Flamingos, hip hop and pearl diving tea room adventures in Dubai

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • PA to Editor-in-Chief Caroline Garland stays at the brand new 5 star Renaissance hotel in Dubai and finds amazing wildlife and the Middle East’s craziest party

    Why go:  I’ve got to be honest when this trip came up I was slightly reticent about my feelings towards this city, it’s not in my top 10, (top 50 even!) of places to see: it’s too flash, too fake and way too many laws and regulations. But standing on the 25th floor of our hosting hotel admiring the sun setting behind the sci-fi like skyline, the Burj Khalifa towering above every other building, this Marvel film set of a city had me immediately interested. I just had to look at it from a new perspective: it’s a brand new city, that’s exciting.

    The reason for my pessimism is that I lived in Tehran and Bahrain as a kid. Having experienced living within the fabric of Arabic culture, I love the Middle East and my memories of walking the dog across the desert, parents dragging us around the chaotic souks. With this opportunity I wanted to look beyond the 7 star service and the biggest shopping mall in the world… there must be more, no?


    Spices in Old Dubai

    When:  All year, although the summer is seriously hot with temperatures hitting 40 plus degrees, November to April is hot but more temperate, around 25 to 30 degrees.

    You really must:  Take a 20 min taxi out to the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary to see the flamingos.  Unlike many things in Dubai this is a natural migration point for flamingos.  The birds are beautifully weird with their back to front knees and pretty pink plumage, always make me think they surely escaped from a Roald Dahl book. You can watch them feeding and preening among the grasses of this wetland. The viewing point is fenced off to protect the area but there are strong binoculars to get a close up view. It’s free and good food for the soul: I loved every second of it.

    Dine at:  There’s a good culinary scene in Dubai from street food to fine dining, even car themed restaurants (what?) but something much more immersive is a local boat (abra) trip along the creek to old Dubai.  Getting out of downtown to see where local people live and eat is an afternoon spent ambling through spice and gold souks, walking along alleys adorned with vibrant, almost neon flower wall hangings, miles of bead necklaces and fabrics. The mosaic patterns, the trees and plants swaying in the hot breeze, it’s a tour by local people showing real life in the city.  We stopped at a family run tea-room, originally a pearl diving family who have now opened up their home as a tea room serving traditional Arabic breakfast and tea.  The food was lots of small dishes mezze style, salads, the best chickpea dish I’ve ever tasted, flame charred bread, a houmous like dip and washed down with an ice cold green juice.  The 3pm sun beating down we lounged under a white canopy with vines woven between, sitting alongside groups of girls dressed in their black abayas laughing and gossiping, this felt real. See Frying Pan Adventures Culinary Tours.


    Enjoying a delicious mezze

    Stay at: Renaissance Downtown Hotel, a brand new offering from the luxury hotel group with 298 rooms (65 of which are suites). The standard room is larger than you would get in London, the bed pretty much the size of my actual bedroom at home, the bathroom has echoes of a NY loft apartment, huge bath and wet room size shower unit. The colour palette of neutrals and natural is relaxing, inviting and the view across the city whichever side you stay are a sci-fi-scape. The hotel is a destination for food lovers with three high flying restaurants – Japanese celebrity Chef Masaharu has opened his first U.A.E. restaurant while Chef David Myers has BASTA serving dishes typical of a Roman trattoria, and BHAR, the Arabic word for spice, serving the very best Middle Eastern cuisine.


    One of the amazing rooms at the new Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai

    ‘The spectacular new Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai is theatrical, unexpected and sets the stage for discovering Dubai’s newest neighbourhood,’ said Brian Povinelli, Senior Vice President & Global Brand Leader, Renaissance Hotels. ‘With it’s bold, artful design, vibrant global dining scene and engaging experiences around every corner, the hotel embraces a spirit that inspires guests to discover something wonderfully new every time they travel.’

    You have to make use of the RNavigators desk. If you have any questions about the city, where to go, need a car booking, find out the best beaches, basically anything they’ll arrange for you. It’s how we discovered the flamingos!

    Deluxe Rooms start from 799 AED per room, per night. These rates are excluding Full Breakfast Buffet and subject to the applicable taxes (10% service charge, 10% municipality charge, 5% VAT and 20 Dirham Tourism fee, per room, per night). Suite rates are starting at 1.399 AED per suite, per night excluding Full Breakfast Buffet and the earlier mentioned taxes.

    For more information and reservations, contact +971 4 512 5555 or visit the website

    Don’t miss: Clubland is my spiritual home: I’ve booked trips to Berlin, New York and Tokyo just to see what their scenes had to offer, so exploring the nightlife here was high on the to do list. There’s a good party scene in Dubai!
    We headed straight to the one with the biggest names and wildest crowds: enter Cirque le Soir Dubai. Younger than its more outrageous London sister, they fly in the worlds best hip-hop DJs to heat the dancefloor, girls and boys party like they own the city, Ace champagne shows, iced Ciroc vodka on tables, teasing performers and rooms to play in. It was a crazy night not to be missed, dress up, be cool and you’ll breeze through the door.


    Inside Cirque Le Soir Dubai


    The Infamous Boom Boom at Cirque Le Soir Dubai

    Book now: We flew with Emirates and started our trip by booking into the No.1 Lounge Clubrooms at Gatwick South Terminal, at £40 per head in advance (or £50 on the day) you escape the crowds and can order from the complimentary menu and bar. No queues, avoid the airport pub and instead enjoy a 5 star hotel lobby style environment, a glass of Prosecco and a club sandwich was brunch sorted before heading to the gate. Open from 4am to 10pm.

    Reading now