IT'S known as a playground for the rich and famous but Dubai’s a brilliant destination for families too, discovers Karen Pasquali Jones.
Dubai is famous for sun, shopping and skyscrapers but it can also boast some nice ice baby. No, not snow (though it does have a giant dry ski slope inside one of its malls) but diamonds.
As soon as we touched down in the land of bling, we headed straight for the world-famous gold souks.
Inside the first shop, sunlight glinted off a two-carat solitaire my six-year-old son, Deme, twisted on his finger. ‘Not bad,’ he shrugged. ‘But do you have anything bigger?’ Without blinking, the jeweller handed him a rock the size of a 50p while his colleague draped my year-old baby, Anais, in a ruby-encrusted choker with matching bracelet.
Next to him my husband Alexio inspected a Rolex watch inlaid with slabs of emerald and sapphire. It was a ‘bargain’ at just £15,000. But that was nothing compared to the price of the jewels our children were wearing. And no one – except me – seemed concerned that they might lose, break, or even swallow one of these precious gems. This was shopping, Dubai-style, where everything that glitters really is gold or something even more expensive.
And, right now, my children couldn’t get enough of it. Back home, I have to drag the family into any store that’s not Toys r us.
Here, they loved strolling around the souks, where you can buy gold chains by the inch, and hitting the malls. Shopping here isn’t just a wag’s paradise. It’s a way of life, and, like everything in Dubai, they’ve decided bigger is definitely better. I watched my little boy’s eyes bulge as we went round the world’s biggest shopping complex, The Dubai Mall, complete with ice rink and aquarium.
New trainers and a glimpse at a turtle was obviously a winner. ‘Cool,’ he said, awe-struck as we hit the next ‘shopping experience centre’- Mall of the Emirates– and the dry ski slopes. It was funny to think it was boiling outside – Dubai has great weather all year round – while father and son practised their moves on the ice. For a week we were living the High Life – literally.
We were staying in the penthouse suite at the luxurious Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach resort and Marina, just down the road from the famous sail-shaped hotel Burj Al Arab on Jumeirah beach. Along with a marble bathroom, dressing room, kitchen, living room and bedroom bigger than the average two-bed flat back home, we had a jaw-dropping view overlooking the marina. Below was a golden beach set against a dramatic backdrop of Canary-Wharf style skyscrapers.
It’s Manhattan-on-Sea, with the desert thrown in for good measure.
Stars flew in from all over the world for the bash, but many of them have luxury holiday homes here. David Beckham splashed out £8 million on a swanky Palm Jumeirah house for Posh’s parents. It’s easy to see why it’s a popular place for expats wanting to live the dream and a year-round hot tourist spot for sun lovers.
Every day our little boy kept begging for a doughnut as soon as he woke up. It took me a while to work out he wasn’t demanding a bun for breakfast. He’d spotted the giant rubber rings being towed across the sea in front of us and wanted a go. ‘Faster, faster!’ Deme cried each time as he bounced along the waves of the Arabian sea in the doughnut, being pulled by a boat.
Anais was safe and happy inside the hotel-run kids’ club, which was excellent. But she lapped up the fun when we took her and Deme to the Dubai Dolphinarium, where they watched the seal and dolphin show, and swam with the dolphins. She giggled as we took her to another family must day-out at the Wild Wadi water park.
Deme and Alexio shot down slides, chutes and lazed around rivers while us girls got a little bit wet splashing in pools.
Then it was time to get dry – and go shopping again.
‘Do you want to try on more diamonds?’ I asked my son. He grinned.
‘Only if they’re worth more than a million pounds,’ he said. I was sure we could easily find one here – after all Dubai rocks!
Five nights in Dubai from £662 with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow direct to Dubai , accommodation at the 5V Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina on a breakfast only basis with transfers included. Prices based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a standard room price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departing 9-23 May 2010.
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www.virginholidays.co..uk or call 0844 557 3860