| 8.3°C Dublin

On a high in Dubai

At first glance, the millionaires' playground of Dubai appears to be the polar opposite of Dublin. It's brash, it's ostentatious, it's a place that screams money and represents everything that crisis-struck Ireland has tried to forget since the recession struck.

This is a place where debt is a dirty word and doom and gloom is replaced by Dolce & Gabanna.

But isn't that the whole point of a holiday, to feel like you're getting away from it all? Plus they had also gone through their own recession and appeared to have emerged relatively unscathed -- there's hope for us yet.

So, determined to forget all talk of EU bailouts, I flew to Dubai for a guilt-free week in the sun. I wanted to check out just what was so great about this skyscraper-filled, tax-free haven where more and more Irish people are choosing to start afresh.

The base for my stay was the Irish-owned Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers. The hotel was a five-minute taxi ride from the famous Jumeirah Beach Walk, known locally as JBR. The stretch near the Dubai Marina is massively impressive with a promenade filled with coffee shops and restaurants, and more importantly, is the perfect spot for people-watching.

Then there's the glorious Jumeirah Beach itself. It's not hard to see its attraction -- it's an idyllic stretch of golden sand nestled beside the Arabian Sea with clear water that's as warm as a bath.


It was 40C and no one walks around the streets in that heat. Taxis are cheap (€5 will get you pretty much anywhere), and they're a perfect way to get around the sprawling city.

If sunbathing's not your thing, you won't be stuck for things to do. Dubai is awash with countless ways to part you from your hard-earned brass.

My next stop was the famous Burj Al Arab, hailed as the world's only seven-star hotel and one of the most iconic landmarks in Dubai. But beware -- this place is so expensive it makes the Four Seasons seem like a Travelodge. And if you want to down a €50 cocktail, you have to book in advance.

Still in the interest of research, I donned the glad rags and made a reservation for the Skyview Bar, which boasts spectacular views of the city. But given that the cheapest glass of wine was 70 dirhams, roughly €12, there was no chance of us getting tipsy.

Gloriously tacky, the Burj is a testament to what happens when money over-rides taste with its gold-painted foyer, cerise red chaise longues and elaborate fountain displays. But it's definitely a must-see. Afterwards, I headed over to the nearby Madinat complex. Built in the style of an old Arabian souk, it's filled with souvenir shops, restaurants and even a Belgian beer hall.

If it's shopping that makes your heart flutter, your credit card is in for a serious battering in this lavish city. The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world and is just jaw-dropping.


As well as boasting every designer shop known to man, with 1,200 retail outlets, it also has a giant aquarium with an underwater zoo, ice rink as well as the Dubai Fountains -- with shows every evening.

All that shopping builds up quite an appetite and the quality of the food here is second to none. There are more than 200 different nationalities living and working in Dubai so it's a melting pot of cultures.

When it comes to choice, you're spoiled, with no shortage of gorgeous restaurants and cafes. Despite being a Muslim country, there's also a buzzing night life with cool places to go every night.

Yet liberal though they are, falling around drunk in the streets isn't advisable unless you fancy getting arrested during your holiday.

After a particularly late night out at Dubai's answer to Lillie's, namely Okko, I decided afternoon tea was in order. And why not have it up the tallest building on the planet, the Burj Khalifa?

The building made famous by Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible 4, has to be seen to be believed. Stretching to 828 metres high, the view is spectacular and makes all the hundreds of skyscrapers underneath look like toy town.

In fairness, it's not hard to see why so many Irish people are choosing to make Dubai their home as they sit out the recession.

And it's also a brilliant place for a short trip. Yes it's expensive but the tax-free wages still make it worth your while being out there.

It's extremely safe, super clean with friendly locals who speak perfect English. Not to mention the buzzing expat scene that offers the perfect tonic to the blistering heat.

And if you get homesick, it's only a seven-hour plane ride away. Who needs Oz, eh?