April 15, 2013
A Luxury Journey through Dubai, Oman & Abu Dhabi
Our journey started in Dubai, a fast-growing modern metropolis known for innovative architecture and ultra-luxury hotels.
Pictured in the background is the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, a landmark of Dubai, as seen from the Madinat Jumeirah resort. Both are our preferred properties on Jumeirah Beach.
The reception desk at Burj Al Arab is covered in 22-karat gold leaf, an indication of the over-the-top luxury the hotel is known for.
The 590-feet-high atrium of Burj Al Arab is a feast for the eyes, with enormous aquariums, gilded columns, and fountains that dance and shoot water over a hundred feet in the air.
The suites at Burj al Arab feature rich colors and gold ornamentation. In general, at Burj al Arab if it looks like gold, it probably is.
During private touring with a fantastic local guide, we explored the historic neighborhoods of Dubai, including Deira, and rode on an abra (water taxi) across Dubai Creek, the waterway in the heart of the city.
We browsed for high quality gold in the shops of the Gold Souk, which also sells platinum, diamonds and silver.
We also explored the Spice Souk and the Perfume Souk.
We visited galleries and shops in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood (formerly known as Bastakiya), an area of restored historical buildings and interesting museums in Bur Dubai.
We learned about the fascinating architecture of Dubai during a visit to the observation deck of the impressive Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The elevator travels at 40 miles per hour and reaches the observation deck on Level 124 in less than a minute.
We had a view of the Burj Khalifa park and fountains from The Address Downtown Dubai, one of our preferred luxury hotels in the city center.
The aquarium at Atlantis, The Palm Hotel & Resort, Dubai is especially popular with families.
For families traveling to Dubai, Artisans of Leisure can arrange a visit to the resort’s Marine & Waterpark, with the option for a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium.
The lobby of Atlantis, The Palm features an incredible glass sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly.
Another of our preferred properties in Dubai is the elegant One&Only The Palm, located on the Palm Jumeirah.
The palatial resort has an outstanding spa, a private beach and great views of the Dubai Marina.
Artisans of Leisure arranges excursions into the Arabian Desert outside Dubai, where our travelers can enjoy activities such as camel rides and falconry.
Also in the desert, we can arrange a night or two at Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, a luxury resort surrounded by a nature reserve.
The spacious stand-alone tented suites at Al Maha are inspired by Bedouin tents.
One of our favorite activities in Dubai was a scenic flight over the city. The artificial islands—including the Palm Islands and The World—are incredible to see from the air.
We enjoyed browsing shops at the malls in Dubai, which are legendary. The Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world, has more than 1,200 retail stores, 120 restaurants and an aquarium with the world’s largest acrylic panel. We couldn’t resist sampling decadent sweets while browsing the shops.
In case you need something extra to spend, “GOLD to go” is an ATM that dispenses gold coins and bars.
Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort, offers skiing and snowboarding at the Mall of the Emirates.
Traditional Arabic coffee is perfect for a break during touring.
Another option is lemonade and mint, a favorite beverage in the UAE and a great way to cool off.
We fit in time to relax on the beach at the One&Only Royal Mirage.
Our journey next took us down the Arabian Peninsula to the Sultanate of Oman, a land of rugged coasts and mountains, stunning desert landscapes, and a rich and fascinating history.
We had a wonderful local guide in Muscat, the capital of Oman.
A highlight was touring the beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat.
The clean lines and white marble interiors of the mosque are breathtakingly beautiful.
In Oman, it’s appropriate to cover your head, shoulders and ankles when entering a mosque. This abaya (robe-like dress) was a favorite purchase on our trip.
Our preferred properties in Muscat are The Chedi Muscat and Al Bustan Palace, pictured here.
During a private excursion to Nizwa, one of the oldest cities in Oman, we toured the morning market and fort…
…and admired traditional artisanal products for sale.
Along the coast, we visited the dhow-building yards in Sur. Since the sixth century, the town has played an important role in the maritime history of the Arabian Peninsula and the world.
We also took a thrilling dune-bashing excursion in the incredible Wahiba Sands region.
For a truly unforgettable experience, Artisans of Leisure can arrange overnight stays in the Wahiba Sands in a private, luxury mobile tented camp.
Our tours also include the option to travel to Salalah, a city in southern Oman with a subtropical climate.
Salalah is also the gateway to the Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert, which stretches from Oman to Saudi Arabia.
Salalah is famous for its Boswellia trees. Sap from the trees is harvested to make frankincense, once among the most prized commodities in the world. Salalah has played an important role in the frankincense trade for the past 5,000 years.
In this image, our guide shows us how frankincense resin is harvested.
The coastline of Salalah is rugged and beautiful.
Next, we traveled to Abu Dhabi, the largest emirate in the UAE.
Abu Dhabi city has exciting projects under construction, including the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, which will feature branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums, as well as landmark buildings designed by leading architects such as Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel and Tadao Ando.
This is the gorgeous lobby of the Emirates Palace, one of our preferred hotels in Abu Dhabi.
Another preferred property in Abu Dhabi is the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, which is located on one of the best beaches of Saadiyat Island.
A highlight of a visit to Abu Dhabi is a private tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The seven chandeliers of the main prayer hall are made with millions of Swarovski crystals. The largest of the chandeliers is an impressive 33 feet wide and 49 feet high.
This is the chandelier from below.
One of our favorite treats in the UAE is fresh dates!
Moutabel is a delicious Middle Eastern dip made with roasted eggplant.
This is the decadent private dining room at one of Abu Dhabi’s best seafood restaurants.
One of our favorite activities in Abu Dhabi was a fascinating, behind-the-scenes visit to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.
Falcons are the national bird of the UAE, and owners take great care of their very prized (and pricey) pets. At the hospital, falcons receive medical treatment, feather replacements and pedicures to trim talons.
Depending on the breed, a falcon can cost more than $100,000. The birds are allowed to travel in the first-class cabins of Emirates and Etihad, two UAE airlines.
Just like at a regular hospital, the patients have to wait their turn in the waiting room.
Our guide also took us to a shop for custom perfumes.
We enjoyed lunch overlooking the Yas Marina Circuit, the home of the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Artisans of Leisure can arrange for travelers to drive the circuit in an Aston Martin GT4, Yas SuperSport SST or Formula Yas 3000 racing car. Alternatively, we can arrange a thrilling ride with a professional driver. Families with children can enjoy go-karts or visit the nearby Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park.
We arrange for our travelers to stay outside Abu Dhabi at Qasr Al Sarab, a luxury resort in the Liwa Desert, which is renowned for its large sand dunes.
The desert offers many activities, including camel rides, wildlife excursions, dune-bashing, nature walks and spa time.
A walk on the beautiful dunes at sunset is an incredible way to end the day.
Contact Artisans of Leisure to begin planning private luxury tour of Dubai, Oman and Abu Dhabi.