Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Like a fantasyland of luxury, Dubai is the place to be if you want a treat for the senses. It is clean and cosmopolitan with a plethora of culinary delights. Your pampering can begin in the air if you choose the right airline like Emirates. Regardless, as soon as you step foot in Dubai International Airport, it’s clear you’ve been transported to the land of the spectacular.
Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is considered the business hub of the Middle East. Originally a fishing village, the city is now a showcase for breathtaking architecture with a skyline that constantly changes. Buildings, and even islands, seem to go up at an impressive speed. Everything has an Arab influence, though only 15% of the population is comprised of UAE Nationals. You can hear a lot of different languages spoken from Hindi-Urdu to Chinese. English is used as a second language alongside the official language of Arabic. Certainly a destination trip on its own, Dubai can also be a half-way point en route to India and other countries in Southeast Asia.
I’ve been to the UAE now three times to do programs. For XYoga Dubai 2016, I moderated a Conversation with a Master with my dear teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch and demonstrated for her yoga sessions. I also covered our activities from a media standpoint. In 2017, I was in Dubai for the World Government Summit – a thought leadership and global knowledge exchange platform at the intersection of government, futurism, technology and innovation. I moderated a Conversation with a Master with Tao for the audience of leaders, and connected with my friends/colleagues at the World Economic Forum, one of the Summit partners. As Tao’s co-biographer (with my journalist-mother, Janie Sykes-Kennedy), I know her story very well and can tailor the program to fit any event. In 2018, I was a featured teacher for the XYoga Dubai Festival and gave a talk. Now, my goal is to be in the UAE every year around February or March when the weather is best.
One of the most extraordinary sites in the Emirates is Burj Khalifa. If you have a limited amount of time, this should be on your short list.
At over 2,716 feet and more than 160 stories, Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. Your ears will pop as you ascend because the elevator can travel 124 floors in sixty seconds. It is a stunning example of human ingenuity and creative vision, and the views–from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Desert–are breathtaking. The access to the popular “at the top” experience at Burj Khalifa is from the lower ground floor of The Dubai Mall–the world’s largest shopping, leisure and entertainment destination. With over 1,200 shops, all your needs can be met… for a price! From Valentino to Oscar de la Renta, luxury brands abound.
If you are into shopping, Dubai is the place for you. Bring your credit cards because even if you’re looking for a deal, you’re likely to spend some dirhams. For the adventurous, check out Old Dubai for bargains on things like designer bags. Then, head to Souk Al Bahar (“market of the sailor”) closer to the downtown Dubai hotels. This is the place to get gorgeous shawls and delectable dates (food not people)!
Even if you’re not going to buy anything, a trip to Souk Al Bahar is worth it just for the stunning walkway, high archways and arabesque decor.
Another incredible sight is the sailboat-shaped Burj Al Arab–the third tallest hotel in the world and repeatedly voted the most luxurious. With 7-star status, the hotel offers suite-only accommodations, a private reception on every floor and simply exquisite surroundings. I particularly like the yoga room with floor-to-ceiling windows affording a view of the water while you inhale. The big treat is High Tea–an elegant seven-course experience at Sahn Eddar (“Reception of the House” in Arabic) on the first floor of Burj Al Arab. From the date juice and Champagne to the dainty finger sandwiches and sumptuous desserts, you must try everything. Even the cappuccino has a touch of class with the hotel’s logo designed into the foam. Given my amazing hosts, I’ve stayed at some of the best hotels in Dubai such as the Jumeirah Al Naseem Resort and Manzil Downtown Dubai, and experienced others such as the Mina A’ Salam Resort for meetings. Hotels in Dubai can be expensive so unless you are able to spend on the top-tier straight out, shop for special packages.
If you want some sun and sand, head to Kite Beach which is a hot spot for kitesurfing and other water sports. It was the location for the 2018 XYoga Dubai Festival so I got to spend time there. With the Jumeriah Mosque feet away, you may be surprised at how many barely-there bikinis go by. Certain parts of Dubai are much more open to Western dress and norms, however it’s good to be respectful in terms of choice of clothing while in the region. A mainstay for any female globetrotter is to always have a light shawl to cover your shoulders if necessary. It can also double as a beach coverup and warm you up in cool air conditioned rooms. If a massage is in order, indulge yourself at the Al Barari’s Heart & Soul Spa. When I was in Dubai in 2016, the Spa hosted a special yoga session with Tao as part of the XYoga Festival.
XYoga also hosted an outside reception at the Palace Lakeside Garden at The Palace Hotel. Next to Burj Khalifa Lake, this palatial hotel is simply gorgeous and makes you feel like you’ve stepped into an Arabian movie. With the water right next to us and the gondola-like boats passing by, there was a touch of Venice as well. We were treated to a light show from Burj Khalifa which has the largest LED-illuminated facade. In 2018, the Downtown Dubai New Year’s Eve Gala clinched the Guinness World Records title for the ‘World’s Largest LED-Illuminated Façade’ on Burj Khalifa with 70,000 LED bulbs placed in position using over 100,000 brackets and linked using over 55,000 meters of cabling for the perfect visual display.
For a one-of-kind experience, go out in the desert for dinner or a safari.
In addition to the World Government Summit sessions in 2017, there were cultural activities to get a taste of Dubai. We received a private tour of the new Etihad Museum which chronicles the era before the country’s founding. As part of the museum initiative, the original Union House where leaders signed the treaty establishing the country was restored. After the tour, we joined the Summit dinner held outside. We also had a wonderful dinner one evening at the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa. It was magical and the food was incredible. It’s worth the 45-minute drive from downtown. Be sure to pack that shawl or jacket because it is cooler in the desert at night. On my next trip to the Emirates, I want to spend more time out in the desert perhaps doing a combination of yoga, photography and a safari.
A couple of my colleagues went on the XLine in Dubai Marina–the longest urban zip line in the world. If you want to fly through the air over buildings like Superman, then test it out. With a tagline “Defy your Limits,” XDubai promotes an active lifestyle in Dubai. I know a number of the XDubai folks now and they deliver high quality experiences which is to be expected. In Dubai, quality is a given and the country thrives on the “WOW Factor.”
I always carry my camera (Nikon D610) wherever I go so check out a few of the pictures below. Click on each image to make it bigger. For more pictures, check out XYoga Dubai 2016, World Government Summit in 2017, and XYoga Dubai Festival in 2018. Follow me on Instagram @terrk_tv, Twitter @drterrikennedy and Facebook at PowerLiving, and LinkedIn at TeresaKennedy. Also, be sure to subscribe on YouTube at PowerLivingTV.
Remember, life is an adventure. Get out and explore.
The power is in your hands!