About Sasha H
Lives in Healey, United Kingdom
Since Jan 2015
I’ve swum with wild dolphins in the Maldives, fed baby kangaroos in Australia, spent hours in the shopping malls of Dubai and crash-landed a hot-air balloon in Poland – having spent the last decade travelling and freelancing, I am a joyful, nosy traveller, always meeting new experiences head on. I enjoy digging into the culture, listening to what’s happening around me and taking thousands of photos on the way. Thanks to two decades of travelling extensively through Europe, the Middle and Far East and the Caribbean, I know the cities and countries I write about inside out. And even though I live in the Yorkshire Dales – surely the most beautiful place on earth – I never lose my enthusiasm for skiing in Zermatt, visiting my favourite cities in Italy and Poland or discovering new places to shop in Dubai.
Architectural buildings, Observation decks & towers
Historic walking areas
Museums, History museums
Piers & boardwalks
Safaris, Cultural tours, Walking tours, 4WD, ATV & off-road tours
Dubai is the undisputed queen of shopping and Dubai Mall is the glitziest of them all. Complete with waterfalls, an aquarium and zoo, a multitude of restaurants, an ice rink, kids’ play areas, multiplex cinemas, and 1,200 stores; Dubai Mall is also the world’s largest one-stop entertainment destination. It has pole position in downtown Dubai, right underneath the Burj Khalifa (the tallest man-made building in the world) and next to the Dubai Fountain. Key shops include Bloomingdales, Galeries Lafayette, and Marks & Spencer; there’s a gold souk to dazzle even the weariest of shoppers and designer stores, from Gucci to Armani, on Fashion Avenue.
The Aquarium is on the ground floor of the Dubai Mall and has a 51m walk-through tunnel in which 33,000 sharks, manta rays, and eels swim endlessly above the heads of gaping shoppers. There’s a marine zoo with crocs, colonies of penguins, and otters, and a choice of experiences from a glass-bottomed boat ride behind the scenes in the aquarium, as well as caged shark dives and fish feeding.
Eat lunch in a traditional Lebanese restaurant right by the spectacular waterfall in the Dubai Mall atrium. Pick a mezze from hummus, stuffed vine leaves, falafel and garlicky aubergine, or try the grilled lamb kebabs from the wood-fired oven, accompanied by the freshest of fruit juices.
The elegant bronze-and-glass spike of the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 828 meters, and has three observation decks, including the world’s highest at 148 floors high up in the sky. Elevators whisk visitors to the 'at the top' observation deck on Level 124 at 10m per second to see a pocket-sized Dubai, Arabian Gulf, and the desert laid out below.
Connected to the Dubai Mall by bridge on the lower ground floor, the Souk al Bahar is designed in Arabic style to resemble an ancient souk. It’s full of quality souvenir shops offering expensive carpets, brass and copperware, shishas, art galleries, and traditional fashions. The souk also has a great choice of upscale cocktail bars and dining options, from seafood at Bice Mare to fine Arabic dishes at Al Malouf — both have terraces overlooking the Burj Lake.
This smart, top-end fish restaurant has a gorgeous open-air terrace overlooking the Burj Khalifa, which is lit up like a space station at night. Signature dishes include salmon carpaccio, great steaming bowls of mussels, and sushi plates to share. There’s also a decent list of Italian wines.
As this is Dubai, of course the Dubai Fountain is the biggest and most impressive dancing fountain in the world, with 6,600 lights stretching for 275m over the Burj Lake. Performances are every 30 minutes between 6pm and 11pm, with choreographed water jets shooting 150m into the air, 'dancing' in time to well-known classical tunes and world music.
Two of Dubai’s many heritage projects are found side by side in Shindagha at the mouth of the creek; here displays in restored barasti houses (made from palm-tree leaves and mud) highlight ancient Emirati life. The Heritage Village showcases ancient crafts, from pottery to cooking and weaving, while the Diving Village examines Dubai’s pearl-diving industry, which brought much wealth into the emirate.
On the west side of the Creek in Bur Dubai, Bastakia (now known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood) is a charming conservation area of beautifully restored sandstone houses. Their distinctive wind towers were used as primitive air conditioning to counteract the stifling desert heat. Nowadays its shaded lanes and palm-fringed courtyards hide smart art galleries, edgy cafes, traditional open-air restaurants, and expensive design shops.
This is the best place in the city to glimpse Dubai pre-oil and pre-tourist, and to witness the city's transformation in mere decades. Located among the neon and noise of Bur Dubai, the museum romps through the history of the UAE with a range of Middle Eastern weaponry; dioramas of a souk, a mosque; and an oasis showing the former lifestyles of Bedouin nomads. There are thoughtful displays on the pearl-diving industry and traditional fishing by dhow in the Arabian Gulf too.
Join the locals and jump aboard a traditional wooden abra to cross Dubai Creek from Bur Dubai to Deira. The Creek is where life began in the emirate and it’s still the hub of its commercial activity, with wooden dhows docking up and disgorging their cargo haphazardly on the quayside.
The spice and perfume souks in Deira are hidden away among a tangle of backstreets, whereas Dubai’s most famous market is quite simply bling central — the gold souk glitters and shimmers, its arcaded streets teeming with life. The prices are reasonable and the quality of gold on sale is consistently high; haggling is all part of the deal and to ensure that you’re not ripped off, anything you buy should be fully authenticated and certificated — feel free to walk out of the store if you’re not happy with a purchase.
As far away from frenetic Deira as imaginable, this spectacular, beachfront Arabian-inspired resort neatly combines the heritage of old Arabia with the comforts of today's modern Dubai. Madinat Jumeirah comprises three five-star hotels, an upmarket souk selling classy gifts, nightclubs, theater, and fine -dining restaurants sprinkled throughout the complex; they are all linked Venetian-style by canals serviced by abras. Take your pick of venues and settle in for the night.
And finally, a chance to see how Dubai has triumphed over geographical adversity. Run out of space? Simply build an island! Dubai’s biggest waterpark is Aquaventure at the Atlantis Hotel, stunningly located on the man-made island of The Palm, whose artificial fronds jut out into the Arabian Gulf. Aquaventure has dozens of water rides from family-friendly to seriously scary, feeding sessions with manta rays, and close encounters with dolphins; both of these need to be booked in advance. There are fruit and water stalls scattered around the park plus self-service kiosks offering tempting dosa or noodle lunchtime fillers.
Only the UAE could turn the desert into a tourist attraction — and what a way to wind up a whirlwind visit to Dubai. Afternoon desert-adventure tours include dune bashing at Big Red, sand boarding, or hot-air ballooning over the dunes as the sun goes down. For a Dubai finale, join a traditional Bedouin feast in a nomadic encampment, complete with belly dancing, henna tattoos, and camel rides.