With its serried ranks of skyscrapers and golden sandy beaches, Dubai, at first glance, looks very much like the Middle East’s answer to Miami. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that there’s more to the city than its blingy reputation suggests.
Give the vast Dubai Mall a miss and head to the fascinating old souks of Karama and Deira instead. Both look slightly down-at-heel initially but wander a little further in and you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. Deira is home to the Gold Souk, where stunning filigree gold (and silver) jewellery can be had for a fraction of the price at home. Karama, meanwhile, is the place to go for high-quality knock-off bags and hilariously tacky souvenirs such as mosque alarm clocks. Also worth a visit is the bazaar beneath the Egyptian-themed Wafi Mall (Garhoud Road), where you’ll find Middle Eastern trinkets and the best jasmine soap in the world courtesy of Khan Al Saboun.
There’s no shortage of choice, whether you fancy local food or something a bit more special on your weekend break to Dubai from Glasgow Airport. For brilliant Indian food, try Satwa’s legendary Ravi’s (Satwa Road) where prices are small and portions generous. The area is also home to a number of excellent Lebanese eateries, while The H Hotel Dubai’s Okku (Sheikh Zayed Road) does incredibly good sushi.
Out of sight of the skyscrapers, the Dubai desert is a silently beautiful world. Craggy dunes and scrubby bush dominate the landscape, interrupted only by herds of curious camels. While you’re there, have a go on a dune buggy or try wadi-bashing. Both are tremendously good fun and a wonderful way to escape the city. If that all sounds like too much, try a sunrise ride across the dunes on horseback starting at the Desert Palm Polo Club (Warsan 1).