perfect spot to unwind. Malta in Europe is also expected to increase in popularity come 2023, beckoning visitors with its prehistoric temples, fantastic scuba diving, and buzzy capital of Valletta. Lastly, Raja Ampat is a great alternative to better-known Indonesian islands – the best way to see its coral reefs, excellent diving, and beautiful beaches is by chartering a ‘liveaboard’ dive boat and heading out to sea for several days.

best destinations to discover in 2023

Connect

The energy of the destinations in this category will take you on an adventure, connecting you to both culture and community. In Accra, Ghana, await bustling markets, new community spaces like skate parks, and creative spaces for artists plus a nightlife set to great music. The natural beauty of Albania will take your breath away – it’s one of the few places where you can start your day in the mountains and end it at the sea. Back in Australia, a destination that international visitors have missed during the pandemic, new Indigenous tours over the bridge make Sydney worth returning to.

Culturally connected to the Caribbean, Guyana is an under-the-radar South American country that is 90% rainforest and a great place to see unspoiled nature and incredible waterfalls. Alternatively, you can head to Alaska for not only spectacular wildlife, but also an opportunity to learn about native culture and witness indigenous groups managing authentic tourism experiences that also embrace sustainability. Boise, a mid-sized city in America, beckons adventure travellers. Between water rafting in the summer, skiing in the winter, and a rich culinary scene, it is a great place for connection.

best destinations to discover

Learn

Travel always opens us up to new experiences, and Lonely Planet has shortlisted six places where your best souvenir is what you learn, starting with the state of New Mexico. Home to 23 native tribes, this is an ideal spot to learn about indigenous culture, art, and music while enjoying the food and natural beauty of the American Southwest. Further south, El Salvador is quietly becoming the place where those in the know come to catch waves and hone their surfing skills owing to its idyllic beaches.

Over in Germany, Dresden’s urban renewal continues in 2023 with the second phase of renovations of the Altmarkt (central square) to include more accessibility and climate protection measures. Just over three hours away, Marseille is both beachy and urban, French and Mediterranean, modern and historic. Go for the beach, but linger for its diverse neighbourhoods, street art, and architectural tours. Finally, Manchester and Southern Scotland round off this edit. The former will welcome the return of Manchester Museum and the opening of Factory International arts space in 2023. The latter is a great region in which to learn more about the country’s history and famous residents like writer Robert Burns.

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European Cities to Visit in Winter

5 European Capitals That Are Better in Winter

Winter layers at the ready.

Just as we are celebrating the long-awaited return of cooler temperatures, we’re faced with the question that inevitably returns: where will I travel over the upcoming holidays? And while getaways to Oman, Sri Lanka, and Zanzibar are always a good idea, this year, we suggest packing a couple of layers and heading to Europe instead. For starters, Dubai residents tend to visit European cities exclusively in the summer, thereby missing out on the charm that comes with scenic snowy landscapes and bustling Christmas markets. And let’s not forget the joys of exploring a new city when fewer crowds and lower hotel rates are a given. Let the planning begin.

Amsterdam, Holland

Everyone and their mother wants to be in Amsterdam come summer – and for good reason. But the Dutch capital is equally appealing during winter. It’s less crowded, thereby giving visitors the opportunity to appreciate its vibrant cultural scene, third wave cafés, and obscure antique stores in peace. And with Christmas celebrations spanning the month of December, the festive cheer in the air is palpable. Bonus: the historic canals sometimes freeze, giving lucky locals and visitors alike a chance to walk or ice-skate on a veritable symbol of the city.

Stay at: Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam for its storied setting, a 100-year-old building that served as the headquarters for a number of shipping companies and is now a national monument.

Amsterdam, Holland

Berlin, Germany

The German capital translates to one thing in December: the very best Christmas markets on the planet. With nearly 80 markets in Berlin alone – and an estimated 2,000 across Germany as a whole – this city is a no-brainer if you’re looking to travel over the holiday season. Elsewhere, the city is known for its progressive vibe, dark past, audacious art and culture scene, anything-goes approach to nightlife, and diverse dining scene – none of which are hampered by lower temperatures.

Stay at: Hotel Bikini for its urban jungle ambiance, quirky-colourful guestrooms, and unexpected extras – all guests can borrow the hotel’s resident Mini Cooper for free.

Berlin, Germany

Prague, Czech Republic

There’s just something so charming about the Czech capital during winter – its distinct landscape of brick-red roofs church spires coated in powdery white snow, the nostalgia of a lamplighter clad in period clothing manually lighting up the gas lamps on Charles Bridge, endless opportunities for ice-skating amongst Baroque-style buildings, and nightly performances of The Nutcracker at National Theater in December. As for the hot and hearty dishes of Czech cuisine? The perfect accompaniment to chilly weather.

Stay at: Golden Well Hotel for a journey back to simpler times, courtesy of art deco touches, masterful reproductions of centuries old furniture, and location below the walls of Prague Castle.

Prague, Czech Republic, Best Winter Destination in Europe

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik earns a spot on this list for several reasons. Not only is it the northernmost country capital in the world, but it’s also well-versed in hosting visitors over winter. Here, you can bathe in the instantly recognisable Blue Lagoon, explore a glacier by snowmobile, go whale watching, or even chase the Northern Lights. Bonus: the Golden Circle – an easily explored route between three of Iceland’s most visited attractions – is accessible during colder months.

Stay at: 101 Hotel for its designer amenities, Instagrammable décor, central location, on-site art gallery, and – wait for it – underfloor heating.

Reykjavik, Iceland, Best Winter Destination in Europe

Vienna, Austria

Time and time again, the Austrian capital is voted as Europe’s best city, and lower temperatures do nothing to deter tourists. The city’s most famous attractions – think: St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Schönbrunn Palace, the iconic ferris wheel built-in 1897, the Museum of Natural History, and more – are all up and running come winter. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the famous Magic of Advent Christmas market that transforms City Hall Square into a whimsical winter wonderland can easily compete with the best of the best in Berlin.

Stay at: 25hours Hotel for a stay that blurs the line between imagination and reality thanks to touches of surrealism throughout – a bath on the balcony, swings instead of chairs, a saucepan instead of a washbasin.

Vienna, Austria
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Unique Outdoor Activities in the UAE

5 Unique Outdoor Activities to Try This Winter

Wake up from summer hibernation already!

With temperatures falling and winter approaching, it’s time to step out of the air conditioning and head outside. Here, we’ve compiled a list of five unique outdoor activities that you can try this winter in the UAE.

1. Freediving

Freediving

We’ve all heard of scuba diving, and you might have even tried it at some point. But what about freediving – a.k.a. diving without an oxygen tank? Sound impossible? You might be surprised. Anyone can learn to freedive and hold their breath for longer periods of time with the appropriate training. After all, humans have been doing it for centuries. Not only can you get closer to marine life without scaring them off with the bubbles from an oxygen tank, but you can also delve into a journey of personal exploration and learn to push your limits. Diving centres like Nemo Diving Center, Freediving UAE, and Deep Dive Dubai offer introductory courses for beginners.

2. Stargazing

Stargazing

Whether you’re into astronomy or merely want to try something new, stargazing is an exciting activity that can humble you to the grandeur of the universe. Observatories such as Al Thuraya Astronomy Center offer visitors a unique opportunity to learn more about the cosmos through guided night sky observations and various shows. On the other hand, if you wish to venture into the wild – and have the expertise to do so – you can always head out to the vast swath of desert that is the Rub’ al Khali (otherwise called The Empty Quarter), where light pollution is minimal and stars are visible to the naked eye. You can also visit Al Quaa desert in Abu Dhabi, which is famous for being one of the best places in the country to view the Milky Way.

3. Dinner in the Sky

Dinner in the Sky

If you have a fear of heights, this one might not be for you. Located in Al Sufoh, Dinner in the Sky is one of the most unique restaurants in Dubai – if not the whole country. The experience involves being lifted 50 metres from the ground by a crane, after which you will be served a three-course meal with a view that’s hard to beat. Guests are secured with safety belts, and standing presenters and crews are attached to safety harnesses. The whole event lasts for 90 minutes, and 22 guests can be seated at once for a meal of a lifetime. 

4. Falconry

Falconry

Falconry is strongly intertwined with the UAE’s culture, so you can get a glimpse of this ancient tradition through a falconry show. Here, you can get up and close with these majestic birds and learn about various falconry techniques, watch displays of these birds in action, and handle the birds directly – all in a beautiful desert location. Head out to Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, Wild Flight (which also offers a falconry course!), or any other centre that offers visitors a chance to interact with these unique creatures. 

5. Photo Walks

Photo Walks

Have a camera that’s collecting dust in some corner of your house? It’s time to put it to good use. Guided photo walks in the UAE take you through scenic or historic parts of the country with experts who can advise you on how to get the perfect shot. Not only will you get a chance to improve your camera skills, but you will also learn to look at familiar sights through a new lens (pun intended) – and maybe even make a few friends along the way! Check out Gulf Photo Plus and Aperture Tours to book a photo walk or head to meetup.com to find walks organised by shutterbugs in your community.

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Jet Ski Companies in Dubai

The 10 Best Jet Ski Companies in Dubai

Dubai is one of the best places in the world to jet ski because of the inviting Arabian Sea and iconic buildings in the background. Stay with us as we reveal the top 10 best places to jet ski in the city, allowing you to make the most of its famous landmarks while protecting both your wallet and your safety.

Ride in Dubai

With its array of packages on offer, Ride in Dubai is guaranteed to be one of the best jet ski services in Dubai. They also offer a sizable selection of jet ski and fly board combo sessions that last for an exhilarating two hours. Only professional-grade jet skis, fly board, and other equipment are used by Ride In Dubai, alongside an upgraded Kawasaki 1500cc 310r edition, in accordance with a quality service policy. TripAdvisor has awarded Ride in Dubai with a Certificate of Excellence. Additionally, this is the best jet ski service according to travelers as of 2021. Ride in Dubai also prides itself in offering the best equipment on the market, professional and experienced jetski & Flyboard teams and instructors, and quality service to its clients. Their flyboard sessions can be customized to suit your personal level. And has experienced Flyboard instructors that can assist and teach a first-timer, beginner, intermediate, or professional Flyboarder. They are indeed versatile in all water sports activities in Dubai and will make you enjoy your time at Ride In Dubai.

Ride in Dubai, Po Marinas Harbor, Jumeirah 4, Al Fintaas St, Umm Suqeim, Jumeirah 3, www.rideindubai.com

Hydro Water Sports

From The Walk, you can rent a jet ski and capture the natural coastline of Jumeirah Beach with its many fantastic hotels, Bluewaters Island (home to the world’s largest ferris wheel), and Palm Jumeirah. Additionally, it is especially stunning at night, when jetpacks illuminate the water.

Hydro Water Sports, Oceana Palm, Jumeirah, 054 598 5353, www.hydro-watersports.com

Jet Ski Dubai Adventures

In Dubai Marina, Jet Ski Dubai Adventures provides premium guided tours on the newest Yamaha Jet Skis. Jet skiing in Dubai Marina or in the Arabian Sea off of Jumeirah Beach are both options nearby at the Marina Byblos Hotel. Views of Atlantis The Palm, Burj Al Arab, and other opulent Dubai coastline landmarks can be seen during the jet ski tours.

Jet Ski Dubai, JBR, 052 708 3946, jetskidubai.ae

First Yacht

La Mer Beach – which has a large number of hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues – is one of Dubai’s distinctive beaches. La Mer’s water sports by First Yacht is the best choice for a memorable jet ski experience. Along with other water sports, it also provides kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, and flyboarding.

First Yacht, La Mer, Jumeirah 1, 058 884 9240, www.firstyacht-me.com

Sun and Fun

Close to Umm Suqeim 2’s fishing harbor, Sun and Fun’s offerings are some of the best water sports in Dubai, and the prices and packages are unique because you can choose between three different tours: a jet ski tour of Burj Al Arab, a jet ski tour of Dubai Marina, or a jet ski tour of Atlantis The Palm and Palm Jumeirah island.

Sun and Fun Water Sports Dubai, 78 2 C St, 054 303 5799, sunandfun.ae/en/home

Popeye Jetski

Experience Dubai from a unique vantage point with Popeye Jetski, which will introduce you to the pleasure of jet skiing on the newest model of powerful jet skis while posing for photos at the foot of the most recognisable hotel in the world: Burj Al Arab.

Popeye Jet Ski, Fishing Harbour 2, Umm Suqueim 1, Jumeirah 4, 055 285 1012, www.popeyejetski.com

Nemo WaterSports

As one of the top jet ski rental companies in Dubai, Nemo WaterSports allows you to have an unforgettable vacation filled with the best marine activities. You can go on a jet ski tour as a family, a couple, a group of friends, or by yourself. You have the option to ride further to Jumeirah Beach Residence, the Dubai Marina skyline, the Palm Jumeirah, Atlantis The Palm, and Burj Khalifa. The tour circles around Dubai’s top attractions and skyscrapers.

Nemo WaterSports, Umm Suqeim Fishing Harbour, Umm Suqueim 2, Jumeirah Road, 050 471 7002, www.dubai-jetski.com

Sea Ride Dubai

Sea Ride Dubai has been in the jet ski scene for more than eight years, so you know that they are experienced. Additionally, they provide cutting-edge experiences with the newest jet ski models in complete safety. All necessary certifications are included with their safety equipment, so a memorable experience is guaranteed.

Sea Ride Dubai, Fishing Harbour, Jumeirah, Jumeirah 1, www.searide-dubai.com

Aqua Blue Jetski

One of the top jet ski companies in the city is Aqua Blue Jetski. From here, you can rent the renowned 1800cc Yamaha jet ski. Boasting a team with extensive training, expertise, and years of experience, they also offer kayaking, fishing excursions, and yacht rentals. Additionally, you can combine your jet ski tour with a flyboarding lesson.

Aqua Blue Jet Ski, Jumeirah 1, P & O Marinas Fishing Harbour, www.aquabluejetski.com

Beach Riders Dubai

The yacht excursions offered by Beach Riders Dubai are what they do best. However, they also offer fantastic deals on jet skiing and other adventure sports. They are one of the most well-known adventure activity companies in Dubai.

Beach Riders Dubai, Arabian Gulf Street, Dubai Marina, www.beachridersdubai.com

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Places To Visit in Al Ain

6 Must-See Attractions in the Garden City

There’s more to Al Ain than palm trees.

Between its natural springs and palm groves, Al Ain offers endless appeal to those deprived of nature and desperate to escape city life for a few hours – especially with the return of cooler temperatures. But a closer look reveals that the capital’s garden city also boasts hidden gems, historical forts, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an impressive showcase of wildlife, and plenty more. Here, we delve into six attractions worth visiting and who they’re best suited to.

Al Ain Oasis

for the nature enthusiast

Al Ain Oasis
Courtesy: Visit Abu Dhabi

We’d be remiss not to start with Al Ain Oasis, arguably known as garden city’s ultimate attraction owing to its tranquillity. Spread across 1,200 hectares and the first UNESCO World Heritage Site certified in the UAE, this oasis is famed for offering insights into the ancient ‘falaj’ irrigation system that brings water from the mountains via a complex system of underground and surface channels, and continues to nourish it today. It’s also our favourite place to immerse in nature; the many pathways within Al Ain Oasis are shaded by towering fruit trees (mango, orange, and fig among others) and more than 147,000 date palms. Bonus: you can explore the premises on foot, on horseback, or by bicycle.

Al Ain Camel Market

for the UAE newbie

Al Ain Camel Market

While it’s not entirely kind to the senses – dust, noise, and funky smells are admittedly a given – a trip to Al Ain Camel Market is the perfect way for new expats to immerse in the country’s true culture – camels have always been at the centre of life in the GCC, after all. The sheer spectacle of haggling and trading (these hoofed mammals are either suited to racing or purchased for breeding purposes) takes place early in the morning and is a sight worth catching, especially if a complete departure from life in Dubai is what you’re after.

Al Qattara Arts Centre

for the artsy type

Al Qattara Arts Centre

Housed within a traditional mudbrick residence and home to permanent exhibitions, archaeological findings, and classes (everything from painting and drawing to handicrafts and music sessions are on offer), Al Qattara Arts Centre has single-handedly elevated the arts scene of Al Ain. It’s also one of Al Ain’s leading events venues – this cultural landmark often marks milestones by showcasing the works of local artists or screening films by Emirati talent. The programming changes according to season, but regardless of what’s on the agenda, there’s plenty to while away a couple of hours.

Jebel Hafeet Beehive Tombs

for the adventurer

Jebel Hafeet Beehive Tombs
Courtesy: Alexander McNabb

Own a four-wheel drive and up for a little off-roading? The tombs at the base of Jebel Hafeet beckon. Believed to be 5,000 years old, these remnants of an ancient cemetery still contain the skeletal remains of Al Ain’s earliest inhabitants. Hundreds of dome-shaped tombs have been found in this area, with artefacts suggesting trade links with Iran, the Indus Valley (modern-day Pakistan and India), and ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). Getting here is half the adventure – a bumpy ride and a complete absence of facilities follows soon after you exit the roundabout when following Google Maps towards Jebel Hafeet National Park near the Mezyad Border Post.

Hili Archaeological Park

for the history buff 

Hili Archaeological Park
Courtesy: Sunil Kumar Nair

For a slice of history that’s more easily accessible – and recognised by UNESCO – Hili Archaeological Park is both family-friendly and furnished with extras like go-karts and tennis courts that accent the earliest known evidence of an agricultural village dating back to 3000 BCE. Elsewhere, the likes of tombs, strongholds, old dwellings, and irrigation systems also offer a glimpse into Al Ain’s Bronze Age and Iron Age past. Incidentally, the circular Hili Grand Tomb is considered the crown jewel of this sprawling park as it’s over 4,000 years old and the largest monument of its kind in terms of the size of stones used. Tip: be sure to linger by the two entrances until you spot the engravings depicting human and animal figures.

Al Ain Safari

for the animal lover

Al Ain Safari
Courtesy: Visit Abu Dhabi

While Al Ain Zoo needs no introduction (the beloved attraction has been operating since 1968), this 217-hectare park is yet to be discovered by many. Home to one of the world’s largest man-made safaris, it houses a range of African animals and closes to 2,500 plants. Adding a sense of place to the overall safari experience, meanwhile, are the Emirati guides who steer the SUVs – they have extensive knowledge of the vicinity’s flora and fauna (white rhinos and African lions included). And while activities like feeding the giraffes and dining at the edge of the park’s lion territory make for a memorable outing with the kids, it’s the conservation efforts that animal lovers will value most; critically endangered or locally extinct species such as the addax and scimitar oryx roam free in the wild here.

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