The word luxury is synonymous with the United Arab Emirates. As one of the richest, if not the richest, country in the entire Middle East, this makes it a unique place to enjoy a luxury vacation. And if you’re one of the lucky few who participated in last year’s flight deal to Europe, then a trip to the UAE was (or already is) on your horizon. Not only did the deal catch worldwide attention, but the surge of Black travelers to the destination has brought more intrigue to travel to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Though both vastly different, there’s much to offer at each locale. Planning a trip to the UAE? Here’s your guide navigating these golden cities.
In a city that strives to be over-the-top, it’s no surprise the hotels are equally as lavish. If you’re looking to indulge in plush accommodations that offer first class luxury, the Shangri-La Hotel offers the best of the best.
The hotel has over 300 guest rooms which all feature deep soaking tubs, rain showers and warm décor with sleek lines and local artwork. Its signature restaurant, Shang Palace, serves high-end Cantonese specialties, while Marrakech serves contemporary Moroccan cuisine in a bright and airy courtyard. And if you prefer an afternoon of leisure rather than hitting the town, the hotel offers a gleaming swimming pool where guests can relax or state-of-the-art workout facilities in the fully equipped fitness center. Not to mention, the hotel’s location on storied Sheikh Zayed Road puts it right in the center of Dubai’s action, with shopping, entertainment and wild skyscrapers just a few blocks away.
Simply put: the Burj Khalifa is spectacular. Not just simply a “building,” its design is an unbelievable feat of engineering, innovation and opulence. One cannot set sights on Dubai without planning a trip to this grand design. Whether in the evening, or early morning (as early as five a.m. sunrise), you can catch a breathtaking view of the entire city of Dubai from the top of the world, literally.
Saffron—Atlantis, The Palm
Much like the United States, brunch is a huge staple in Dubai. The only difference is that the main day to do your brunch “turn up” on that side of the world is Friday (instead of our typical Saturday/Sunday afternoon tradition). What could make brunch even better? Unlimited food and drinks from over 100 food and beverage stations in a sprawling display of epicurean delight. Don’t be fooled: the turn up is real in Dubai too.
Latitude—Jumeirah Beach Hotel
From the fresh flavors of Japan, Thailand, Middle East and Malaysia to the many varied cuisines of Europe—whatever you’re in the mood for, Latitude’s international spread can offer you the very best of all. Perhaps the best, most flavorful dinner you’ll have in Dubai, its diverse cuisine will leave you wanting, perhaps even begging, for more. You’re in luck, as they offer a sprawling buffet (popular in Dubai) of fresh fish, meats, cheeses and a variety of homemade pastas at one of the restaurants’ live cooking stations. You can watch it being prepared for you, just as you like it. Be sure to leave room for dessert however. There’s also a chocolate fountain!
Desert Safari Experience—Liwa Desert
A trip to the UAE wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the desert. Stretched for miles and miles, the Liwa Desert is an unforgettable view with an endless landscape into the horizon. The best way to experience it is during a safari, so you can party in the desert while also enjoying camel rides, sand duning, henna tattoos and more. As an added bonus, make sure to book the evening safari in order to catch the stunning desert sunset.
InterContinental Abu Dhabi
As soon as you walk through the doors of the hotel lobby, you experience the sheer magnificence of the InterContinental’s luxury offerings. With chandelier ceilings, a contemporary interior, and ultra-attentive service, you’ll be sold within the first three minutes. Also, the hotel is one of Abu Dhabi’s most picturesque marinas, overlooking both the city’s beautiful beach and marina.
With 24-hour security and a members’ car park, the hotel is also home to the stylish Yacht Club, with its contemporary design, open terrace and Pacific Rim fine dining options. The Yacht Club is the hottest spot in town, with contemporary interiors, Japanese cuisine and cocktail creations from some of the best mixologists in the world.
Sheihk Zayed Mosque
Breathtaking, beautiful, awe-inspiring. These are just a few words that describe the eighth largest mosque in the world that’s become one of the most talked about attractions. There’s no question that a visit to the mosque is in order, but your biggest decision will be: when? By day, the white marble is luminescent and sparkling underneath the bright Arabian sun. And at night, the moonlight sparkles against the pillars as it sets its reflection against the pool. The inside of the mosque is no less impressive than the outside, and it’s hard to decide what to gaze in awe at.
The beauty of the UAE lies in its diversity. And as the name suggests, Marakesh is a beautiful restaurant offering world-class Moroccan cuisine. Located in the center of Abu Dhabi, it’s one of the few of its kind in the city. With opulent interiors, live music and dance performances every night, Marakesh sets up an authentic cultural space for guests to explore the aromatic gastronomy of Morocco. The menu includes a diverse choice of traditional dishes, from couscous to salads, tagines, fish, seafood and meat grills, and gives guests a proper introduction into the culinary traditions of Morocco.
Do: Ferrari World at Yas Island
Thrill seekers: Ferrari World is your home away from home. Like everything else in the UAE, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi may not be the biggest, but it’s most certainly the boldest and the baddest—not your average theme park by any means. This place is packed with all sorts of activities to ignite your inner Ferrari energy, from wonderful family rides and mesmerizing 4-D adventures (have you ever experienced riding in a Ferrari at 200+ speed firsthand? You will here) to the world’s fastest rollercoaster. Not a car lover? Don’t fret. The theme park offers intense multi-sensory experiences that are fun for the whole family—and also for your friends.
Kimberly N. Wilson is a NYC-based travel/lifestyle/entertainment writer, digital strategist and creator of Gone Girl’s Guide. She’s a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and completed her J.D. at the Howard University School of Law. Follow her on Twitter @gonegirlsguide.