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Dubai Live

Thursday, May 4, 2006
Dubai is one of the seven sheikdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates. It lies on the north-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

Dubai is the second largest emirate after Abu Dhabi and covers 2590 square kilometres. It has a natural harbour and is divided by the Dubai Creek. The ruler, HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum succeeded his father, one of the founding members of the UAE, in 1990. The elder was sufficiently savvy to persuade the British shipping line between Britain and India to make Dubai their main port of call during the 1940s.

There have been problems over the years — small and large — but the marriage in 1999 of the crown prince of Dubai with the daughter of Abu Dhabi's sovereign brought the two emirates together, publicly and privately. These days, Dubai is host to international tennis, horseracing, racing car and golf championships.

The ultramodern city is clean, safe, dynamic and reeking of capitalism. There is plenty to occupy the tourist — Al Fahidi Street is the heart of Bur Dubai souk — excellent for shopping. There are souks scattered right across Dubai, the most popular selling gold. You really need to bargain and haggle to get the best price, and vendors expect it of you.

Mall of the Emirates on Sheikh Zayed Road is in an area of intense development. It's six square kilometres with three levels of more than 400 themed retail precincts. There is a 14 screen cinestar complex, a two level Magic Planet family entertainment complex with indoor roller-coasters and simulators.

Al Nasr Leisureland offers a variety of sports including ice skating, bowling, swimming and there is an amusement park for children. There is a small but varied zoo, camels and horseracing tracks, hot air ballooning and a good choice of golf courses.

Just because it's in the middle of the desert doesn't mean you can't snow ski in Dubai! Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort where you can ski, snowboard and toboggan or just play year round in -1°C, which drops to -8°C overnight.

Ski Dubai has five ski runs of varying difficulty, height and steepness. The longest is 400 metres with a fall of over 60 metres. They have plenty of appropriate clothing for you and there are themed restaurants — St Moritz Café and Avalanche Café at mid-station.

A totally different activity is wadi bashing. Wadis are dry riverbeds which follow the course of seasonal streams and rivers through valleys carved by flood waters. The tough and challenging wadi bashing is done in a four-wheel drive through vast areas of wilderness, wadis, mountains and deserts.

The first time it is advised to have an experienced wadi driver, particularly for desert stretches. Tyre inflation is important, as it is very easy to get lost. It is advisable to take a compass along.

The Palm and The World are the world's largest offshore islands. At a cost of US$3.5 billion, there are two islands in the shape of giant palm trees — Jelbl Ali and Jumeirah. They have 8.5km trunks with 17 100m fronds. The third island is a flat map of the globe. On them a collection of villas, hotels, marinas and shopping complexes will be built, all connected by high-speed monorail. Quite an amazing feat when you consider that in 1975 there was not one high-rise in the sleepy fishing village of Dubai. Oil riches and grand ambitions allowed it to reinvent itself.

It gives investors the chance to live in a castle in England, a palace in Morocco or a luxury resort in the Bahamas.

Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa is an exclusive oasis within a 225 square kilometre conservation reserve, just 45 minutes from the international airport. It is accessible by four-wheel drive and is not open for private vehicles or outside visitors.

The resort was built in the style of a traditional Bedouin encampment with guest areas adorned by traditional artefacts and precious antiquities. A ratio of three staff to each guest ensures superior service and the Hajar Mountains in the distance form a perfectly beautiful backdrop.

Each luxurious suite has a private pool, elegant dining area, special wines and indigenous flora and fauna — the resort has reintroduced indigenous fauna including the Arabian oryx, sand gazelle, mountain gazelle, Arabian fox, caracal, lizards and skinks — all living in open plains.

The owner's suite is 375 square metres with two large bedrooms and bathrooms, spacious lounge with dining facilities and residential quarters for guests' private staff (housekeeper, security and chef). It has a large chilled swimming pool and private courtyard.

Two Royal Suites, each with an area of 175 square metres, have a large lounge, two bedrooms and bathrooms and large chilled swimming pool surrounded by wooden deck.

Twenty-seven Bedouin Suites each have an area of 75 square metres, bedroom with sitting area, en suite bathroom and chilled swimming pool.

General facilities include a lounge, bar, library-cum-boardroom, two traditional Arabic meeting areas, main dining room with annex, gallery, private check-in and a fully-equipped gymnasium.

Hidden in the dunes near the main building and integrated into the main swimming pool and pool bar is Al Maha's Jamilah Spa & Leisure Centre. In order to conserve the desert's most precious resource and in keeping with Al Maha's environmental focus, all water is fully recycled and returned to its groundwater source via a unique irrigation system.

There are two single and two double massage rooms above private gardens offering complete body massage treatments. Timber decks link the interior and exterior giving access to the lush oasis. There is a sauna, steam room, interior jacuzzi and plunge pool with wonderful views.

Activities include horse and camel safaris, falconry, archery and guided nature walks. Off-site activities range from historical and architectural tours in and around the Hajar Mountains to sand-skiing and 4x4 dune driving.

Location

Dubai in the United Arab Emirates

Cost


Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Bedouin Suite accommodation is around $1890 a night, twin-share.

Up The Wadi day tour from Dubai is $106 per person, including lunch.

For further information


Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa
Sheikh Zayed Road
Dubai UAE
Ph: 971-4 303 4222
Fax: 971-4 343 9696
Website: www.al-maha.com
E-mail: almaha@emirates.com

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