It is hard to believe that until recently the site of modern day Dubai consisted of arid desert. In the 1960s, a newly oil-based economy sparked an attempt to wrench a lagging region into the modern world, and culminated in a West-modelled metropolis being constructed as if out of thin air. Today, Dubai is a wonderland of soaring buildings, labyrinthine malls and ultramodern architecture - a veritable SimCity with a population of 7.8 million expatriates.
Once you have anchored your superyacht in the state of the art marina, it is time to check into one of Dubai’s ultraluxe resorts or hotels. Many of these are concentrated on Palm Jumeirah, the tree-shaped archipelago whose birdseye aspect has made Dubai famous. At the apex of this landmark is a staggering staple of the Dubai skyline: Atlantis the Palm. Mythological architecture meets kitsch, under-the-sea decor in this palatial resort, and it’s perfect for a one night stay.
Your first day anchored in Dubai should be spent enjoying all that Palm Jumeirah has to offer. The artificial island boasts a waterpark, two pools and a mile of archetypal white sand beach, not to mention a lagoon where you can swim with dolphins. The ultimate adrenaline trip - skydiving above the unique landmass - is at your fingertips, and the archipelago is overflowing with high-end dining spots such as Nobu and 101 Dining Lounge. Yachting is a perfectly acceptable way to get around Palm Jumeirah, with the Dubai International Boat Show running here from 25th February-1st March.
On your second day, visiting Burj Khalifa is a must. At 830m, this is the tallest building in existence, and an observation deck on the 124th floor provides breathtaking aerial views. At its base lies Dubai Fountain - in the supersized spirit of the city, this light and music choreographed water feature is the largest in the world. Another UAE institution is the Dubai Mall, a retail utopia that sprawls across 502,000 square metres and famously harbours an Olympic-size ice skating rink. It is a browsing and buying bonanza of such magnitude that it hosts its own ‘shopping festival’ in January and February.
Today’s Dubai might be a destination best known for putting ski slopes inside shopping centres, but behind the glitz and glamour there is an ancient realm steeped in culture. Traditional gold, spice and textile souks are located around Dubai Creek, and visitors can encounter the region’s past as a sleepy fishing village in the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.
There is something inherently fascinating about a desert outpost-turned-urban Shangri-la. Dubai represents a fantasy realised, and appreciators of luxury should not miss the chance to charter this outlandish metropolis, even if it is only for 48 hours!