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    Get your fix of adventure thrills, luxe stays and never-ending retail therapy at destination Dubai.

    Never judge a book by its cover, goes the popular saying, but you can certainly judge a city by its airport. The same applies to the Dubai International Airport. Called DXB in aviation parlance, it is the world’s busiest by international passenger traffic (according to the Airports Council International 2015 figures) and sort of sums up what I am in store for in this Middle Eastern trade hub. From daunting skyscapers to delicious food, it is one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, and definitely underlines luxury. Take the Dubai Mall, for instance. The 5.9 million sq ft premises houses everything from the best fine dining spaces to uber luxe couture. From a view of the magnificient Burj Khalifa and dining at Michelin star restaurants to some of the best water rides in this part of the world, here’s a list of stuff to tick off your Dubai bucket list.

    At first sight

    The steel and chrome skyscrapers, choreographed fountains and iPhone 7 plus billboards gently introduced the opulent city to me. They said, ‘If you want breakfast in the bed, sleep in the kitchen’. But in Dubai, if you want to shop 24×7, you can sleep in the mall, literally. That is, if you get to stay at The Address, (from Rs 27,700 approximately per night) a five-star hotel that offers in-room iPads to all its guests (connected to the mall through an indoor walkway).  Details: thedubaimall.com On the subject of shopping, don’t miss the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, which begins on December 26, a week ahead of its usual time, (till January 31, 2017) on public demand.

    Bird’s eye view

    My room on the 18th floor of the hotel gave me a skyline of not just the bustling metropolis, but a flattering view of the iconic Burj Khalifa (when I stood at a vantage point in my balcony, squeezing myself between the wall and the glass parapet).

    When I did visit the world’s tallest skyscraper, the double deck elevator at the Burj Khalifa transported me to the 124th floor in 120 seconds, at a speed of 10 metres per second. Once at the top, at 828 metres (ten times the height of the Qutub Minar), it felt like the world was at my feet. The two HD telescopes (free usage) on level 125 gave us a falcon’s eye view of the Gulf coast and the Arabian Desert. Rs 1,760 approximately onwards per person. Details: atthetop.ae

    For thrill seekers

    Just in case you happen to hail from a country with sub-zero temperatures and don’t want to be smothered in chills, a 15-minute drive will take you to IMG Worlds of Adventure, the world’s largest indoor theme park, at 1.5 million square feet in a temperature controlled environment, with unbridled entertainment. I did feel a bit jet-lagged as it transported me into the Mesozoic era with the Lost Valley- Dinosaur Adventure zone. Simulated dinosaurs, theme-centric rides and games kept us – a group of four journalists engaged.

    The park with three other zones: Marvel, Cartoon Network and IMG Boulevard is replete with thrill rides, kiddie rides, brand retail outlets (Hulk, Avengers, SpiderMan, Powerpuff Girls, the world’s biggest Ben 10 retail store). However, the real highlight was The Haunted Hotel. Although, I thought I could laugh it off as a brave heart, the 20-minute walk through dark corridors, stench-filled rooms where corpses sat upright and blood trickling through the chimneys gave me spooks to last for a lifetime. Entry above 15 years only. (Approximately Rs 5,540 per person for adults, Rs 4,620 per person for children. Details: imgworlds.com)

    (The writer was invited by the Dubai Tourism)

    Finding Dory
    One can never wrap up Dubai without a visit to the ocean-themed resort, The Atlantis Palm (where the Bollywood movie Happy New Year was extensively shot). At The Lost Chambers Aquarium here, one could walk through a maze of underground tunnels to watch Dory, Nemo and their ilk in the over 100 water exhibits. However, the peek into legendary underwater suites Poseidon and Neptune — where the Kardashian sisters Kim and Khloe stayed last year — stole the show. This suite has a floor-to-ceiling window looking directly into a lagoon with 65,000 marine animals including sharks, starfish, sting rays and even live divers. You might as well stay in the ocean bed. At the Aquaventure Water Park, this ride definitely takes the spotlight. The Leap of Faith is a terrifying 27.5-metre near-vertical drop, propelling body surfers through a clear acrylic tunnel submerged in a shark-filled lagoon and ultimately out into the sunshine and plunge pool below.
    Entry from Rs 4,800 approximately per person.
    Details: atlantisthepalm.com

    Night lights
    The real Dubai wakes up after dusk, and if you want to see the city at its best, head to Madinat Jumeirah, the five-star property on Jumeirah Beach Road. The high-end luxury resort (read: private infinity pools and butlers) on a private beach with traditional Arabian summer houses built over gardens, promenades, waterways and 50 restaurants, is best experienced when you take a leisurely three-km abra (boat) ride. Rs 33,300 approximately per night. Details: jumeirah.com The Madinat Jumeirah Souk (bazaar) is for boutique brand shoppers and has everything from Moroccan lamps to spices and diamonds.

    App moment
    With free Wi-Fi in all of Dubai, all you have to do is check out the Facebook page for latest offers and discounts, or better still, download The Dubai Mall app (available for free on Android and iOS) . “It’s the safest city for women too,” says Laraib Butt, my local guide, a 21-year-old girl who hails from Pakistan and is settled in the city.  She wears a hijab and sunglasses and it seems like a practical wardrobe choice in the city that records 42 degrees Centigrade
    even in December.

    White Christmas
    From December 6 – 10, the Dubai Opera will host the greatest Christmas pantomime of all time — The Nutcracker — staged on ice. A cast of world, European and National Championship-level skaters will bring the epic tale to life on ice, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s glorious score. With high-speed leaps and awe-inspiring acrobatics, this performance is not to be missed.
    Tickets from Rs 4,620 onwards. Details: dubaiopera.com

    Food trail
    ■ Lunch at Michelin-starred Masterchef Gordon Ramsay’s The Bread Street Kitchen, Atlantis The Palm. With its British menu and a meal with exotic watermelon salad, Fish & Chips and Mac & Cheese truffle balls,  luxury is putting it mildly. Meal for two from Rs 8,320 onwards. Details:   Atlantis The Palm, +971 4 426 2000

    ■ Meals at Al Bayt, The Palace Downtown Dubai, are an elaborate affair. With cuisines from across the world on a platter and over six live counters, this all-day diner is any Instagrammer’s paradise. Meal for two from Rs 4,620 onwards. Details: +971 4 428 7888

    ■ In line with the middle-Eastern theme was  dinner at the Khaymat Al Bahar, a Lebanese restaurant, with mezze platters, Falafel and fried lamb dumplings. For me, watching the belly dancer move and create magic, was most memorable. Meal for two from Rs 7,400 onwards.
    Details:  +971 4 366 6730

    Close encounter
    Largest, busiest, tallest, world’s most are some of the prefixes this city loves. The Dubai Mall, for example, is home to 1,200 shops, including iconic brands Michael Kors and Bloomingdale to shop at , 200+ restaurants and 33,000 underwater animals to admire. Don’t settle for just the routine selfie with a shark as you can come face-to-face with some of the ocean’s most fascinating predators here. “No diving experience necessary. Stop by our sales desk on the ground floor for details,” the mall staff said, nudging me gently. 10 am to 11pm on weekdays and until midnight on weekdays. Rs 1,850 onwards per person. Details: thedubaimall.com

    By Manju Latha Kalanidhi

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