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In photos, videos: 10 unique experiences to try in Dubai |

Travel and Tourism

In photos, videos: 10 unique experiences to try in Dubai

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo -
In photos, videos: 10 unique experiences to try in Dubai
The world's highest skyscraper, The Burj Khalifa (left); Deep Dive Dubai is the world's deepest swimming pool (top right); desert glamping includes more than camel rides (bottom right).
The Burj Khalifa, Deep Dive Dubai, / Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

DUBAI — Whether it is kissing your ex in a fabulous ball gown like Carrie Bradshaw did in “Sex & The City 2,” or feasting over a pile of gold along with belly dancers like in “Arabian Nights,” the mystical charm of the Middle East never ceases to tickle the fantasy.

Although there are exactly no flying carpets and PDA (public display of affection) is outlawed here, Dubai is the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) most popular tourism emirate that like in “Alladin,” offers “a whole new world” to anyone looking for new adventures.

1. Walk on Burj Khalifa’s glass ceiling simulator

You might not be as brave as Tom Cruise when he scaled the 2,722-foot Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building and structure, for 2011 film “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” But you can experience a very safe, indoor simulation of one of Cruise’s deadly stunts – and even prank your friends as if you’re in danger of falling off from the world’s highest skyscraper.

That is thanks to a very high-tech walk-through video simulator at the Burj’s 125th floor observation deck. You can video yourself trudging the glass-ceiling simulator with realistic footage of the clouds, traffic and other buildings below — until the simulator seems to crack.

Likewise, you can observe what the Burj’s surroundings look like from day to night through telescopes that also flash realistic images.

At the 124th floor is At the Top, the world’s highest outdoor observation deck, where you can feel the arid desert breeze sweeping across the Burj, while perhaps, trying your luck in taking a selfie with its topmost spire.

Take a picture of your little angel with Dubai's skyline amid an angel wings backdrop painted by a local artist. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
Glittering Dubai skyline as seen from Burj Khalifa Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
Try to include the tip of the Burj into your photos Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo


From left: The fountain and lights show outside the Burj; the world's highest skyscraper illuminates during the lights show. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

If you want to experience the real glass walk, then head to Dubai Frame. It is advisable to book one’s entrance tickets to both Burj Khalifa and Dubai Frame via travel apps like Klook since these tourist spots only accept a limited number of visitors per day, and so tickets cannot be guaranteed for walk-ins. Alternatively, there is also an observation deck that one can visit to take pictures of Dubai’s artificial archipelago, The Palm Jumeirah.

Dubai Frame Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
Burj Al Arab, a luxury hotel with posh accommodations and dining, best known for its sail-shaped architecture. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

2. Hug a penguin in Ski Dubai

While visitors are not allowed to take pictures while embracing the penguins, they can cuddle these adorable fur babies behind-the-scenes. The one facing the wall is Wally - named as such because he loves staring at walls, said the penguins' Filipino trainer. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

While many attractions around the world offer personal interactions and petting with penguins, Ski Dubai is among the rare ones that allow you to not only take pictures but even hug these “Happy Feet” from Antarctica!

Ski Dubai is one of the world’s biggest indoor ski resorts located inside one of Earth’s largest malls, Mall of the Emirates. Under its care are the world’s second and third biggest penguins — King and Gentoo penguins. There are time slots, usually only in the morning, that allow one to reserve an audience with the penguins, who are well under the care of their proud Filipino trainers!

To save time and to avoid queues, it is advisable to book tickets to Ski Dubai alone or as discounted bundle with other attractions through travel app Klook.

Besides penguin interaction and shows, there are many things to do in Ski Dubai — including riding quad lifts, learning how to ski, going on a snow tubing and watching a movie in the recently opened Snow Cinema — hot chocolate included!

It feels like it's forever winter even during summer in Dubai when you ride one of these quad lifts in Ski Dubai. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
It is mind-boggling how Ski Dubai, which is in the middle of a desert, can maintain an 85-meter indoor mountain (equivalent to a 25-storey building) filled with 22,500 sq/m of snow all year round! Insiders say learning to ski here is far cheaper than in Europe or US, so foreigners wanting to learn how to ski flock here. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
The newly opened Snow Cinema, where you can watch movies in the middle of a winter wonderland, recently opened beside the Zorb ball park. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

3. Let a robot barista make your coffee in Museum of the Future

Like in Burj Khalifa and Dubai Frame, entrance to the Museum of the Future should be booked in advance for weeks ahead via travel booking apps like Klook. But if you can’t get in because you cannot secure a slot to the museum on your travel date, don’t fret. 

You can still have a taste of the futuristic museum — literally — by ordering a coffee brew from the museum’s robot barista in the lobby café.

Museum of the Future interior and exterior Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

4. Go on a traditional Arabic photo session

Be in character as an Arabian Nights king and/or queen by having a photo session like this in Dubai Mall. Every souvenir photo costs 100 AED per print, with a QR code for soft copies included. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

Want to know how it feels like to be an Emirati? There are photo booths inside Dubai Mall offering the complete Arabian Nights experience — backdrop, props and costumes and all — at least just in photos.

But unlike usual studio snaps, the session includes some pointers on Arabic customs and traditions — including the meaning of things and poses in local Arabic culture. 

If having your pictures taken is not your thing, there are a lot of other things to try in Dubai Mall — including watching the dinner lights and fountain show outside Burj Khalifa; designing your own Lego bricks in the Lego Store; getting a personalized rainbow cotton candy or candy swirl in Candylicious, or going on a tea break at the posh Armani Hotel.

Burj Khalifa replica set in Lego inside the Lego Store (left); kids enjoying on a glass walk over a giant alligator (center and bottom, right) and manta rays (top, right) in Dubai Aquarium, the world's largest suspended aquarium. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

5. Have a ‘Shark Bite' 

According to Gulf News, Dubai is home to the largest population of Filipinos in the UAE (about half a million or 22% of the emirate’s entire population), and as such, it is not only chock-full with Filipinos at every corner — even locals and other foreign nationals speak some Filipino and Filipinos’ products and stores are everywhere! 

So apart from “ukay-ukay,” Chowking in food courts or Century Tuna cans and Boy Bawang in convenience stores, many seafood restaurants in Dubai have adopted the Filipino food concept of “dampa” or eating freshly cooked seafood with your hands.

Among the Dubai restaurants that have that "dampa" vibe is Joe’s Crab Shack, which offers the “Shark Bite” – a mocktail that involves spewing red-colored orange juice into blueberry soda – a fun yet a bit gory drink reminiscent of “Jaws.” It is best enjoyed as a refreshment to a boodle fight featuring fresh local catch, including the exotic half-shrimp, half-lobster carnivorous mantis shrimp.

A sample boodle fight in Joe's Crab Shack in Dubai Mall Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

6. Dive into the world’s deepest swimming pool

Deep Dive Dubai contains 14 million liters of water - big enough to fit one Boeing 777, 15 buses, 32 cars or over 10 humpback whales. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

If feeding manta rays or ogling marine animals in Dubai Aquarium is not enough to satiate your thirst for the sea, then fulfill your mermaid dreams in the world’s biggest swimming pool, Deep Dive Dubai, which just opened last year.

Deep Dive Dubai’s 60-meter pool offers many underwater sceneries set in a sunken building theme. Apart from diving to explore its tunnels that include otherworldly landspaces such as space ship and medieval ruins, children and adult swimmers can also enjoy underwater photography and learn new skills like freediving and professional equalizing.

If you don’t want to get wet, then you can also check out the facility’s posh black-and-white basement restaurant with seats stationed by several themes in the pool. 

Equalize restaurant in Deep Dive Dubai basement Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

7. Try the camel milk ice cream in Spice Souk

Water taxis provide free rides to Old Dubai, which preserves the emirate's traditional houses and look. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

If you’re still feeling hot after spending the entire day swimming, you can cool down by trying the very creamy, camel-milk based ice cream in Spice Souk. The sprawling Textile Souk has so many local, Indian and other stores offering traditional Moslem women’s dress Abaya; but at night, it is mostly men who are selling and buying these Abayas for their wives.

If you have money to burn, the Gold Souk is where you can buy pure gold bars. Sellers are usually honest on how much gold or diamonds are in the jewelry; and they’d even give you free water and candy!

Some of the shops that can be found in Gold Souk Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

8. Versace on the floor

Dubai, our tour guide quipped, also means “do buy.” It stays true to this as a luxury fashion haven. Recently, the rare collaboration collection between Italian fashion houses Fendi and Versace was only made available in very few locations, and Dubai is one of them.

After shopping for exclusive luxury brand collections, you can maybe take a respite or have some afternoon tea at the classy Palazzo Versace, where you can enjoy everything Versace — on the floor, on the chocolates, and on the pool with a view.

Palazzo Versace Dubai is one of only two Versace hotels in the world so far — the other one is in Gold Coast, Australia. Another one in Macao, however, is in the works.

9. Have an exclusive train ride in IMG Worlds

If you're lucky - that is, if there very few visitors on your day of visit - you can have an exclusive train tour of IMG Worlds, which is already included in the entrance ticket. Kids three and below can enter the park for free. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

If all that spending makes you guilty, don’t worry because apart that you can apply for a tax rebate, you can donate your extra food to charity before entering the IMG Worlds theme park.

While a no match to any Disneyland park in terms of scale and rides, IMG Worlds is where kids and kids at heart can ride Cartoon Network- and Marvel-themed rides, bond with mascots from these franchises, and also enjoy food inspired by the cartoon characters. A chunk of the park has dinosaur-themed rides, while a portion is for the haunted house. 

If you’re lucky, you can have the train all for yourself and it would tour you to see the entire park, which is also adjacent to an IMAX theater that is arguably one of the best places in Dubai to watch new movies in 3D.

IMG Worlds interior facade Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
Exclusive train tour of the entire park Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
Marvel-themed rides and shops Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
Powerpuff Girls-themed ice cream parlor in the Cartoon Network-themed zone Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
Powerpuff Girls ride (left) and mascots (right) in the Cartoon Network zone Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo
Filipino magicians performing in an Arabian Nights-themed Bollywood show Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

10. Go on a desert 'glamping'

Wild camels and traditional mud brick homes are among the sights to see in a wild desert safari while on a desert 'glamping' site. Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

If Lawrence of Arabia is your hero growing up, then a night at the desert is a must!

There are many glamping resorts in and nearby Dubai — ranging from modern ones with Zorb ball tents and spas, to traditional ones that enable one to sleep in traditional Arabic tents and interact with local Bedouin tribes. 

Apart from camel riding, these glamour campsites offer other exciting activities such as dune bashing, motor biking, sand surfing, sand painting, game meat barbecue nights (including deer and/or camel meat) and falconry — the art of training Dubai’s cultural icon, the falcon!

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