Exploring the Madinat, Dubai

30 September 2016

When you're in Dubai, it's often easy to forget that you're in a traditional middle eastern country, as the modern architecture and glistening lights play tricks on your mind. However, if you ever find yourself in Dubai, I strongly encourage you to get out of town and explore some of the more traditional areas of the city. Failing that, the Madinat is a good place to start. The Madinat is a 5* resort hotel (although you'd never know it was a hotel if you weren't staying there), the largest of it's kind in Dubai, spanning over 40 hectares of landscapes and gardens. 

Described as one of Dubai's most attractive developments, I just had to see this contemporary interpretation of a traditional Arab village for myself, complete with traditional souk, palm-lined waterways and traditional arabic architecture. My main reason for visiting the Madinat, was to see the traditional Souk Madinat Jumierah - a maze-like bazaar filled with quirky shops lining traditional wooden walkways. If you want to pick up something unique to remember your time in Dubai, then a visit to the Souk is a must. We chose to visit the Souk Madinat instead of the traditional gold and spice souks as we wanted to combine our visit to the souk with dinner and drinks and the stunning view of the Burj Al Arab before heading back to the airport that night. 

As I said, one of the Madinat's selling points to me was the stunning views you get of the Burj al Arab, surrounded by palm trees and traditional buildings...there's no view like it in Dubai. If you're going to head to the Madinat for the view alone, then go for sunset like I did. You'll get to watch the bright sunshine fade into dusk, and when night falls, that's when the view really gets interesting. The Madinats waterways are lined with restaurants, perfect for taking in the view and watching the mesmerising colours of the Burj al Arab during nightfall. 

Whilst we'd initially gone to the Madinat to explore the Souks and take in the view, we couldn't leave without trying some of it's culinary delights. Before dinner we headed over to Trader Vicks for a cocktail (...or two!) as it was happy hour, and if you've been to Dubai then you'll know how pricey drinks can be! After drinks we strolled on over to Segreto, a beautiful italian restaurant right by the waterways. Despite the 35 degree hear (even at night!) we decided on our last night we should sit outside, as it's unlikely we'll be feeling the sun on our skin for another few months living in England. The staff at Segreto were wonderful and so attentive, and I had the best spaghetti bolognese of my life (yes, I know, what a boring choice...I'm a fussy eater!)...If you visit the Madinat, you have to dine here. 

If you're planning a trip to Dubai, then the Madinat is a must-see for a mix of traditional and western culture...and of course, a stunning view! The place is filled with exquisite details, so don't be afraid to explore the grounds and remember to take the stairs, you never know where they may lead! 

Desert Safari in Dubai

27 September 2016

If you follow me on Instagram (username: rderbyshire93), then you'll know that I recently took a trip to Dubai with a friend. I'll be posting a full photo diary and all of the details of my trip (including how we scored 5* accommodation and flights for under £500!) on here shortly, but I noticed that a lot of you have trips planned to this middle eastern city, so I wanted to share my Desert Safari experience - as it's something I'd really recommend you do whilst you're in Dubai. 

Ever since setting foot in Dubai back in 2009, the city has fascinated me, the city is a stirring alchemy of profound traditions and ambition futuristic vision, with projects like the Burj Khalifa and hotels like the Burj Al Arab. It's so easy to be blinded by all of the sparkling lights, golden bars and luxurious little details, that you forget that the city was build from the Dubai desert. 

The Dubai desert safari experience was something I did back in 2009, and as soon as I booked my flights back to this sparkling city, I knew it was something I wanted to experience all over again. There are hundreds of companies who offer this service, they're all slightly different, but this time we decided to go with Desert Gate Tourism as they offer a combo ticket which includes a trip up the Burj Khalifa (something which was also on my 'to-do' list). The combo ticket is much cheaper than booking the two separately, so it made sense to go with Desert Gate. It'll set you back £77 but its well worth it in my opinion for both of these activities. 

Hassan, our driver, picked us up from the Dubai Mall as we'd been up the Burj Khalifa in the morning, however he'd happily pick you up straight from your hotel reception if that's easier for you. He took us through everything that we'd be doing and then we headed off into the desert. When we arrived at the desert, we drove into the dunes a little before stopping for the rest of our group and their drivers. This gave us the chance to take some photos out in the sand dunes and meet some of the others who would be joining us for dinner later. After we'd all had a chance to snap all of the photos we wanted, we climbed back into our cars ready for the dune bashing to start. 

We were told to strap ourselves in and hold on tight, and soon the car was spinning all around the desert, up and down the sand dunes and pretty much on it's side at one point - not for the faint hearted! The dune bashing was brilliant, if you love roller coasters and don't mind being thrown about a bit then you'll love this. It's a great way to see the desert in an exhilarating way and so much fun! My stomach must have done about 1000 somersaults but it was so worth it. 

After our first round of dune bashing, the cars pulled up right in the middle of the desert to give us a break and to watch the sun set over the sand dunes. If you know me, then you'll know I love a good sunset and this is one of the ones that I know I'll never forget. The sun setting over the dunes was like something from the movies, with silhouettes of men in their traditional arabic dress on the top of the dunes. I'd really recommend this trip just for that alone - there's no other view like it in Dubai. 

After we all finished watching the sun set into the dunes, we all climbed back in to the cars for our second round of dune bashing - all fully prepared this time having experienced it once! This time we went dune bashing until we ended up at the Desert Gate traditional arabic camp, right in the middle of the desert. 

When we arrived at the camp, we were given the opportunity to ride on the camels across the dune (which believe me, is a lot more terrifying than it seems. Anyone whose ever gotten onto and off a camel will know what I'm talking about!). Although I was completely petrified whilst actually on the camel, meeting the camels was one of my favourite parts of this tour - I love anything animal related and the camels were so sweet! 

After our quick camel ride, we were taken inside the traditional camp and treated to a dinner buffet and lots of entertainment. The dinner buffet was a traditional arabic barbecue, so you can expect to find a lot of flat breads, hummus, barbecued chicken and lots of veggies. I have to say, I was dreading the food a little (I'm the worlds fussiest eater) but it was lovely and there was something for everyone. We sat under the stars on traditional arabic carpet and cushions eating dinner and chatting to the rest of the group before the belly dancers took to the stage. The belly dancer was seriously impressive and definitely something to be seen - I mean, if you're going to see a belly dancer it may as well be in the middle of the desert! 

After dinner, we went to get our henna done and check out the rest of the camp, before all of the lights were turned off for the 'stargazing' section of the evening. The stargazing is also a memory that will stick with me forever, being able to watch the stars up above when you're completely isolated in the middle of the arabian desert is truly wonderful, and offered a real moment to reflect. 

My desert safari experience with Desert Gate was truly brilliant and something which I urge you all to do once whilst you;re in Dubai, it's a great night out and there's so many things it offered me that I know I'll never forget. 

Ciao for now!

5 Tips for Flying Solo

11 September 2016

Flying solo for the first time can be a nervous and daunting experience, especially if it's a long haul flight. I often travel with friends and family, but a solo-holiday isn't something I'd avoid. Sometimes you just need a little me-time away from it all on a sunny beach somewhere in the med! So today I thought I'd share my tips for flying solo with you all - hopefully you'll find them useful! 

1. Prepare

I always find that proper preparation is the key to calming my nerves. I'm such a panicked traveler in airports, constantly checking for my passport, boarding card, headphones, and whatever else I may have forgotten...which can be especially bad if I'm flying on my own and have nobody to make sure I've got everything I need! 

I now stick to preparing everything a few days before my flight, to ensure I don't forget anything and that I'm not panicking about the flight or finding my way through the airport. I've always been extremely organised when travelling (I'm the girl with the pre-planned itineraries and I've pretty much packed my suitcase a week before I fly!), and I find that it's especially useful when you're on your own. If you're confident that you've packed everything and are completely organised, then you'll panic less about the whole experience. 

2. Allow plenty of time

I'm one of those people who turn up to airports as soon as check-in opens (usually three hours before my flight depending on the destination). Turning up early gives me plenty of time to find my gate and make my way there, without rushing around of the fear that I'm going to miss my flight, because believe me, a quick sprint through the airport is not what you want when you're already nervous! Turning up early also means that you've got plenty of time to browse duty free, fill up on a decent breakfast (food will always be my comfort blanket) and pick up some books/snacks/whatever else you can find for the plane. I'm lucky in that my local airport (Heathrow) has plenty of shopping and eating options, so it's easy to waste three hours in the terminal before your flight! 

3. Pack the essentials in your hand luggage!

I've been unfortunate enough to be in a situation where my baggage has gone missing (after a 48 hour delay in a dodgy motel in Phillidelphia - the stuff of nightmares.) so now I always make sure I pack some spare underwear and a change of clothes in my hand luggage - just incase. This is more of a general flying tip, but it's especially important if you're flying solo. When my luggage went missing, I was lucky enough that I had my Mum who was the same size as me, so I wasn't having to slum it in the same clothes for 4 days straight (ew!), but had I of been flying alone, it would have been a very different story!

4. Bring plenty of entertainment. 

Long-haul flights can be a b*tch. The longest I've ever done is 13 hours to Hong Kong and let me tell you, it wasn't fun. Most airlines now have the latest films, tv shows, etc but I always find it useful to bring some of your own entertainment - make sure you pack your iPod and headphones, a good book and a neck pillow for those pesky night-flights. When I'm nervous, I fidget and can't choose what I want to do, so having lots of options helps calm my nerves - anything to keep my mind off the fact that I'm flying alone. 

5. Pack your in-flight beauty essentials. 

Now this tip definitely comes from my beauty blogger background, but seriously, flying is terrible for your skin. Packing a good moisturising spritz and a cooling gel moisturiser (I highly recommend the Clinique Moisture Surge range) will do you a world of good, and keep you feeling fresh on board your flight. When you're flying solo and nervous about it, it's never nice to feel groggy and uncomfortable, and a quick makeup wipe and moisturise will do you the world of good, and probably help you sleep better. 

Happy flying!

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