There is no doubt that Dubai sits in the middle of a desert, the vast ‘beigeness’ of it was the first thing to strike me as our plane circled the airport. From initial impressions it’s easy to assume that lovers of colour, like me, will struggle in such a neutral landscape, but in fact the opposite is true – Not only can you find colour in Dubai’s rich cultural and culinary heritage, it’s urban and natural environment is full of colour too, you just need to change your perspective.
Dubai from Above
On my latest trip to Dubai I was fortunate to have several aerial experiences to view the city and it’s surrounds from above. As well as the thrill of being high up, which I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I absolutely love, a most surprising thing happened. As I looked at the city from above with a bird’s eye view, a patchwork of colour emerged and transformed my impression of Dubai from a beige city of sand, to a city with hidden rainbows. When you get off the ground, bursts of colour pop out like little visual gems hidden from plain view, a gift for those of us willing to look with fresh eyes.
Click on gallery images to enlarge
The turquoise colour of the waters of the Arabian Gulf are very dominant in the landscape of Dubai not only in the sea (obviously) but also as a preferred paint colour for vehicles, boats and buildings in the city’s industrial areas. The Dubai fountain is also tiled in turquoise blue, which makes it stand out vibrantly from the built up environment surrounding it.
Dubai isn’t very well known for it’s green spaces but as the city expands, parks and more green landscaping are being incorporated into it’s urban planning. A band of green runs along the Dubai creek in the form of public parks, sports grounds and golf courses. New housing estates are marketed on how verdant they are, and surprisingly, little patches of green pop up in the desert where wells have been dug to tap into pockets of ground water.
Dubai is famous for it’s gold, the elemental kind. There is a whole souk filled with stores displaying magnificent jewellery, I’ve never seen so much gold in my life. Gold leaf is a common decor feature and you will even find some of it on your food if you eat at a fancy place. But the prettiest gold I’ve seen is the colour of the desert sand as the sun hits it in the morning, and the sparkling gold reflection on the Dubai creek as the sun sets.
At dawn and dusk the sky is transformed with a wash of pink that reflects off the sand and buildings making if feel like you are wearing rose tinted glasses. I’m not normally an early riser so my experiences of sunrises are limited, but some of the best I’ve seen in my life have been in Dubai over the desert from a hot air balloon. Read about my previous hot air balloon experience last year with it’s surprise landing.
Getting up there
Here is everything you need to know about how to get up high in Dubai, no matter what your budget.
It’s the tallest building in the world with the world’s highest viewing deck, in fact it’s so tall that you can watch the sunset from the base of the building, get into one of the world’s fastest elevators right to the top, and watch the sunset all over again.
Do this for: Views of the downtown area, over the desert and the Arabian Gulf
Price: There are 2 viewing deck experiences to choose from and prices for adults start at AED 125 (around U$34)
– Entrance is in the Dubai Mall and is timed in 30min intervals, pre-booking is recommended during busy periods.
– Strollers and shopping bags must stored in Check Room (no charge).
– Free WiFi is available for those all important Insta selfies.
– The entire At the Top experience is wheelchair accessible.
Book tickets here www.burjkhalifa.ae
Truly a once in a lifetime experience, you take off to meet the sun as it rises over the Arabian desert and fills the sky with light. The early morning provides the best flying conditions. The cool and serene ambience enhances the breathtaking views and incredible desert landscapes.
Do this for: Spectacular sunrise views over the Arabian Desert. Spotting wildlife such as oryx, gazelles and wandering camels.
Price: Adults AED 995 per person (around U$270). Children (5 to 12 years) AED 850
– Be prepared for an early wake up call. Our pick up was at 5am. Don’t be late, as the flights are wind dependent, the pilot may need to take off without you.
– Wear comfortable clothing, and a light sweater for the morning chill. No skirts or heels, climbing in to the basket requires agility. No bags are allowed in the basket so wear something with pockets.
– All of the balloon pilots hold European licenses and the balloons undergo a strict maintenance program.
– Transfers and refreshments on landing are included, souvenir video can be purchased as an optional extra.
– Children must be over 120cm to fly.
Book tickets here www.ballooning.ae
Seawings sea plane tours take off and land from the Dubai Creek and fly over all of Dubai’s iconic engineering feats and architectural landmarks. Every seat has a great view and if you are lucky you may get to sit next to the pilot.
Do this for: Incredible aerial views of Dubai including The Palm, The World Islands and the iconic Burj Al Arab. Amazing photo opportunities.
Price: Start at around AED 1,695 (U$460) pp adults, child 2-12 AED 1,440
– Children from the ages of 0 to 12 can fly with Seawings, as long as they are accompanied by a paying adult. Infants under 2yo fly free.
– You will need to bring your passport as it’s a requirement to check-in.
Book tickets here www.seawings.ae
“This post was brought to you in collaboration with Dubai Tourism. I was an invited guest of Ballooning UAE, Seawings Dubai and At the Top Burj Khalifa with an obligation to share my experiences in exchange for the opportunity. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own”