I appreciate this site is aimed exclusively at the over 50s, but that doesn’t mean you always get to travel only with people who fit this criteria. Last year I was asked to take a couple of teenagers to Dubai and for those of you who might have to do likewise at some point, here’s my ‘compromise’ guide to this UAE state. It was mainly about my energetic and youthful companions, but there are some bits that us older folk would find at least tolerable.
Thanfully I had the good fortune of a hugely subsidised stay at Atlantis, The Palm. This fantastic hotel would normally exceed my budget but as well as being a marvellous attraction in its own right, it has the benefit of three teenager friendly pastimes within its grounds.
Aquaventure Waterpark claims to be the biggest of its kind in the middle east and Europe. At 42 acres it’s the size of 21 football pitches and has the requisite white knuckle tower slides, lazy river and a host of other enjoyable rides. It’s better than its nearby competitor, Wild Wadi which is starting to look a little dated. Neither though in my opinion beats my two favourite waterparks, Blizzard Beach in Florida and Siam Park nearer to home in Tenerife. What they both do offer, while your frantic young uns are rushing from thrill to thrill, is fantastic photographic opportunities. Wild Wadi has the backdrop of Dubai’s most iconic and prestigious hotel, the Burj al Arab. I managed to not just take snaps while I was in the vicinity but also make a few quick sketches. With Aquaventure having another marvellous hotel as its focal point us less andrenaline fuelled junkies have some decent distractions to while away the time.
Bear in mind these waterparks get ever more dear and if you’re there mainly as a chaperone, the £50 entrance fee plus extras for lockers, exorbitantly priced food and towel hire if you want to experience at least one ride, you might feel a little ripped off.
Rather more sedate at The Palm is the Lost Chambers Aquarium, themed on Atlantis. They claim there are 65,000 marine animals in this vast aquarium and you can feed and touch the Cownosed Rays if you get the urge. Again on an ocean theme, Dolphin Bay is just minutes away and this seems to be a must-do for tourists of all ages.
Ski Dubai has always held a fascination for me after I watched a TV documentary about its creation. Let’s face it, snow in the desert would grab anyones attention. Another attraction of Ski Dubai is that its based in the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping centres in the world. So many families leave their older offspring and spend hours perusing this enormous complex. Part of the enjoyment for me was simply getting out of the midday heat, it reached 50 degrees on the day we went skiing. You definitely do soon forget that outside camels would be more at home, not Polar Bears.
Another similar distraction I got involved in, and absolutely detested, was sandsurfing. Please, please do not get talked into this one. The ride out in a 4 x 4 wasn’t too bad if a little bumpy. But there is NOTHING for an idle bystander to do, look at, or distract oneselves with. Staring at sand, sand and more sand is not one of my must-dos. And I can’t see the magic for those who actually participate. A slow slide down an admittedly large dune, followed by a totally exhausting, perspiring climb back up it. And not cheap either, well, what is in Dubai.
There is an easier way to travel than virtually swimming up sand, an express lift in the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. I was glad the teens wanted to do this, I thought they might dismiss this behemoth as ‘just another building’. But no, they loved every minute as much as I did myself. From almost 3,000 feet it isn’t just people who seem to disappear at ground level, trucks and busses do.
We went from a must-do to another don’t-do …. Sega Republic in the Dubai Mall. A collection of hi-tec games and rides that wasn’t worth the money or the time. Noisy, crowded, not impressive and even my console loving charges wanted to be in and out within an hour. I would rate this as our biggest disppointment even though we didn’t expect too much from it in the first place.
Off to the beach on the afternoon for some relative peace and quiet after the mayhem of Sega Republic. Time for me to relax with a cold drink and a picnic while the teens joined in with one of the informal volleyball games on Kite Beach. It doesn’t matter what standard you are, or even how old you are, it’s all just fun and an opportunity to meet new people and socialise. Something completely free for a change and a real chance to take your foot off the gas and prepare for the next onslaught.
I hired a little boat and indulged my snobbish side. I always like looking at the houses of the super rich and there’s hardly a better place on earth to do it than the Palms. And because of the household names involved the youngsters also enjoyed a bit of celebrity home spotting. The Beckhams have a seven bedroomed waterfront villa here – reputedly given to them free for a bit of promotional work. Funny, that’s never happened to me. Other notable residents include Boris Becker, Tiger Woods, Jamie Oliver, Georgio Armani, the unfortunate Michael Schumacher and it’s rumoured Madonna. The latter was reportedly having a simply vast house residence built with dolphins in an aquarium, but the material girl has dismissed this as utter nonsense.
And there you have it, a kind of ‘meet-halfway’ holiday that should have enough for young and old and prevent open warfare by the third day. I enjoyed most of it if I’m honest which is as much as you can say about a lot of getaways when you think about it, not all of them are perfect. It cost an arm-and-a-leg but again, that’s the name of the game these days.
Definitely an awesome place with great articheture, a lovely climate (if a tad hot at midday), gorgeous beaches and plenty to do. And not quite as far away as you first imagine, the flight was no hardship at all. Well pleased all in all.