BECOME OBSESSED WITH MINT LEMONADE
- This fresh take on a classic Dubai drink is a real palate pleaser
- Relax in a historic café adorned with contemporary art
- Stopover at the on-site design shop for handmade traditional garb
If Dubai has a signature beverage, it’s mint lemonade: a deceptively simple (yet magical) concoction of lemon, mint, simple syrup, and ice. Pretty much every café in town serves its own rendition of “Lemon and Mint,” but ask any in-the-know local and they will invariably point you to XVA Gallery & Café in the historic Al Bastakiya neighborhood for the best one. Why is XVA’s mint lemonade the platonic ideal of the drink? First of all, it’s blended, so it delivers a frothy hit of tangy lemon followed by a mellow bite of fresh mint with each sip. Also, comes with a stunning setting, in a covered courtyard under an ancient tree, surrounded by contemporary Middle Eastern art (the courtyard is often transformed by installations by resident artists). There also happens to be a great design shop on-site for all manner of hippie-chic jewelry, pashminas, ikat dresses, featherlight sarongs, and art books. This neighborhood, the oldest in Dubai, has tons more to explore; if you have more time to spend, check out our 5-hour itinerary.
The fastest way to get to XVA Gallery & Café is by car. Head toward the Al Fahidi neighborhood. Once on Al Fahidi Street, you’ll reach a roundabout. From here, you’ll have to go into the neighborhood on foot. Look for the wooden arched door with plaque and number 14 next to it on the right side.
SEE THE DANCING FOUNTAINS
- Watch this, an awe-inspiring show at the world’s tallest performing fountain
- Score the best views from a nearby Lebanese restaurant
- Sample your way through an Arabian wonderland of treats
Las Vegas has the famous Bellagio Fountains and Dubai has its own OTT interpretation: the Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest “performing” fountain on 30-acre Burj Lake. Where should you go to see the show? There are plenty of options—from one of the touristy restaurants at Souk Al Bahar, or from the upper reaches of Burj Khalifa, or from the busy waterside promenade. Our choice (and the locals’)? Wafi Gourmet, the Lebanese takeaway shop and restaurant at Dubai Mall. Don’t bother winding your way through the mall to get there. To save time, you can enter directly across from the lake and take a peek around before you settle in at your outside table for prime fountain viewing. Inside, you’ll find a foodie wonderland with every manner of sweet and savory Arabian delicacy on offer: smoky charcoal-grilled lamb kebabs and flavor-packed Lebanese meze as well as assorted rosewater-scented sweets. This is the place to grab culinary gifts (spices, dates, baklava, halvah, Arabian raw honey) bring back home with you. But don’t forget why you came here in the first place: the synchronized light-water-music spectacle outside. Lucky for you, there’s a show every 30 minutes from 6pm to 11pm every night.
Driving, take Dubai-Ghweifat International Highway onto Financial Centre Road. After a slight right toward Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, head left into The Dubai Mall. You’ll find Wafi Gourmet on the lower floor.
GO STRAIGHT TO THE TOP
- Admire Dubai’s landscape atop the world’s tallest skyscraper
- Dubai at dusk, with 360-degree sunsets above and the city below
- Enjoy cocktails on the 122nd floor bar, overlooking Gulf waves
Let’s get the stats out of the way, shall we? At 2,716.5 feet and more than 160 stories high (seriously, take a moment and consider that), the Burj Khalifa is the tallest skyscraper on the planet. What would prevent you from taking one of the world’s fastest elevators to the 148th floor to take in 360-degree views of Dubai and the Arabian Gulf beyond at the world’s highest outdoor observation deck? Not realizing that this is one of Dubai’s seminal experiences, for for one thing. We’re usually the first to balk at this sort of tourist magnet, but in a city like Dubai—built out of the desert through sheer will and imagination—the Burj Khalifa is a monument not to be missed. What is to be missed are the lines and crowds, which (insider tip alert) you can easily avoid by upgrading to a Fast Track ticket, available online. Best part: you can buy your passes on the website up to 30 days in advance. We suggest you time your ascent to dusk: you’ll see the sun setting over the Gulf and the city lights come twinkling to life. Plan it right and you may even catch the dancing fountains below (they do their thing every 30 minutes from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.). Prefer not to shell out for observation-deck tickets? Head to At.Mosphere on the 122nd floor of the Burj for sky-high cocktails (just make sure to reserve ahead).
If you’re driving, take Dubai-Ghweifat International Highway. Take the exit toward Financial Centre Road and merge onto Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard. At the roundabout take the second exit and Burj Khalifa will be on your right. Then, just take the elevator to the 122nd floor.
YOUR ONE-STOP SOUVENIR SHOP
- Browse a colorful collection of quirky, artisanal treasures
- Find regionally-inspired home decor, tea sets, caftans and more
- A unique shopping venue, one that engages all five senses
For travelers, half the battle—no matter where you are—is finding the right things to bring back for the people at home. Skip the cheesy tchotchkes hawked at the various souks, and definitely don’t wait to buy your souvenirs at Dubai International—your loved ones can smell an airport souvenir a mile away. Instead, make a beeline for O’de Rose, on Al Wasl Road, where two Lebanese cousins have gathered a treasure trove of quirky artisanal finds and pop-chic items from across the Middle East. This little shop is the stuff of your Arabian Nights fever dreams: a converted residential villa chockablock with colorful leather poufs, Suzani ottomans, mod pillows festooned with images of the Egyptian songstress Umm Kulthum, Arabic coffee sets, ornate Moroccan tea glasses, bohemian jewelry with Hand of Fatima motifs, and plenty of flowy caftans. You (and your friends back home) will be ever so glad you went.
The best way to get to this unique shop is by taking Dubai-Ghweifat International Highway. Follow the map to the intersection of Al Wasl and 25C, where you’ll see the store on the left. Just look for the white townhouses and you’ve found it.
- Indulge in quick-fix beauty treatments for men and women
- Finally, a perfectly executed mani-pedi in record time
- At the grooming lounge, spoil your skin with a classic wet shave
In Dubai, ladies and gentlemen alike love a quick beauty fix. And entrepreneur Negin Fattahi-Dasmal is the exacting impresario making sure locals get what they’re looking for. Her N.Bars—the first nail bars in the Middle East—do a brisk business; you can get a perfectly executed mani-pedi in just under an hour. The closest one to the Conrad is just 10 minutes away via the super-easy-to-navigate Dubai Metro. Head to the station directly in front of the hotel, buy your round-trip ticket at the booth, and take the train one stop on the Red Line toward the Jebel Ali to Emirates Towers Metro Station. From there, walk on 13th Street to Emirates Tower 1, where you’ll find N.Bar on the main floor. In the same complex, you’ll find N.Bar’s male-centric equivalent: 1847 Grooming Lounge, where Dubai’s well-groomed executives go to be hot-toweled, masqued, and massaged. In their Traditional Barber Shop clients can receive a classic wet shave, beard or mustache trim, and even a 15-minute hair and scalp treatment (a great value at under $15).
Starting from 308th Road, go around the roundabout and take the second exit onto Za’abeel, then onto Al Sa’ada. At the next roundabout, take the first exit. There, nestled among Jumeirah Emirates Towers, you’ll find N. Bar and 1847.