Glittering seven-star hotels, rolling sand dunes and a genie in a lamp are just some of the images that come to mind when thinking about the Middle East. If you have never been to this region, you might find it strange. Magical, even. Because its natural landscape and culture is vastly different from tropical Malaysia and is guaranteed to provide every tourist with an experience that is hard to find elsewhere.
If you only have 24 hours to spare in Dubai, what would you do? Follow this guide, of course! It will give you a taste of the many things this place has to offer and leave you hungry for more.
Image by Matthew Foulds
There is nothing more classic than going on a Middle Eastern desert safari.
Because it gets really hot really fast, we recommend doing this early in the morning. To save time, you can even arrange with your operator to pick you up straight from the airport!
To get to the desert, you will need to use a 4x4. Once you’ve arrived at your intended location, your operators might even situate you in an authentic Bedouin welcome tent where you get to sit on a carpeted sand floor, sip on some sweet Arabian coffee and try on some Bedouin robes for the ‘gram. Once you’re watered and fed, it’s time to hit the sand for real!
One of the top things we would recommend is dune bashing. You essentially get back into your 4x4 and fasten your seatbelts for this. Your driver will take you on a crazy, speedy journey up and down the sand dunes, bashing your way across the plains. Some sand dunes can go up to as high as 40 meters, and the steep drop will make you feel like you’re on an off-kilter roller-coaster! Definitely not for the faint-hearted, but it is undoubtedly exhilarating.
Alternatively, you can grab a quad bike and go up the soft dunes, valleys and hard wadis. Sandboarding is also an option. It is basically the desert version of snowboarding, where you get on a board and fly down the dune. Finally, if you would like a more docile option, you can also go on a camel riding adventure. Any of these adventures would make for a great experience!
Image by Conde Nast Traveler
Jumeirah Mosque is one of two mosques in Dubai that are open to non-Muslims. It is also one of the most iconic landmarks in Dubai and a great place to learn more about Islam and the local culture.
The Jumeirah Mosque is huge and can hold up to 1,200 worshippers. Its white facade is due to the white stone made in the medieval Fatimid tradition and its intricate designs glow in the soft kiss of sunset. We recommend coming here at 2pm where a 75-minute guided tour runs. This tour runs six days a week and opens with Arabic coffee and tea before you head to the outdoor fountain to learn about ‘wudu’ (cleansing process before prayers) prior to a visit to the interior of the mosque.
It costs AED 25 per person to go on the guided tour. If you do not have modest clothing, you will have to spend AED 10 to rent a kandura (male clothing) or abaya (female clothing) prior to entering the Jumeirah Mosque.
Image by Zosia Korcz
For your next stop, we suggest hitting the Dubai souks (which means market in Arabic), such as Souk Madinat Jumeirah.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah is one of Dubai’s most popular souks. It mimics a traditional Arabic market amidst limestone buildings and cobbled alleyways, providing a perfect blend of history and contemporary offerings. Apart from the gorgeous architecture, we recommend getting lost amidst the glowing lanterns, fragrant spices, Persian carpets, Turkish plates, perfumed scents, and coloured artisanal offerings.
With over 75 shops, galleries and dining options available, Souk Madinat Jumeirah can easily devour several hours of your time. You never know what you will find. If you are looking for a break, you can also visit the Madinat Theatre for a show or hop on board a traditional abra boat for a five-kilometre ride along the Madinat waterways. Assuming the vendors don’t trap you by their stalls with their endless offers first!
In terms of food, we recommend checking out The Meat and Co or Trader Vic’s for good music. You will also find restaurants that serve shisha (or hookah), where you suck in perfumed smoke and breathe them out in large scented clouds. If you’ve never tried shisha before, then this is the place to try it.
Image by Philipp Katzenberger
At 12 million square feet, the Dubai Mall is the largest shopping mall in the world. Even for Malaysians jaded by the plethora of malls available in Kuala Lumpur, this is truly a place to stop by for a visit. Even if it’s just as a bucket list item.
There are over 1,200 shops here and it seems unlikely that you won’t find something to your taste. If you come during the shopping festivals, you can even snag some incredible discounts.
Apart from all that shopping, the Dubai Mall also has the Dubai fountain. Every day from 5pm until 11pm, the Dubai fountain puts on a dazzling show every half hour. Another bucket list item we would recommend doing if you have the time.
Image by GetYourGuide
When you have exhausted your shopping quota for the day, don’t forget to visit Burj Khalifa! With a height of 829.8m, Burj Khalifa is the tallest tower in the world and also the third-largest hotel in the world (can you sense how these Middle Easterns love breaking world records?!). It also has a seven-star hotel!
You don’t have to stay at the hotel to get a good view. Firstly, you can pay AED 149 to go up to level 124 and 125. At Level 124, you can try the world’s fastest double-deck elevators at 10m/s and take fantastic panoramic pictures on its public outdoor observation terrace.
Alternatively, you can opt for the AED 378 ticket to gain access to levels 124, 125 and 148. Level 148 will give you a guided tour onto the world’s highest observation deck with an outdoor terrace at 555m, as well as refreshments at the SKY lounge.
For the ultimate sky experience, we recommend returning to Burj Khalifa the next morning to go for the AED 618 lounge experience. This VIP experience takes place in The lounge on the 152nd floor of Burj Khalifa and lets you have breakfast in the clouds! Talk about a view.
Doesn’t Dubai sound amazing? It has a ridiculous amount of things to see, experience and eat. If you only have 24 hours to spare, your trip will be a whirlwind but it will also be one of the most memorable trips you will have been on if you follow our itinerary. Dubai is also still one of the more “exotic” destinations to visit, at least from this side of the world, so why not be unconventional and head over to the Middle East?
Check out mayflower.com.my for the best flight and hotel deals. And if you’re travelling with family and have up to 5 days to spare, Mayflower is also running a special family promotional package that you can learn more about here.
A faith-driven Sarawakian lawyer who believes that it is never too late to start crafting a socially impactful legacy. When not grappling with warranties and liabilities, she loves pursuing adrenaline-fueled adventures, improving her Español and playing the violin. You can find her at @vidadeliya or https://www.vidadeliya.com