Only in Dubai can you ski, sled, and snowboard in the middle of the dessert when the outside temperature hits 100+ F. degrees.
Ski Dubai, located in the Mall of the Emirates, one of the world’s largest malls, lets you do all that and more. It’s a must do, or at the very least must see, sight in Dubai. It’s the world’s most exotic ski resort and is home to one of the longest indoor ski slopes in the world.
Whenever we’re in town with the grandkids we’re sure to spend a day or two at Ski Dubai. There’s so much to do there it keeps the boys happy and occupied for hours.
They have rides and activities for toddlers, young kids, teens, and adults.
My 2 year old grandson had so much fun on the toboggan!
7 year old Devon loves them too!
Mini toboggan slopes for the little ones! You don’t have to worry about safety, there’s lots of attendants to help kids get on and off the rides safely.
We all, except Jett, loved rolling down the slope in this giant air filled ball.
For a bird’s eye view hop on a ski chair lift. It takes you all the way up the slope, stopping to let skiers and boarders off at the top, then back down to where you started.
You can see all the skiers and snowboarders from the lift.
Several times a day there’s a penguin show featuring the resident King and Gentoo penguins from Antarctica. For a more up close look and personal time with the penguins you can book a Penguin Encounter starting at 175 AED per person.
Playing in the snow is always fun, there’s a snow park area away from the crowds where you can build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or make a snow angel.
If you like they offer ski and snowboarding classes for young and old. Or if you’re an experienced skiier head over to the lifts and ski your heart’s content.
And if you get hungry or thirsty there’s a snack bar within the park that sells hot chocolate and other snacks. For something a bit more substantial there are many restaurants just outside the park and the food court is one floor up.
The fun begins in the park’s mall entrance where you can purchase tickets and rent a locker. You might just be greeted by the polar bear!
General Admission starts at 250AED for adults and children. Kids under 2 are not permitted in the park.
There are separate admission prices for certain rides such as the Snow Bullet (a zipline ride down the slope) 150AED, or it can be included in one of the packages offered.
There’s also slope passes for experienced skiers starting at 200AED for adults and 170AED for kids.
Penguin Encounters start at 175AED, but that doesn’t include park admission.
Ski lessons start at 150AED
Admission includes the use of ski pants and jacket, ski boots, and helmets (kids under 12 must wear a helmet in the park). It also includes a pair of disposable socks and a voucher for a pair of gloves from the gift shop.
You can also purchase tickets online to avoid the lines at the ticket counter. You just have to exchange your ticket for the passcard that you will need to get into the park. Lockers can’t be rented online.
There are changing rooms and restrooms before the park entrance. Lockers can be rented for 25AED a day plus a refundable key deposit.
If you have a stroller there’s a stroller park on the left before the ticket counter. Register with the attendant who will give you a tag and claim ticket for your stroller.
We usually begin the day at the gift shop to pick up a pair of gloves. We have a bunch of them, but we always seem to misplace them.
Then we gear up. Grab your gear from the counter. The attendant is pretty good estimating sizes, but try on the boots before you leave just to be sure they fit comfortably.
Gear in tow we head to the locker area. There are benches in front of the lockers so you can get into your snow gear. (At this point we always have the kids use the restrooms, it’s a pain to have to undress them when they need to use the bathroom and there are no bathrooms in the park).
Once you’re dressed and your belonging stowed in a locker you can grab a helmet from the shelves on your way to the park entrance. You will need your passcard to get in and out of the park, there’s a zipped pocket on the sleeve of the jacket to keep the card safe, locker keycard fits there too.
Scan your passcard at the turnstiles and you’re icy adventure is about to begin! Right thru those sealed glass doors and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to an Alpine winter wonderland!
You can wander thru the snow caves and have a look at the giant ice sculpture before heading into the main park. Photographers are lurking every where, have them snap as many pictures as you want, you’re not obligated to buy any. You can check the pictures later at the photo booth before you go home for the day.
Once you enter the main park look out for an available sled. It comes in handy for towing small kids around.
The activity areas are clustered at the foot of the slopes with separate areas for the little kiddie rides. There are signs pointing to the different rides, you may have to grab a tube for some of the rides, there are single and double tubes available. You can walk up the slope or hop on the conveyer belt. There are attendants at every ride, they will instruct you how you must sit and help you down the slopes.
When you get chilled or just need a break you can exit the park at anytime. You don’t have to remove all the gear if you’re planning to return after you warm up or have had a bite to eat.
When your day is done just drop the pants, jacket, and boots in one of the bins located in the changing areas. You can keep or toss the socks and gloves.
On your way out you can try your luck at the ring toss game for a chance to win a plush penguin. I believe the bucket of rings cost about 20AED. Dion tried his luck and won a medium sized bird.
By this ring toss game you’ll find the photo center. Scan the wrist bands you were given with each photo. You can view your photos on the screen and choose the ones you want. There are several packages to choose from, and you can also purchase a disk or thumb drive loaded with your photos. If you took lots of photos this might be more economical.
You can stop by the gift kiosk or wander over to the gift shop for a souvenir or two. Magnets start at 10AED. We always end up with a magnet or two and several plush penguins when we go.
On your way out don’t forget to drop your locker key off at the automated booth to get the refund on your deposit.
We love Ski Dubai, it’s a nice change in the summer when the Dubai heat can be unbearable. It’s a bit pricey, as most Dubai attractions are, but it’s worth it!
Located on Yas Island just outside Abu Dhabi’s downtown area is Yas Waterworld, the UAE’s first Mega Waterpark. It’s centered around pearl diving and showcase’s the Emirati’s traditional pearl diving culture.
It offers 43 slides, attractions, and rides, including 5 unique rides never before seen in a waterpark, and the first interactive treasure hunt in a waterpark. The park is also home the the largest children’s play area in any waterpark in the Middle East. It was named 2nd. best waterpark in the world by the LA Time’s Global Ranking of the World’s Top Waterparks.
Last summer we combined a day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi to spend a fun filled day at Abu Dhabi’s Ferarri World and Yas Waterworld. We spent the morning in Ferrari World then cooled off at Yas Waterworld until the park closed in the early evening. The kids had a blast! From riding the world’s fastest roller coaster to sliding down one of the world’s looping waterslides the day was packed with thrills and adventure.
The park opens daily from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and is located on the island’s main road not far from Yas Mall. Prices start at 240 AED for adults and 190 AED for children under 1.1 meters tall for Bronze tickets which gives unlimited all day park access and includes a 5 AED merchandise voucher for the shops. Silver and Gold tickets are priced higher; silver tickets include 3 fast passes and 10 AED voucher; gold tickets include unlimited fast passes, 15 AED voucher, and a souvenir towel.
Or you can purchase a 2 Park pass starting at 50 AED more per ticket. The 2 park pass can only be purchased at the ticket booth and will allow you to one day access to each park within 14 days, at least in the off season and provided you purchase the tickets at Yas Waterworld’s ticket counter. During peak season or if you purchase your tickets online (from the Ferrari World web-site) or from Ferrari World’s ticket counter you must visit both parks on the SAME DAY. Do check the parks’ websites before you go for prices and park times as they are subject to change without notice.
One thing I noticed about both parks, they’re very strict about safety and adhere closely to height and weight requirements for all rides. They are also have a strict policy against cutting in lines, so strict that it is written on their tickets that cutting lines will result in expulsion from the park! (Believe me after spending some time in the UAE you will appreciate this as for some reason folks can’t seem to grasp the simple concept of queing up and waiting your turn, specially in the women’s restrooms!)
The waterpark is also very strict about bringing in outside food, guards at the gate check bags and will ask you to remove any food other than baby food and formula before entering.
They’re not overstating it when they claim to have the largest children’s play area in a waterpark in the Middle East. From my experience they have the largest kid’s area in all the waterparks I’ve ever visited and that includes Atlantis the Palm.
The play area consists of 3 sections; The Marah Fortress that has 6 slides, 2 water dumping buckets, geysers, and water canons; Yehal which has 3 little slides, and small dumping bucket; and the Tot’s Playground complete with swings, mini slides, and other mild water activities protected from the sun by giant canvas tarps.
For a bit for excitement you can wander over to Amwaj, the beach and wave pool area. Be sure you grab a life jacket for the little ones as the ebb and flow patterns generated might get a bit rough. Life jackets are provided free of charge and can be found around the entrance of the attractions.
Floating down the Al Raha River (Lazy River) was my idea of a relaxing ride until we merged with Yadi Yas. It got a bit more thrilling when the pulse waves hit our tubes!
For more thrills slide down one of the slides that exit out of the serpent mouths. There’s too many of them to name! My grandson Dion managed to do them all!
If you’re more of a surfer or want to be a surfer check out the swells on one of the 2 endless wave sheets the Rush Rider and Bubble’s Barrel where you can Flow Board or Body Board. There are height requirements so small kids won’t be able to participate due to safety reasons.
The Dawwama – one raft holds 6 people for this exciting tornado ride. There is a minimum and maximum combined weight requirements for this ride that are strictly enforced. If you don’t have 6 people in your party or don’t meet the weight requirements, no worries, the attendants will load you into the appropriate raft and you’ll make new friends. We did!
If you’re a real adrenaline junkie then check out one of the major thrill slides under the giant pearl. From loops to drops you’re sure to find a slide you’ll love in this area! These slides have strict height and weight requirements that are strictly enforced for your safety. I know my grandson Dion was disappointed when he didn’t meet the 40 kg. minimum weight of the Liwa Loops, but we couldn’t have him stuck in one of it’s curves or flying off in one of the loops!
For those of us who aren’t big time thrill seekers there’s fun and adventure on the inter-active treasure hunt or you can water bomb innocent pedestrians while riding the inverted roller coaster equipped with water canons and buckets!
We didn’t get to ride all 43 slides in the half day we were there, but we got enough thrills and water fun to make it worth the visit. We all had a great time and slept all the way back to our Dubai hotel.
Yas Island is an entertainment Mecca filled with theme parks, malls, theaters, hotels, and restaurants. You could spend your entire vacation without ever having to leave the island.
We took a day trip over to Abu Dhabi when we were in Dubai last summer. It’s about a 1 hour drive. We left bright and early on a weekday morning, we wanted to beat the crowds at Ferrari World. We arrived about 9:30 a.m., Ferrari World doesn’t open until 11:00 a.m.
We parked at Yas Mall, Ferrari World is connected to the mall, and spent the time wandering the shops. The boys were quite impressed with the Lego Store and The Toy Store.
They loved the huge Transformer Optimus Prime standing at the entrance to The Toy Store, a Dubai based brand that is a kid’s dream. The store is filled with displays of popular toys that kids can touch and play with. The boys would have happily stayed at The Toy Store but we had to drag them away and head for Ferrari World.
The theme park is accessed from the mall’s second floor which connects them via a walk way. You’ll know you’re headed in the right direction when you see the red Formula 1 Ferrari race car in the middle of the mall.
The entrance to the park is located next to the mall’s Cascade Dining area, a multi-cuisine food court featuring Buca di Beppo, Chili’s, and more.
If you haven’t purchased tickets online, we didn’t, you can buy them from the ticket counter located on the right side after the walk way. The Ferrari Store is on the left.
Tickets start at 250 AED for a one day one park adult Bronze ticket which gives you unlimited park access for the day and a 5 AED merchandise voucher to spend at the Ferrari Store. Kids under 1.3 meters cost 205 AED, and kids under 3 are free. Silver and Gold tickets cost more but they come with 3 fast pass and 10 AED voucher (silver) or unlimited fast pass and 15 AED voucher (gold). You can upgrade Bronze and Gold tickets to one day 2 park tickets for 40 AED and 130 AED respectively. They both give unlimited access to both Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld on the same day; the Gold ticket comes with priority seating and souvenir towel at the waterpark. The combined ticket is a good deal if you have enough time to go to both parks on the same day. The ticket agents are helpful and will let you know if it’s doable to go to both parks, if the parks are busy they will recommend against it.
The first thing we did was head to the Karting Academy, a go-kart type ride, to book our ride. When you get there you will be directed to a computer where you must schedule a ride for your party, you will be given a ticket that tells you when to come back for your ride.
When you return at your designated time you must change into the racing suits and shoes they provide. Then you must sit thru driving instructions and will be given a paper helmet to wear. Before you get into your race car you will be given a helmet which you must wear during the ride.
It’s a fun ride. We took turns riding because someone had to stay with 7 year old Devon, and 2 year old Jett, they weren’t allowed on this ride.
Right by the Karting Academy is the Tyre Twist, a ride very much like Disney’s teacup ride, but instead of a teacup you’re twirling in an huge tire. Devon was allowed on this ride, but Jett was not.
The Junior GT and Junior Grand Prix rides were also in this area. These rides are slow paced electric cars kids can drive around a track. Devon was not pleased, he wanted something that went faster than a turtle.
The Bell ‘Italia ride is also here. It’s a slow paced ride where you can sit in vintage Ferraris and ride around a miniature Italy.
Other family rides include Viaggio Italia where you sit in seats that rise in the projection dome and you appear to be flying over Italy. There’s also a cinematic simulator ride that gives you the shotgun seat behind a race car driver.
There’s also the Galleria Ferrari where you can get an up close and personal look at these beautiful cars. Ferrari fans will think they’re in heaven!
Another thrill ride by the Karting Academy is the Scuderia Challenge, a racing simulator. We didn’t try this one, it costs an extra 100 AED per person to ride.
The Fiorano GT Challenge is one of the 2 roller coasters in the park. The dueling Ferrari F430 Spider cars race around twin tracks at 95 km/hr. My daughter Jaime and 13 year old grandson Dion rode the coaster while the younger boys and I watched them from the outdoor viewing area.
Formula Rossa, currently the world’s fastest coaster, is the park’s main attraction. This coaster goes from 0-240 km/hr in under 5 seconds. Jaime and Dion went on this coaster too while I tried to get Devon into the Junior Training Camp.
The Junior Training Camp is all about climbing, they have all kids of walls and equipment. Alas Devon did not meet the minimum height requirement, he was not pleased.
Instead we spent our time in the kid’s play area where Jett and Devon ran around, climbed small steps, and went down not too tall slides.
Lucky for us we purchased the 2 park ticket, the younger kids has much more fun at the waterpark. We were done with all the rides we wanted to go on by 2:00 p.m., and this included shopping in the Ferrari Store.
I had somehow (I still don’t know how) ended up with 120 AED worth of merchandise vouchers.
The boys ended up with a bunch of Ferrari stuff, and I only spent 50 AED in real money. The Ferrari Store was the best part of the park for Devon and Jett who each picked out a logo shirt and toy.
The park is rather pricey given that they don’t have very many rides. If you’re a big Ferrari fan or need to ride the world’s fastest coaster than the $68 ticket may be worth it. If you have kids under 1.3 meters the $56 ticket in my opinion isn’t worth it, there’s not much there for them to do. For toddlers under 3 it’s free, and they do have a great time running around the cool play area. Jett loved the Ferrari!
The best buy would be to purchase the 2 park ticket assuming you can go to both parks on the same day. If Ferrari World isn’t busy you really don’t need more than 3-4 hours there. Tickets for Yas Waterworld for one day is the same price as Ferrari World, so the 40 AED upgrade is really worth it, besides on hot days it’s perfect. You do Ferrari World, which is indoors in the morning then head over to the outdoor waterpark later in the afternoon when it’s not so hot.
One of our favorite places to play in Dubai is the Aquaventure Waterpark that is part of Atlantis the Palm. It’s touted to be the #1 Waterpark in the Middle East and Europe, and I can believe it! The park has something for everyone.
For thrill seekers there’s the Tower of Neptune which offers a variety of tall slides including the Leap of Faith, the 9 story near vertical slide down the side of the pyramid and into the shark tank (you’re sliding thru a clear acrylic tube of course!). If you’re a speed demon there’s Poseidon’s Revenge in the heart of the pyramid; you step into a capsule and the floor drops from under you sending you plummeting down at speeds of 60 kilometers per hour, inertia propels you upside down! My 13 year old grandson loves these slides!
Those slides are too extreme for me, I prefer the “milder” Shark Attack where you hop into a single or double inner tube and wind your way down the dark indoor slide and end up floating thru the shark tank, which by the way is a very busy place. Aside from having tubes that lead out from the slides it’s also the place where you can don a special helmet and go on a”Shark Safari”
If you’re looking for something more laid back then the Lazy River is where you should hang out.
Grab a tube, they have singles, doubles, and a double with a child seat (one side has a bottom for small children to sit on), and drift on the river. The river winds around the park’s property and offers several pools and waterfalls through out, you can stop at any spot for a quick dip or a walk behind the falls.
You can detour thru the Torrents, a wave generator that creates swells over a meter high that pushes your tube down the river; or you can head to the Rapids. The Rapids are over 1.5 kilometers long and is lots of fun. Entrance to the Torrents and Rapids are clearly marked, you can enter or continue down the river if you prefer. I have to say this Lazy River is the best I’ve ever been on. The kids and I have spent hours on it. I believe a full circuit takes about 30 minutes including all the detours.
For sun worshipers there are plenty of loungers around the Lazy River you can stretch out on to work on your tan. Or you can head to Aquaventure Beach and lay out in the sand. If you want some quiet relaxation you can rent a couple of sunbeds at Neptune’s Retreat for 300 AED. Price includes fruit, water, and valet service.
If you really want to splurge you can rent a private cabana for your group prices start at 800 AED for a small cabana that can accommodate up to 6 people. Cabana rentals include fruit, water, and locker rental.
Needless to say we did not avail ourselves of the retreat or cabana. The kids were much more interested in playing than relaxing.
When we’re not floating along the Lazy River we hang out Splasher’s Kids’ Play Area. It’s really the busiest section of the park. It’s always filled with families with young kids. The play area has several slides, huge buckets of water that dump water, bridges to climb and walk on, and lots of dripping or splashing water to play in. It’s also very well monitored. Along with lifeguards who help the kids on the taller slides there are several lifeguards and first aid nurses watching the perimeter. The lifeguards are very friendly and play with the kids, but they are also very vigilant. This last trip we saw a child slip and bump her head on one of the slides, the first aid nurse was at the family’s side almost instantly. She assessed the situation, thankfully in this case it was minor, nothing that an ice pack couldn’t fix.
When it came to guest safety I was very impressed, they take it very seriously. Young children are required to wear life vests which are provided free at the towel cabanas located through out the park. All the slides had multiple lifeguards, the Lazy River had lifeguards in and around it, and the Torrents and Rapids had multiple lifeguards at the entrances and along the route. The lifeguards were all very friendly and very helpful, my grandson Dion quickly was on first name basis with many of them.
A day at this waterpark will leave you hungry and thirsty. At this park you won’t go hungry, you may go broke, but you’ll be full. There are 16 restaurants and kiosks within the park. They serve everything from coffee and juices, to burgers and pizzas, to Chinese noodles and Korean barbecue.
They have indoor and outdoor restaurants. The main ones are Barracudas and Shark Bites, both have indoor and outdoor seating. Barracudas is basically a food court where you can grab a quick burger or have some Arabic, Indian, or Asian cuisine. Shark Bites is for quick bites like burgers, hot dogs, and pizza. Splashers and Waves are outdoor venues for burgers and sandwiches. You can snack on pretzels, churros, and ice cream from kiosks around the park.
The food at the park’s restaurants are typical park fare, not gourmet but filling, they have good size portions. Prices are typical park prices, a large soda costs 8 AED; lunch of a burger, fries, and drink will run you close to $20. The best deal are the meal vouchers they sell at the ticket office. They sell for 45 AED each ($12.25) and includes your choice of meal and a drink at either Barracudas or Shark Bites. Each restaurant a different list of items you can choose from, the lists are pretty big and include pizza, burgers, hot dogs, noodles, fried chicken, and shawarmas. The restaurants have different lists as some items are not available at both places, so if you don’t find what you want at one place ask if it’s on the other place’s list. We always buy vouchers when we visit the park. If you have small kids they can share a meal.
A day at Aquaventure is lots of fun, but it’s not cheap, specially if there are many of you. To get the best deal buy tickets online or at your hotel’s tour desk. Tour desk prices are usually the same as online prices. If you buy tickets at the park expect to pay 50+AED ($13.50) more than online prices. You should also know that prices are subject to change without notice and it seems to me are seasonal.
When we went last August we paid 250 AED ($68) for everyone over 1.2 meters tall (this included my 13 year old grandson), and 205 AED ($56) for the kids below 1.2 meters (that’s because kids below the height minimum can not go on any of the big slides, they are limited to the Kids’ Play area and Lazy River). Children 0-2 years old are free.
Park admission includes all water slides, Lazy River, Kids’ Play area, and loungers and umbrellas around the park. Adventure rides like the Shark Safari, Zip Line, and Ray Feeding have extra fees, hotel guests pay a discounted fee.
Locker rentals start at 40 AED for a small, towel rentals are 30 AED each, or you can rent small locker and towel for 50 AED.
Of course you can get free admission if you are a guest at the Atlantis hotel. Room rates start at about $400+ per night. They do have cool suites that have underwater views, those cost a pretty penny.
The Marine Park and Lost Chambers Aquarium are also located on the property. At the Marine Park you can swim with the dolphins or meet a sea lion. Each activity has it’s own fee which includes a day pass to the waterpark. Hotel guests get a discount for most of these activities.
The Lost Chambers is inside the hotel, tickets can be purchased separately, 100 AED ($27) or in combination with a day pass to the waterpark for 300 AED ($82). They also have activities including a behind the scene tours, ray feeding, and scuba dives in the aquarium. Each activity is prices separately. Hotel guests pay a discounted fee.
Here are some tips for your visit to the park. I hope they will save you time and money, and help you have a fantastic time!
1. Buy tickets online or at your hotel tour desk. If possible compare prices before you buy. Pre-purchasing tickets also saves time, you won’t have to wait in line at the ticket plaza. But you can’t rent lockers and towels online, nor can you buy meal vouchers. You must get those from the ticket office.
2. Bring your own towels. I borrowed some from the hotel pool and returned it to housekeeping the next day.
3. Plan your visit on a week day to avoid huge crowds. Remember the weekend in Dubai is Friday and Saturday. The park is packed on weekends and holidays.
4. Arrive early, before the park opens at 10:00 am. You can buy tickets and meal vouchers, and rent towels and lockers as soon as the ticket windows open. If you purchased tickets online you can pick-up wristbands at the “Pre-Purchased Ticket” counter, if you want to rent a cabana or sunbeds you can go to the VIP Premier Experiences counter and get your tickets there too.
5. Don’t bring valuables. If you do rent a locker! Dubai is a very safe place, however there are petty thieves who will jump at the chance to grab valuables left unattended on lounge chairs. We didn’t bring valuables but my daughter’s flip-flops were stolen, they were Ugg brand flip-flops and were not cheap, my daughter was very annoyed. When we went to buy her rubber flip-flops (she needed them the ground was scorching) we paid 100 AED ($27) for the cheapest pair, the sales associate informed us that stolen footwear was very common.
6. Invest in a waterproof phone pouch. You can pick one up at the gift shop before you enter the ticket plaza. They cost 120 AED ($33) and will fit your cell phone, credit card, and money. You can wear it around your neck in the park, but you must remove it when going on the big slides. I bought one and it came in very handy. It kept my phone nice and dry while I used it to take lots of pictures in the splash area and on the Lazy River. It doubles as a souvenir of your day too!
7. Buy meal vouchers it will save you money when lunch time rolls around. Outside food is not allowed in the park, unless it’s baby formula or baby food.
8. If the park is busy find a tube or tubes and keep it with you! Tube napping is very common as you will need a tube for some of the slides as well as for the Lazy River.
9. If you have toddlers and small children get them a life jacket from one of the towel counters. It’s free and required if you are taking them on the Lazy River.
10. If you have toddlers and small children grab a double tube with a child seat and keep it with you. They can be difficult to come by. Toddlers can’t hang on to a tube with their legs dangling in the water, the seat makes it much more comfortable and safer.
11. Bring plenty of sunblock, it cost a fortune at the park.
12. Let the park’s photographer take your photos. They wander around the park taking photos and give you a wrist band each time. They also take photos at the big slides and along the Lazy River. You can take as many photos as you want, you don’t have to buy any. You can view your photos in the hotel by the Lost Chamber entrance. If you like a lot of your pictures consider buying the disc or thumb drive instead of prints; it’s a better deal and you can print them out yourself. Individual photos cost about $20, the disc or drive about $100.
13. Dress appropriately. Swimwear is mandatory if you are going on the slides or in the pools. Having said this, you should also respect the local culture. You’re not required nor even expected to be covered from head to toe but you are required to be “decent”. This means bathing suits, even bikinis are acceptable, but thongs are not.
14. Don’t gawk, stare, or point. That’s just rude! You will see people from all over the world there. Many of them will be dressed according to their cultural and religious beliefs. Yes, there will be women in abayas and covered from head to toe, they will not be swimming. But those that do wear swimwear which looks like a scuba suit including a hood to cover their hair. Just remember though they may dress differently they are there to enjoy the day with their families just like you are.
Whenever we’re in Jordan we try to spend at least a few days at one of the beachfront resorts in Aqaba. It’s about a 4 – 4 1/2 drive from Amman via the Desert Highway or a 3 hour drive from the Dead Sea via the Dead Sea Road.
(There are buses and taxis to and from Aqaba leaving from both Amman and the Dead Sea Area. It can actually be a day trip from either place.)
Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal city and is the largest city on the Gulf of Aqaba. It is rich in history and has been inhabited since 4000 BCE.
It’s stragic location at the junction between Asia and Africa made it a very important part of the trade route between these two continents.
Today it is a well known tourist destination know for it’s warm water and rich marine life.
The Gulf of Aqaba is one of the top diving destinations in the world. Aqaba is also the perfect base from which to explore the wonders that Jordan has to offer in this area, including Petra and Wadi Rum.
Whenever we’re in Aqaba we always stay at the Intercontinental Aqaba Hotel & Resort on King Hussein Street. It is one of the 3 major hotels that I know of in the city that is on the beach, the Movenpick and Kempinski are its neighbors). The Intercontinental is one of my favorite hotels in the world!
The hotel property includes a private beach with oceans views and views of Eilat, Israel which is just across the water. It has great restaurants and lounges, comfortable rooms and suites, several pools, a full service spa, and a kids’ club with activities throughout the day. Of course the service is excellent!
We usually begin our day with the breakfast buffet at the Corniche Restaurant. The abundant buffet has an array of breakfast foods, cereals, fruit, pastries, and a live action station where friendly chefs will gladly fry you some eggs or and omelette. I does get very busy on the weekends and during high season.
The breakfast buffet cost $24 dinar for guests 12+, half price for children 5-11, and free for kids under 5.
The restaurant also has a dinner buffet, the menu changes nightly. We dined there for their Friday Night Barbecue where they served freshly grilled beef, chicken, and lamb kebobs and also had some very tasty shawarma. The price for the dinner buffet is about 40 dinar for adults, half price for kids 5-11, and free for kids under 5.
The Corniche Restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating. We love the outdoor seating as it has both pool and sea views.
The grandkids enjoyed the pools and beach. The kids’ pool is located in a shaded area in front of the indoor kids’ club. There’s also an outdoor shaded area with playground equipment. The kids’ club staff have planned activities on the beach and in the pools during the day. They’re very good at keeping the kids entertained. The boys had a great time at the water balloon toss on the beach.
The indoor play area is air conditioned and is well equipped. Activities for younger children are in this area and families are invited to movie nights. It’s a great place to cool off after a hot day on the beach.
We let the kids play here while my daughter and I indulged ourselves with massages at the spa located right next door!
For those looking for some water fun and adventure there’s a water sports kiosk on the hotel’s beach where you can rent jet skis, ride a banana boat or a glass bottom boat, parasail, and water ski or rent some scuba or snorkel gear to explore the underwater reef.
There are many restaurants in the old town just a few blocks from the Intercontinental. You can even walk from the hotel to the heart of the old town.
One of our usual dining spots is the Alibaba Restaurant in the heart of the old town on the corner of Raghadan and Hammamat Al Tunisyya Streets. The location is great for people watching and they serve alcohol.
They serve fresh seafood as well had traditional Arabic food. The food is okay if you order the grilled meats like shish taouk or lamb kabobs. The shrimp fried rice was actually pretty good too.
Prices here are less expensive than at the resorts starting at about 9 dinar for a plate of kabobs with rice, salad, and hummus. Seafood prices are higher depending on what is ordered.
After dinner we like to walk around town for a bit of souvenir shopping. The streets around Alibaba Restaurant are lined with all sorts of shops selling everything from clothing to household goods and beach toys. Prices are very reasonable, and bargaining is expected.
A walk around the old town is never complete without a stop at one of the sweet shops or bakeries. We pick up a kilo or so of freshly baked kunafa (cheese filled semolina pastry) and Awame (honey drenched fried bread balls.)
Of course when we’re in Aqaba we take a day or two to head over to Petra and Wadi Rum for the day!
One thing for sure when visiting Dubai, you will never go hungry. There are so many restaurants in town I’m pretty sure you’ll find something to suit you, unless you have a hankering for Sweet & Sour Pork or a rack of baby back ribs that is.
(Pork is sold in some restaurants, but the pickings are very slim and in my experience not very well prepared. If pork is on the menu or on the buffet you will find a limited selection that will be clearly labeled as containing pork.)
Dubai is home to many of your favorite fast food franchises and restaurant chains. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, just to name a few, are in all the malls and around town. Chili’s, TGIF, IHOP, Red Lobster, Outback, and many others have places in the malls and around town as well. You’ll also find local franchises and chains as well as those from around the world which we Americans aren’t always familiar with.
In short Dubai is truly a melting pot of culinary delights.
When we travel we prefer to eat at local restaurants and sample the area’s cuisine; but I have to admit that a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s or a pan pizza at Pizza Hut can be comforting when you’ve been abroad for a while and are missing home. That’s why every so often we’ll grab a quick lunch at one of those familiar places. (Half-way thru a 10 day Baltic Cruise a few years ago my daughter spotted a McDonald’s in the old town area of Tallin, Estonia and insisted on having a cheeseburger. She never eats them at home, but said she was tired of cruise and foreign cuisine, she just had to have something familiar.)
But really one of the best parts of traveling is trying different foods at local establishments. Dining like the locals is a great way to experience the culture of the areas you’re visiting. Dubai is no exception, they have many fine restaurants that serve traditional Middle East cuisine as well a cuisine from around the world. So yes do pop in at Chili’s or Pizza Hut when you’re in need of some familiar comfort food, but don’t leave town without at least trying something different.
Here are some of my favorite Dubai restaurants I hope you’ll check one or two out, you might go home with a new favorite dish!
Al Halabi Restaurant located in the Fashion Dome section of the Mall of the Emirates is our all time favorite for Lebanese cuisine.
You can’t miss it, it’s on the right side of the fountain on the ground level in the Fashion Dome section of the mall. (PF Chang’s is near by and Fauchon is across the aisle).
From mezzes to dessert this place serves delicious Arabic food and has very good service.
It is a bit pricier than other Middle East restaurants in the same mall, but it’s truly worth the price. We eat here several times whenever we’re in town.
They offer a variety of hummus, baba ganouj, toum (garlic dip), and other dips all served with freshly baked pita bread. If you’re not too hungry just order a variety of mezzes including stuffed grape leaves and you’ll walk away pleasantly full.
If you’ve a heartier appetite follow up the mezzes with one of their grilled meats. I love their Shish Tawook (chicken skewers) which I order with rice instead of fries. My husband and grandsons love the lamb chops and lamb kebobs. We usually order the mixed grill for them, it comes with 3 kebobs (lamb cubes, chicken, and ground lamb) and french fries.
Every meal is served with salad, actually salad makings. The waiter will bring out a tray of fresh veggies including lettuce, tomato, cucumber, lemon, and green onions. Cut it and fix it the way you wish.
We always round out the meal with dessert. Their Kunafa is very good as is their Muhalubia (pudding) and Creme Caramel. There are so many different desserts to choose from it’s hard to pick just one.
Expect to pay about 200 dirham, $54, for 2 people; that would include mezzes, entree, dessert, and a couple of beverages.
My favorite breakfast place is the breakfast buffet at the Blue Orange Restaurant in the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina.
It is by far the best breakfast buffet I’ve had anywhere. It’s pricey at 120 dirham, $32, per person (kids 6-12 are half price, 5 & under are free), but it is so worth it.
This buffet has the standard eggs & omelette station you’d expect at any decent breakfast buffet, and so much more. Along with breakfast foods they have a smoothie bar where you can order any smoothie you want; an Asian, Arabic, and Indian station that has Congee, Curries, Falafels, and more; a selection of cheeses; a bread section that offers a large variety of breads, muffins, and pastries; a cereal and yogurt bar; and my favorite the crepe station that has fabulous crepes you can fill or top with a variety of toppings. They even have an ice cream section filled with delicious homemade ice cream in some very interesting flavors including fig, date, and baklava!
The restaurant has a play area complete with TV, play house, and other toys to keep the kids entertained so you can enjoy your meal.
This award winning brunch spans across the three restaurants on the hotel’s ground floor (Hunter’s Room & Grill, Spice Emporium, Blue Orange) and when the weather is pleasant to the out door seating area as well.
The food displays and stations are amazing. The Blue Orange section caters mostly to families with children offering a kid’s buffet along with with seafood, pasta, and sushi stations. The entertainment is mostly in this area where they have clowns, jugglers, acrobats, and even a petting zoo.
Hunter’s Room & Grill is a steak house where they set up various stations including a pub style bar where they generously pour drinks for those who purchased the brunch inclusive of bubbly. The Spice Emporium serves up Asian delights including chefs showing off their skill on the teppanyaki grill.
This brunch buffet is truly an experience for everyone. It is rather pricey starting at 450 dirham, $122, for the bubble free brunch to 680 dirham, $185, for the brunch with free flowing bubbly. Children under 6 are free and 6-12 are half price.
This Friday brunch seems to be a very popular event in Dubai, specially for ex-pats who come out in their designer duds to partake of this international feast. During our 2 week stay at the Westin this summer we noticed the crowds of people flowing from restaurant to restaurant on Fridays. Buffet stations are set up even in the hallways between the restaurants; you must pass thru them on your way to and from the pool or beach.
In case you’re wondering about alcoholic drinks in Dubai, it is served at some restaurants and lounges except during the month of Ramadan. You can purchase over priced cocktails, liquor, beer, and wine and consume it in the restaurant or bar, but you can not consume alcoholic beverages on the streets, in the parks, or other public areas. A popular alternative to alcoholic beverages are their “moctails” virgin versions of popular concoctions such as Pinacolodas, Margaritas, Bloody Marys, and such; in short over priced smoothies.
If you’re wanting some Lebanese cuisine but don’t want to pay the prices at Al Halabi the Al Halab restaurant on Level 1 in the Mall of the Emirates is a less expensive alternative.
It’s located along the row of restaurants above the entrance to Ski Dubai. You can dine within the restaurant itself or at one of the tables in front of it, you can’t miss it, you’ll see a large area filled with tables in front of the restaurants including Chili’s and CPK.
This place serves great tasting Shawarma sandwhiches for very reasonable prices, 12 dirham each, that’s just a bit over $3. It’s our go to place for a quick lunch when we’re at Ski Dubai or shopping at the mall.
If you’re hungry for some Korean food then Koryo Korean Barbecue in the Level 1 Food Court of the Mall of the Emirates is a good choice.
The prices are reasonable and the food tastes good.
They cook to order really good Kim Chee pancakes.
n This Koryo Combo Box for 35 dirham, $9.50, is a bargain. You get a choice of 2 main entrees, 3 sides, rice & noodles, and a fountain drink. I had the Barbecue Beef and Spicy Chicken it really was quite good, and very filling.
If you’ve a yen for sushi while at the Mall of the Emirates Fujiyama located in the Level 1 Food Court has a pretty good selection of sushi along with boxed lunches and Donburis. There’s also one in Dubai Mall’s huge food court.
I love their Tendon – tempura rice bowl. Their prices a very reasonable, you can get a complete meal for around $10. My grandson Dion, a sushi lover always goes their for their spicy tuna roll.
The Mall of the Emirates has 2 food courts – ground level and Level 1. Between the 2 I’m sure you’ll find something you want to eat.
When we feel like Persian cuisine we grab a table at Hatam located within the vast food court at Dubai Mall.
Although it’s in the food court it isn’t necessarily fast food. Table service is available. It sure beats standing in line and searching for at table at this very busy food court.
The prices at Hatam are slightly more than it’s fast food counterpart in the food court itself, but the food and service are good.
For very reasonably priced Lebanese food Karam Express is your best choice. You can get a meal with grilled meats, hummus, starch, and pita for about $10. They have food court locations in both the Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall.
Here’s a Shish Tawook Plate with rice, hummus, and pita from Karam Express in the Dubai Mall.
They also serve a yummy lentil soup.
There are many fine Indian restaurants around town. It’s very popular here due I guess the the huge number of immigrants from India.
When we feel like a quick lunch then Shamiana usually found in mall food courts is quite good.
My daughter loves their butter chicken.
When I’m hungry for Filipino food or even Filipino Fast Food I head over to Jollibee in the food court of Dubai Mall for some “Chicken Joy”.
Or for real Filipino cooking then the Filipino restaurant chains in Dubai’s Al Karama district is the place to go.
Max’s Manila is always a good go to restaurant for good Filipino specialties like Kare-Kare (beef braised in peanut sauce) and Daing na Bangus (marinated milkfish). It’s not quite home cooking, but almost.
For a hearty Filipino breakfast or brunch then head over to Tapa King in the Al Ghurair Mall or in the Al Karama district. This popular Filipino fast food franchise serves up excellent Tapsilog – Tapa (marinated meat), fried egg, and rice. I was surprised to find Lamb Tapa on their menu in Dubai.
Every so often I have a yen for Chinese food. I love Chinese food, but am very particular about where I get it from. When I’m in Dubai I never have time to explore the Chinese restaurants so when I “feel like some Chinese” I go to the familiar, Panda Express.
I’ve tried other fast food Chinese places in the malls and have never liked them. At least at Panda I know what to expect and they usually meet my expectations.
I like the Panda locations in the Al Karama area and also the one on the JBR walk.
I think it’s great that dine-in food is served on real dishes with real utensils, not styrofoam containers and plastic forks.
Another favorite of ours is the Cheesecake Factory, it’s my idea of fine comfort food. They have 3 locations in Dubai; at the Dubai Mall, in the Mall of the Emirates, and on The Walk at the Dubai Marina.
All the popular ice cream franchises are in Dubai; Coldstone and Marble Slab Creameries, Carvel, and Baskin & Robbins to name a few.
But we found this cool new place in Dubai Mall’s food court called Ice Cream Lab. It’s a California based ice cream shop that creates “experiments” of made-to-order liquid nitrogen ice cream. They use fresh ingredients and “make” the ice cream in front of you.
It’s super cool! You order your ice cream then watch the ice cream maker make your ice cream in this machine that looks like an industrial sized Kitchen Aid enshrouded in very cold fog.
My grandsons had Mango and Vanilla. They loved watching the “experiment” and loved the ice cream too!
A word about dining at the food court in Dubai Mall. It is ALWAYS busy and crowded! We’ve popped in there at all hours and have never found it not busy.
With about 50 different shops you’ll be astounded at your dining choices. Most places have long lines and tables are hard to come by, specially if you have a large group.
I find dining here to be a workout, first you have to hike what seems like miles to get to the place you want to order from, stand in line, then hunt for a table. By the time you sit down to eat your food is cold.
The best way to eat here in our experience is to first stroll thru the food court and decide where you want to eat. In our case we never seem to agree on just one place, that’s okay, you just have to keep track of where everyone went off to.
Once you’ve decided what you want to eat and where you want to buy it from find a table for your group. You will see tables that have empty trays and left over food, if no one is sitting there it’s probably available. Just hail a bus person and have the table cleared, in Dubai you’re not expected to clean after yourself even at fast food places. People will walk away from their table once their done eating. Claim your table and have one person sit there while the others go buy food. I usually end up sitting at the table and have my husband or daughter buy my food, it works out so much better.
When I find myself in the Dubai Mall at dinner time we head to Wafi Gourmet. I love this place!
They serve fine Lebanese cuisine and have outdoor tables in front of the Dubai Fountain. It’s a great place to watch the fountain show and people watch.
They serve excellent Arabic meals and wonderful Arabic sweets. I love their kebobs and shawarmas, and adore their desserts. There’s even a sweet shop where you can buy pastries to take home. They are a bit pricey, expect to pay $17+ for an entree. But the food and location are well worth the price.
My grandsons love the Rainforest Cafe located above the Dubai Aquarium in Dubai Mall. It’s a fun place to have a burger in a rain forest setting.
If you just want to hang out by the Dubai Fountain but don’t want to pay for a meal at the restaurants with fountain views then grab a table at Tim Horton’s located on the mall’s lower ground level right by the exit to the fountain.
For the price of a cup of coffee you can sit there all day to people watch and see the fountain show that comes on every half hour or so.
This is our “base” whenever we’re shopping at the Dubai Mall. My husband likes to sit at one of the tables while the rest of us shop til we drop. Very convenient, we stop by every so often to drop of shopping bags and grab a drink or a quick snack, catching a fountain show while we’re resting is an added bonus.
When we’re wandering the Gold Souk area we always stop by at Ashwaq Cafeteria for a shawarma or falafel sandwich. Seating is under a tent on the sidewalk, but the food is good and very cheap.
Sandwiches are 5 dirham, that’s like $1.30! The fresh fruit juices cost a bit more, but are really delicious.
It’s not the classiest place in town, nor does it offer great views and ambiance, but the food and juices really hit the spot after a morning spent haggling with shopkeepers.
There are many, many more places to eat in Dubai; from tiny hole in the wall snack bars to five star gourmet dining you’ll find it here. I hope you take some time to explore all the culinary treats Dubai has to offer, it really is an adventure.