Luxury, Food and Culture in the United Arab Emirates

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Advisor - Nadia Bess
Curated By

Nadia Bess

  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)

  • Dubai

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • International Travel

  • Luxury Travel

  • Desert

  • Shopping

  • Sightseeing

A white and gold mosque with several rows of arches and pillars in the UAE.
Curator’s statement

The UAE was my most surprising and fun trip. Over 85% of its residents are expats, meaning there is a real multicultural flair in the city! From the markets to the stores to the restaurants, you can travel the whole world in one trip.

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Where to stay

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Things to do

Desert views in the UAE with a blue infinity pool overlooking tan sand and green trees.

Things to do in Dubai

Deep Dive Dubai: The deepest diving pool in the world, it's something you need to see to believe. They offer options for everyone, from certified divers to beginners and bucket listers. Descend with a photographer to capture your adventures as you explore games, a sunken city, caverns and more!

Miracle Garden: A large outdoor garden with flowers and topiaries in the shapes of animals, characters, hearts and even a full-sized Emirates plane! 

Visit The Dubai Mall: Describing The Dubai Mall quickly is simply impossible. It is so large that you will get lost multiple times (use the helpful directories for step-by-step directions). If shopping isn't of interest, make sure to visit the fountains, ice rink, aquarium, cinema and numerous eateries. 

Visit the souks and wander Old Dubai: Get ready to haggle! The spice souk and gold souk are the most famous but there are souks for everything from fishing gear to perfume. Go with a guide to get directed to the most reliable souks and make sure to bring home some authentic saffron. 

Go on a day (or night) trip to the desert: While I recommend staying at least one night in the desert for the most immersive experience, you can also do a day or evening adventure to the desert for camel rides, ATV adventures, belly dancing and more. 

Watch The Dubai Fountain show: This goes off regularly throughout the day and night, so you won't have to try too hard to see it. It's similar to the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas but there is also a coordinated laser light show. 

Go on a food tour! Dubai has so many food options that you could try a new option every day for years. One of the most popular options is Frying Pan Adventures.

Take a traditional wooden abra (boat) across Dubai Creek for a quick fun way to see the city from a different perspective.

Reserve a daybed at the rooftop Aura Skypool Lounge to spend a day swimming with epic skyline views.

Shop and dine with an international feel at Global Village.

Visit Yusuf Bhai, Dubai’s artisan perfumer, to get a custom-made scent just for you

Visit Mirzam Chocolate Factory to see chocolate being made, visit the cafe, and buy every kind of chocolate at the shop.

Things to do in Abu Dhabi

*You could visit all three of these on a day trip from Dubai or add on some nights at a hotel in town and continue the fun. 

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Hands down one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! I recommend going with a local guide, such as Wander with Nada, for the best experience – especially since the location is quite large and chaotic. Make sure to pack an outfit that follows the required dress code. 

Visit Qasr Al-Watan, the Presidential Palace: Another majestic and ornately constructed spot to visit. This is another spot that is best to visit with a guide for a look into the history and political significance. 

Louvre Abu Dhabi: A second location of the famous museum in Paris, the building and complex themselves are beautiful before you even go inside. For a unique perspective, take a kayak tour around the museum!

Day trips in the UAE

Sharjah, only a 45-minute drive from Dubai, is like Dubai's smaller artsy cousin with traditional souks and modern cafes. Visit the Rain Room exhibit for a very unique experience! Sharjah Art Museum offers a great way to see creations from local artists. Like books? Don't miss out on the House of Wisdom, a beautiful library with an extensive collection. Bait Al Naboodah is an old pearl merchant's house converted into a museum.

Eat & drink

A yellow, saffron rice and green bean dish in the UAE served on a white plate with green and pink floral patterns and a silver spoon.

Amazónico: This South American restaurant is an iconic hotspot so be sure to snag your table as soon as you have your travel dates. The lush rainforest setting inside, and the rooftop terrace outside are both great options for dining. Every food item on the menu is fantastic so ask your server for recommendations. Make sure to order a signature cocktail (or two) as they all come in different unique containers! 

99 Sushi Bar & Restaurant: This Japanese and sushi spot offers great views of the Dubai Fountain Show so make sure to request a table on the patio in advance. The quail egg and truffle "sushi" is unique and very delicious. 

Marina Social: The outdoor terrace at this restaurant has great views of the Marina, where you can watch boats sail by as you dine on modern European cuisine. 

COYA: This Peruvian hot spot is very popular so book well in advance for great seafood and cocktails!

Tasca: This spot has great Portuguese food with killer views. 

Buddha-Bar: On the top floor, this is where you go in the Marina to listen to DJs and drink cocktails.

Time Out Market Dubai: This fantastic food court right across the street from Dubai Mall offers a large variety of excellent casual food options for when you tire of fancy sit-down meals. Grab a meal, cocktail or coffee and grab a spot on the patio to watch the Dubai Fountain Show!

SALT Kite Beach: Great spot for burgers, fried chicken and ice cream right on the beach!

Shimmers: This popular spot is the place to be while the sun goes down. Reserve a spot in advance to swim and/or watch the sunset while you dine, drink and imbibe in shisha (hookah). 

Skyview Bar: Want to see the famous Burj Al Arab? The only way to visit is as a hotel guest or with a spa or dining reservation. The easiest option is cocktails at the top of the sail-shaped hotel. Remember to look up and take picture in their rainbow hued lobby as you make your way to the cocktail bar. 

Arabian Tea House: A great and authentic chain in the UAE offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, in addition to coffee and tea, along with good vegetarian options. 

Comptoir 102 Healthy Cafe: A beautiful garden cafe within a store with great vegan and gluten-free options.

Advisor - Nadia Bess

Travel Advisor

Nadia Bess

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