The world’s only seven star property, islands that represent the world map, ski slopes in the middle of the desert, people with more money than sense, Dubai’s got more bling than you can handle, and while I have some fuzzy memories of my childhood in the Middle East, we knew (much like so many of you readers) that to do Dubai right, you’ve got to do it in style. So we waited. Till the day we were millionaires. Well, the proud owners of a million reward points from IHG. With these points, we had the power to book reward nights at IHG hotels, flights, car rentals, shop or ask the IHG concierge for the world. So we did. We took off on a whirlwind trip for our anniversary to this luxurious oasis in the middle of the Middle East.
Since we’re proud members of Jet Airways’ JetPrivilege programme, we’ve vowed to stick to this airline whenever we can. With a flying time of 3 hours between Mumbai and Dubai, we actually made it before time and scoring front row seats both times, was definitely sweet.
Where to Stay:
When in Dubai, it’s first class all the way, so we had to pick the Intercontinental Festival City. It’s just a quick 10 min ride from the airport, has private access into the Festival City Mall, has loads of restaurants to choose from, amazing views of the creek and some real fancy cars parked outside. Oh, and pretty great service across the board as well.
The Guide to Dubai High Rollin’:
1. Discover the heritage
Dubai was nothing but a little fishing village, with little prospects at the start. But looking at the massively powerful Emirate it is today, and having grown up on exotic tales of princes and jewels, bedouins and camels, a visit to the old quarter was imminent. We started in Bur Dubai. We visited the Dubai Museum, took a walking tour past the Grand Mosque and Hindu temple, into the Old Souk and Textile Market watching traders haggle and fake designer bag vendors peddle. Boarding an Abra (a traditional wooden boat) we crossed the Dubai creek and stepped off in Deira. Trawling the Spice Souk for some incredible camel milk chocolates and being blinded by all the bling of the Gold Souk, we enjoyed spending time staring at these beautiful brown buildings divided by narrow streets, all covered with jute awning to protect us from the harsh midday sun.
2. Sleep in the desert
If Instagram and Youtube have taught me anything, it’s that Sheikhs are boys with some really expensive toys. So, having seen some crazy hummer stunt videos and beautiful desert sunsets, Charles was thrilled about going to the desert while I was in two minds. Passing up the touristy desert- safari- with- camel- riding- plus- belly- dancer- with- complimentary- barbecue- and- shisha turned out to be the best decision we made. Just two SUVs packed with a couple of friends; we headed an hour out of Dubai, into the desert, watched the setting sun fight the glow of our campfire, and finally pitched our tents as the final embers began to die. Watching the stars, without the distraction of sounds or glow of traffic we fell asleep surrounded by nothing but cool soft sand.
3. Get to the top
When they build something in Dubai, they begin with the premise of the impossible. So naturally, a 163 floor tower was completely plausible. The very prospect of looking down at people smaller than the proverbial ants was thrilling. So we booked our slot, stepped into an elevator that seemed to be going at the speed of light, and before we knew it, we were at the viewing platform, playing spot the human as we looked down across Dubai’s other noticeable landmarks.
4. Shop like crazy
Reading on, you may realise we missed a couple of spots on the map. That’s because we got distracted. With malls the size of towns, the world’s best brands vying for your attention, we soon realised there’s no such thing as a quick visit to a particular store. Dubai’s malls are black holes and you will disappear into them. Not that we were complaining, given that we entered the city with loads of extra baggage allowance. While the Festival City Mall was the most convenient because our hotel had direct access to it, we really enjoyed Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates the most.
5. Devour a few Michelin Stars
Dubai is definitely at the top of its game when it comes to food. So after long having drooled over our computer screens, we were overjoyed at the prospect of finally sampling some of this amazing culinary scene. And while we did our share of Lebanese at Wafi Gourmet, Shawarmas on the streets, Michelin starred Pierre Gagnaire’s Reflets had dibs on our appetite. We expected this 3 course meal to be strictly French, but Dubai couldn’t let us go without putting on a bit of a show. A surprising smattering of Asian flavours (Seaweed butter, anyone?) and a ridiculous number of desserts to call it a single course, we ate like gluttons, while discovering a beautiful Pinot Noir thanks to the very chatty and helpful sommelier. We were so thankful that our room was only a short elevator ride away.
6. Go skiing or ice skating
We’re only in the middle of the desert. So naturally, the locals have to go skiing. We had more shopping to do so we only paused briefly to gawk in disbelief at the people kitted up in warm jackets as they skied in the Mall of the Emirates and skated in Dubai Mall.
7. Get wet
Again, there’s no need to worry about water, because while there’s desert to one side the Persian Gulf to the other. Right? Clearly, seeing as there are several water parks, swimming with dolphins and stunning aquariums across town.
Hope our Millionaire’s Guide to Dubai has you itching to get there! To get a taste of the sweet reward points life yourself, sign up to join the IHG Rewards Club here.
While were awarded a million points by IHG, all opinions as always are our own. Stay tuned to find out where they’re taking us next! Hint: We’re getting ready for a taste of La Dolce Vita.