Unexpected attractions

Think you know everything about Dubai? Think again: there’s much to be unearthed! A trailblazing museum, stunning new theme parks, groundbreaking retail developments, new-age gastronomy and a grand opera house … discover that there is even more to Dubai than the extraordinary Burj Khalifa, impressive malls and romantic desert. 

One of the most significant openings in Dubai during 2016 was the Saruq Al Hadid Archaeology Museum, the first in a series of cultural developments set to transform Dubai’s historical district. Housed in a building in the Al Shindagha Heritage District of Dubai, it features artefacts unearthed from the recently discovered archaeological site of the same name, with rich immersive and interactive displays bringing to life the fascinating story of the Iron Age in the Middle East.

Every artefact unearthed at the excavation site, along the edge of the Rub Al-Khali desert, reveals more about this civilisation. Analysis of precious beads, for example, reveal that some of them did not naturally exist in the area which indicates that the Arab tribes traded with others as far away as India. This, and fossilised bones of fish tell us that although these people lived in the desert, they travelled far, and even across seas

Dubai launched a theme park city with Dubai Parks and Resorts. First up, Legoland Dubai, with more than 40 themed rides, shows, Lego-building experiences and attractions. It’s the perfect treat for families with children aged two to 12 and their young-at-heart parents.

Next door is Bollywood Parks Dubai, the first theme park of its kind in the world, bringing to life the magic and colour of popular Bollywood stars. Combining the star power of three of Hollywood’s biggest studios - DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Studios and Lionsgate – is Motiongate, where all your favourite animated and live-action characters and stories come to life including Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and The Hunger Games. Visit for the day or even the week, and stay on site at Lapita, a unique Polynesian-themed resort hotel.

While there, check out Riverland, a gateway to the parks, where you can step back in time via four themed zones: 1950s America at the Boardwalk, traditional India Gate, a medieval French Village, and the 19th century piazza, The Peninsula.

A short drive from the Burj Khalifa, you’ll find City Walk, an expansive retail, entertainment and residential development which is the perfect outdoor spot on a winter evening. Covering more than 929sqm, the newer phase opened with more than 60 new shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes and hotels, even a wellness centre. Inside, find thriving greenery and a London-styled boulevard of shops and restaurants.

Dining options include coffee at Brass Cafe, gastronomy at Farzi Café, Bubo artistic morsels, New York-style fare at Serendipity3, and Tartufi & Friends, home of truffles. Some of the prestige stores now open include Geek Nation, Georg Jensen, Dinh Van Paris, Karl Lagerfeld, the high-fashion Level Kids, French fashion house Carven, plus Barbara Bui, Weekend Max Mara, Rag & Bone and Essentiel Antwerp.

Shopping aside, visit one of the world’s most unusual new-age mosques, enjoy Mattel’s Play Town (and a rendezvous with Barney, Bob the Builder and Angelina Ballerina), watch a film, find your inner-child at the Hub Zero gaming centre, or immerse yourself in green at the instantly popular Green Planet, a state-of-art bio dome.

Transforming the Dubai performing arts scene overnight has been the new dhow-shaped Dubai Opera, floating above the lake next to the Dubai Mall. This glittering, futuristic home of the best performances from Broadway, the West End and the rest of the world draws inspiration from the most iconic global performing arts venues such as the Sydney Opera House and the Lincoln Centre in New York, and features a 1,900-seat multi-format performance space, and stunning views of the downtown skyline.

The perfect red-carpet night out in Dubai, Dubai Opera has already hosted the world’s best tenor, Placido Domingo, and the world’s most popular musical, Les Miserables, not to mention, The Nutcracker on Ice, Cats, West Side Story, BBC Proms and White Nights.

Dubai is fast becoming one of the world’s culinary hubs. On trend is the molecular gastronomy whose cuisine borrows from the science lab. Doing it oh-so-well is Tresind, in the Nassima Royal Hotel, near the World Trade Centre. To greet you is the Lava Lamp, a 60cm beaker filled with dry ice and liquid that smokes and bubbles its welcome.

The modernist twist on gourmet Indian staples such as chaat and pani puri is an eye opener, while the Indo-Chinese fusion duck rolls come complete with roomali roti hung on a mini clothesline. Other gastronomy experiences to taste include Farzi Café, City Walk; Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor, Mankhool; and Laluz, Four Seasons Hotel in DIFC..