City on a Plate

How to make the most of 24 hours in Dubai

Peter Rae offers some insider tips on eating, exploring and peering into the future on a day in the UAE

27 August 2017 - 00:00 By Peter Rae
Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
Image: iStock

8AM: BREAKFASTStart with a run along the 5km rubberised track on Sunset Beach, then have breakfast at PapaRotti Café at nearby Sunset Mall. Order your coffee with a roti, a light, crispy sweet dome of breadroll with a blob of melted butter in the middle.

10AM: RIDE THE METROThese driverless trains are pretty swish and the view of Dubai is unmatched – 15m above road level, with lofty views of the super-constructions like the spinnaker-sailed Burj Khalifa and the field of skyscrapers in Business Bay.

11AM: SEE THE BURJ KHALIFAAt 830m, the world’s tallest building is gorgeous from any angle. Your trip up to the observation deck on the 124th floor takes place in one of the fastest lifts in the world and you can learn about the fantastic engineering. An engineer advises residents where to place their furniture to keep the weight balanced!


Reel Cinemas’ Platinum Movie Suites at the Dubai Mall will let you relax in a luxurious marble-walled lounge, cooling off with drinks and snacks before you’re ushered into the cinema. Adjust your leather recliner, snuggle under a mohair blanket (cinema aircon is chilly), fluff up your pillow and ring the bell to order a lunch of burger sliders, shawarmas, and lovely zaatar bread, flavoured with thyme, sea salt and sesame seeds.


Starting below the Sheikh Zayed Bridge, a sheet-like waterfall tumbles from the bridge supporting the 12-lane road. It opens like a curtain to let boats through.

This is the type of futuristic nuttiness built into the 3.8km-long canal that joins the Dubai Creek with the Arabian Gulf. The boardwalk will take you past buildings designed by architects who were blessed with liberal budgets and no creative restrictions. If picture-taking flattens your phone battery, there are charging stations along the way!


The Cheesecake Factory offers a world of unthinkable variety — there are more than 30 options to boost you into a sugar high, including the Godiva chocolate cheesecake. There are several branches but do the one in Festival City to make the next activity.


The latest happening thing in Dubai, Festival City Mall bills Imagine as a “unique sensory experience” with lasers, 30 water fountains, giant screens and massive sound. It holds a Guinness world record for the largest permanent projection mapping in the world. Viewed from the mall steps, it’s a massive performance over a glittering lake, and there are different shows at different times — even a Game of Thrones show. Best of all, it’s free.


Dubai by night.
Dubai by night.
Image: iStock

Nina at the One and Only Royal Mirage on Beach Road takes Indian cuisine to a new level. Forget heavy curries and get into a menu that delights with crisp, crunchy, smooth, subtle, sharp, and always that flavour that you know you’ve always loved but can’t quite place. It’s pricey, but worth it.


Back on the metro – yes, it is still the best way to see Dubai – take a run along the lines for a view of what the future will bring.

At the Jebel Ali end of the red line, you can view the massive Dubai “Eye” ferris wheel under construction at the Dubai Port, and towards Z’abeel Park you’ll get a superb view of the “Frame”, a 140m-high building that will look like a gold picture frame. Seeing Dubai lit up at night is a fantasy ride.

Take your time and enjoy it.

MIDNIGHT: PARTY ONYou wouldn’t think it, but clubbing is big in Dubai. Make sure you’re not a party of men only or they won’t let you in. Cirque le Soir is the happening club with acrobats, dance, theatre, and loads of colour, lights and music. Open until 3am Monday to Friday.