The Emirates city has something new to offer to all its visitors every summer, be it amusement parks, safaris, Bollywood theme parks, or aquariums.
The Dubai I had heard of was known mainly for its gold souks, perennial sales and sandy beaches, but there’s much more to the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as I discovered during my short visit recently. Every summer, in fact, the city throws up new surprises for tourists, be it amusement parks, safaris or aquariums. And as I walked past the hobnobbers of the business class on my Emirates flight to Dubai, I could only dream of the wondrous surprises waiting for me on the other side.
While Al Qasr (The Palace), one of the more traditionally-built properties along the private coastline of Madinat Jumeirah, was home for the duration of my stay, what I really partook were some of the newer attractions in the city.
As hard as it was to walk away from the clear blue waters of the Jumeirah Beach, I made my way to the coastal
city to see what it had to offer. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Architectural marvels blended into the horizon, as I drove towards Dubai Parks and Resorts, constructed opposite the artificial archipelago of Palm Jebel Ali.
The integrated resort destination boasts of three diverse theme parks—Motiongate, Bollywood Parks and Legoland—and one water park, Legoland Water Park (for children below 12 years of age). It also encompasses Riverland, a themed retail and dining destination, as well as the Polynesian-themed family resort, Lapita Hotel.
While the US and India may take great pride in their respective cinematic ventures, they have been outdone by the enthralling 3D and 4D film-based adventure rides at Motiongate and Bollywood Parks.
Designed for thrill-seekers of all ages, Motiongate and Bollywood Parks stand out as immersive experiences for those looking to relive their favourite fantasy tales with superheroes and villains.
Take, for instance, the Ra.One ride. The 4D show allows viewers to sense the impact of each sequence enacted onscreen from the safety of their seats: you are greeted with a sudden spray of water, a vigorous shake of the seat or a ticklish feeling on your legs through sensory projectors every time Ra.One or his opponent confront each other.
The 15-minute run time, which is packed with action and special effects, ensures that you relive the story.
Then there is the 4D Krrish ride. The sight of a dimly-lit hall may not be very comforting, but all is well after you are saddled into your seat by the instructors on duty.
This is important, as the moment the show begins, the seat gradually tilts upwards to move closer to the screen and ceiling. What follows is an unreal visual trick that makes one believe they’re flying and fighting beside the superhero across various destinations.
The use of technology to simulate the sensation of flight is effective, as well as mildly terrifying because the only thing holding you back is your seatbelt (and, of course, your imagination).
Through Dubai Parks and Resorts, which also includes adrenaline-pumping rides adapted from Hollywood hits such as Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon, The Hunger Games, etc, Dubai has brought to life many superheroes.
Flooded with tourists, Dubai Parks and Resorts has already witnessed a 45% increase in footfall in the first quarter of this year, as per the data of the department of tourism, Dubai. Mohammad Al Mulla, CEO, DXB Entertainments, which operates Dubai Parks and Resorts, feels this is the result of the company’s continued focus on promoting their annual passes for local GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) residents and international visitors. While a hardcore fan could probably spend a majority of their day here, tourists wanting some respite can head to the in-house food court at Riverdale, which has cuisine-based restaurants from all over the world (if you are craving Indian fare, head to Bol Gappa).
After an eventful day of food and play, the next one spelled a different sort of adventure, as I visited some permanent migrants to the desert country. Housed in what may be one of the biggest aquariums in the world, Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo is home to various sea creatures such as the King Croc, King and Gentoo penguins, sharks, piranhas, stingray, jellyfish, sea otters, turtles, water snakes and many other rare species of fish. Walking through the tunnel-like pathway built within the aquarium, followed by a tour of the indoor zoo, one can’t deny the sensory indulgence it begets.
The other anticipated animal attraction, which opened its doors to the public in December last year, is Dubai Safari. Home to around 2,500 animals, representing more than 250 species, the habitats of these animals are split into four arenas: African, Arabian, Asian and Open Safari Village.
While Arabian and Open Safari Village can be visited from the safety of a bus, visitors are welcome to wander around African and Asian Village enclosures, home to chimpanzees, lions, lemurs and flamingos.
Much more ambitious than a zoo, Dubai Safari is said to be the home of the world’s first drive-through crocodile exhibit (the UAE’s largest aviary exhibit) and the only drive-through hippo and tiger exhibit in the region. In case travellers are left wanting for more, Dubai Safari also plans to extend a zoo-keeping course in the future.
Another man-made marvel of Goliathan proportions is, of course, the Burj Khalifa. Having lost my will to walk after two successive days of continous walking, I coaxed myself to go up to the 148th floor (sky lounge) of the towering structure. Completed in 2009, Burj Khalifa is visible from every corner of the city, be it the airport, beach, or even my hotel room, and looms over the entire city at a height of 2,720 feet.
As my ticket to the sky lounge glistened in the equally spotless waiting room, I was served coffee, perhaps to calm the nerves that would soon break loose. One may even want to hold their breath, as I did, when the elevator whizzes up to the top in less than 60 seconds. Slightly breathless, I was briefly under the impression that the building may have poked a hole in the stratosphere! But no words can capture the feeling of awe that washes over you, as you look down from the tallest structure of the world.
The view from the deck turns the assortment of skyscrapers, people, cars and nature into miniature Lego objects. Arabian music, refreshments and chatter dissipate into the backdrop, as you enjoy the view outside.
It is true that no trip to Dubai is complete without visiting the Burj Khalifa. Even long after, a tingling sensation kept creeping up on my legs to remind me of how high up I had been standing. That, however, didn’t come in the way of me hoarding duty-free candy.