What to do with only 48 hours in Dubai
In the Middle East there is a hub that offers a world of experiences. Dubai affords its visitors a whole spectrum of activities that any world wanderer could hope for, from dazzling world wonders like the Emirates Mall to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Even if you only have one weekend in this majestic city, you’ll leave with a transformed worldview and an overflowing heart.
As a former oasis and pearl fishing village that bloomed into one of the greatest cities in the world, Dubai attracts people from every walk of life. It is a sparkling metropolis that rises sharply out of the desert and perches delicately on the edge of the Persian Gulf. At first glance it seems like a larger scale Las Vegas, yet there’s more than meets the eye.
Since Dubai is a major global hub and an even larger port of worldwide commerce, there is literally an activity or hotel for any type of traveler. A more budget-conscious traveler might want to consider the City Premier Hotel Apartment. This lavish hotel markets itself as an apartment away from home. With the same setup as a city apartment, it makes any stay feel like going home to your own bed.
If you want something with a bit more desert chic but that won’t raid your wallet, then consider the Movenpick Hotel and Lake Towers. This is the essence of posh accommodation without dipping into your play money. The Movenpick Hotel and Lake Towers is a nice spot to stay for a couple nights while you get all that you can from the city.
It is the nexus of cultures that has made Dubai a global hub and given it such a unique flavor. There are strong reminders of its humble beginning as a fishing village. Street vendors sell some of the best food you’ll ever taste from tiny stands that pepper the edges of swirling back alleys. Make sure you try a local shawarma. This Middle Eastern treat is lamb meat wrapped in spices and a soft pita.
Each alley runs like a tributary to the large covered corridors of the city’s souks. These souks (or markets) are broken up into categories. The most popular includes the Gold Souk, the Fish Souk, the Spice Souk, and the lavish Textile Souk. Each of these markets offer a wide array of goods, but more importantly, offers a chance to haggle. Nothing makes a memory faster than bargaining for your hookah with a merchant in traditional garb. In case you’re into more modern shopping experiences or designer goods, worry not. The Emirates Mall is one of the largest in the world and offers not only the chance to scuba dive in their monumental aquarium, but also to browse the racks at some of the best high-end stores in the world.
The mingling of old and new doesn’t end with the shopping scene. If your time is limited, head down to the waterfront and take one of the traditional river boats from bank to bank, where each side is decorated with quaint cafes and traditional vendors. The ferries are one of the oldest forms of transportation in the city and are also inexpensive to take.
Viewfinder Tip: For a more traditional desert experience, take a desert safari in a 4×4 jeep.
However, if you want to get the most out of your time in Dubai, then book one of the city tours. These are great to get the beat on the local haunts, while also maximizing your time. You’d regret it if you didn’t at least stop for a visit at the Burj Khalifa as well. This skyward monument is the largest building in the world and stands as a testament to the enterprising spirit of Dubai. If you’re looking for a more traditional desert experience in Dubai, then try a desert safari. We went the overnight route and took a 4×4 jeep out to a camp complete with belly dancing and camels.
Consider having at least one meal at one of the high-end restaurants in Dubai’s city center. The eclectic food and nightlife scene in Dubai is revolutionary. The only catch is that only hotels can serve liquor. Keep that in mind before you head out to try one of the new twists on the classic cocktail. If you want to keep your day simple, take a walk down to the beach. Swimming in the Persian Gulf in the middle of December is, to this day, one of the best experiences of my life.
There are almost too many options to consider when you’re planning a trip to Dubai. Just remember that this city makes a great layover option as you make your way to another global destination. In 48 hours you can do more than enough shopping, eating, and exploring to last you for a year.
How do you like to see a city on a short jaunt?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube