Louise Prance checks out what Dubai has to offer newlyweds, and isn't disappointed…
Post-wedding, many new brides just want to wind down from the big-day build up in comfort and style. Step up Dubai. What it lacks in cute back-street cafés, it certainly makes up for in luxurious hotels and resorts, unlimited shopping, impressive sky scrapers and an endless range of watersports. If it's rest and relaxation you're after, this is the place for you.
The first thing you notice when stepping off the plane at Dubai International Airport is the manner of dress – Ibiza or Zante this is not. A strict Muslim country, there's a wide variety of cultures living in and visiting Dubai and, despite the large ex-pat community that resides in the city, the Islamic code of practice is observed, so be sure to bring a cover-up. Although the dress code is more relaxed in the tourist areas, resorts and nightclubs, it still pays to be respectful. The second thing is the heat. Ever wondered what it would be like to step into your oven mid-Sunday roast? Visit Dubai and you'll get some idea. Thanks to the plethora of high-rise buildings and beautiful coastline it's easy to forget you're slap bang in the middle of the desert; the face-melting heat, however, will quickly remind you.
Stepping into our air-conditioned vehicle, we set off on the 40-minute journey to our first destination, the JA Oasis Beach Tower Apartments. After leaving our bags with the concierge we headed to Thyme restaurant for a well-received buffet dinner. With a variety of stations offering a wide range of food, including roast dinner complete with Yorkshires, continental favorites and a delicious dessert table, there was something to entice even the fussiest of eaters. After a quick drink in the attached sports bar, we set off upstairs to take in our rooms, and by room I mean a four-bedroom apartment complete with a kitchen the size of my house, a lounge to rival it and a balcony overlooking the endless blue sea. Heaven. Also offering one- and two-bedroom suites, the hotel is the ideal location for newlyweds looking for the independence of a self catering apartment combined with the amenities of a stylish hotel, including roof-top swimming pool, bar and a choice of restaurants.
With its clean beaches, luxurious hotel pools and diverse range of eateries, Dubai is made for relaxation. If it wasn't for the construction work sometimes blighting your view of the sea, it's pretty near perfect for those seeking fun in the sun. An afternoon of indulgence awaited us at the sister hotel to the JA Oasis Beach Tower, the JA Ocean View Hotel. The impressive modern lobby leads to a stunning infinity pool, well equipped spa and numerous restaurants and bars. If you fancy watching the match on your trip (and who doesn't on their honeymoon…) then Girders Sports Bar is not a bad spot for a post-dinner beer, while those after a more romantic setting should head to the decadent and sultry Whistlers wine bar on the 25th floor complete with wrap-around balcony.
Foodie couples will no doubt want to head straight to the Brazilian Fogo Vivo restaurant for their first-night meal, which offers a meat-tasting menu with a difference. While you whet your taste buds on the buffet, the waiters will give you a card with one green side and one red. They will then proceed to bring round more meat than you can possibly imagine, checking your card each time – put it on the green side, they know you're ready for more, red side up, they know you're done. I didn't give the red side a chance, it was simply too delicious.
After an indulgent meal the night before, a sedate day of sightseeing might be just the ticket, and what better way than on an air-conditioned bus complete with knowledgeable tour guide? Want to know your Sheikh Mohammed from your Sheikh Khalifa? This tour gives you that information and much more. Travelling around the city with a few pit stops, it's a great way to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the souqs – remember to take something to cover your shoulders, and an electric hand-held fan to survive the overwhelming heat – learn the history and culture of the mosques and get up close and personal with the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. While some people may balk at spending their first days as husband and wife ascending a tall building, it's not just any tall building, and the views from the top are spectacular. And if you're feeling a bit peckish during your trip, why not try Atmosphere, a fine dining experience on level 122? Just don't look down mid-starter.
After a few days in the thick of things, it was nice to venture to the outskirts of the city for a bit of peace, quiet and pampering, and if there's one thing Dubai offers newlyweds, it's luxury on a grand scale. The Palm Tree Court resort has everything any couple could need, all in one place. Whether you want to swim in one of the numerous pools, relax on the pristine beach, or eat at one of the restaurants, your every whim is catered for. A highlight of my stay was definitely the speedboat tour. With an extensive watersports centre, the adrenaline-pumping tour offers a view of the city's skyline from the water. Travelling at a rate of knots before a meander through the harbor to check out the waterside cafés, and finally heading back at high speed, this ride brings a whole new meaning to blow-dry – let's just say my hair looked interesting once we returned to dry land. Ideal for thrill-seekers, a camera is a must for some envy-inducing snaps to send home. And if that wasn't enough we hotfooted it straight from the boat to the slightly more sedate Great Martha – an inflatable donut pulled behind a speedboat. Belly laughs guaranteed, not least for the attractive helmets required (there goes the 'do' again), it's just one of the sports on offer, with wake boarding, sailing and paddle boarding to name a few. If you can drag yourself away from the comfy sun loungers, they're definitely worth a try. If watersports aren't your thing, perhaps a trip to the equestrian centre or golf course, a spot of clay pigeon shooting, or a private tennis lesson might be more up your street?
Either way, after a busy time experimenting on water or land, dinner at the White Orchid restaurant, which specialises in Asian fusion, is a glamorous end to a jam-packed day. Boasting sumptuous décor befitting the luxurious setting, if the tasting menu is anything to go by the food is mouth-wateringly good, and definitely sees you through to the delicious buffet breakfast.
As an extra treat we rounded off our fun stay with a trip to the tranquil spa, which offers a range of treatments from a European massage – one I thoroughly recommend, if my stiff muscles can be unknotted, yours certainly can – to a traditional Thai massage. Followed up with some quiet time in the relaxation room, I can't imagine a better way to round off a dream honeymoon. Although I did manage to fit in one more cheeky cocktail at the swim-up bar.