THE curtains of my hotel room slide open with just the press of a bedside button – then brilliant sunshine streams right in.
Could I still be lost in a dream?
Not a bit of it. Step outside and the heat hits you like a long-lost friend, as the sight and sound of the sparkling sea waves breaking wash away cold memories of lockdown.
Sunny holidays to Dubai are back with a bang.
With the travel corridor from the UK now open, trippers can hop on a flight as long as they have a negative result from an approved Covid test, plus travel insurance to cover them in the event they should get ill with the virus.
As a first-time visitor to Dubai, the one thing I had always been told about the place was that the only constant is change.
The skyscrapers — and luxury hotels along the glorious beaches — dominate the skyline and are evidence the helter-skelter building work is not slowing down despite the best efforts of Covid-19.
But the newest of the breathtaking buildings is a curved low-rise structure called the Museum of the Future.
It was due to open in 2020 but has been delayed by the pandemic.
Once the finishing touches are completed next year, it is sure to provide a wide-eyed look into tomorrow.
Meanwhile, another recent addition presents a glance into Dubai’s past and present.
The Dubai Frame, standing 150 metres high and 95 metres wide and built of aluminium, glass and concrete, is billed as “the biggest picture frame on the planet”.
It is designed so representative landmarks of modern Dubai are seen from one side, while from the other you see its older parts.
Before my holiday, I was braced for a place full of selfie-obsessed wannabe Love Islanders, a Middle Eastern Marbella.
But it was a change of pace with a visit to the gold and spice souks. Just be prepared to fend off the traders trying to tempt you inside.
The epic scale of Dubai is best appreciated from above.
The Seawings tour offers an incredible chance to take it all in with a 45-minute flight on a Cessna seaplane.
The pulse starts racing straight from take-off as you soar over the tree-shaped isle of Palm Jumeirah, the World Islands artificial archipelago in the shape of a world map (although this is one project Dubai has seemingly forgotten about) and the towering Burj Al Arab hotel and Burj Khalifa skyscraper.
After gaining my Seawings, it was time to discover a new love of crab — at the Bombay Bungalow at The Beach complex, which lives up to its promise of “offering traditional Indian cuisine in a more modern and casual setting”.
If it is seafood you fancy, Abd El Wahab, at fine-dining palace Pier 7, offers a great view over the marina, allowing you to watch the world go by from its balcony on the fifth floor.
I was staying in the fabulous Jumeirah Beach Hotel. As well as offering tennis, gym, pools and a golden beach, it is just ten minutes’ walk from the Jumeirah Al Qasr hotel’s new French Riviera restaurant.
If you feel like splashing out, move quickly to secure a private cabana for pool time and lunch at the SAL beach club and restaurant at Burj Al Arab.
Do not forget to charge your phone beforehand, as your Insta story is guaranteed to leave friends green with envy.
But perhaps the most surprising thing about losing my Dubai virginity was how much there was to do for families. And you need not pay through the nose to have a fun-filled family evening out.
Palm Jumeirah’s water-front shopping, restaurant and entertainment development The Pointe is the perfect spot for this.
Here you can marvel at the Palm Fountain water display which takes place every 30 minutes from 6pm, with the epic Atlantis hotel in the background.
Meanwhile, for those heading to Dubai without kids and looking for something other than a boozy brunch or date night, a desert safari makes for an ideal afternoon and evening.
Hold on to your stomach as your Jeep powers up and down the neverending dunes before stopping for you to take in the beautiful sunset.
You can also enjoy a camel ride, before a night of food and drink in the middle of the sand, which feels a million miles away from the bright lights of Dubai and provides 1,000 unmissable photograph opportunities.
But without doubt, the first thing you need to do if planning something special is to book up at the rooftop bar and restaurant Ce La Vi, on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands hotel.
With famed head chef Howard Ko working his magic in the kitchen, it is the most perfect place to watch the sunset over the Burj Khalifa.
This experience is just another to make everyone jealous on Insta and I could not think of a better way to spend your final night in Dubai.
STAYING THERE/GETTING THERE: Seven nights at the 5H Jumeirah Beach Hotel is from £1,449pp B&B or £1,639pp half-board, including return direct Emirates flights from Heathrow on selected dates between January 31 and February 8, 2021.
Book by January 10 at travelbag.co.uk or you can call 0207 001 4112.
OUT & ABOUT: Arabian Adventures’ Sunset Desert Safari is from £84.13pp including beer and wine with dinner (arabianadventures. com).
Seawings Tour Dubai is from £223pp (seawings.ae). Dubai Frame is from £10 for adults and £4 kids up to 12 years (dubaiframe.ae).
MORE INFO: See visitdubai.com.
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The only downside about Dubai at the moment is that wearing a facemask to protect against Covid can be a bit uncomfy in the stifling heat.
But if you make sure to have plenty of water with you, this is a small price to pay for a winter-sun break away from the tiers of doom back in the UK.
And far from the Z-list celebrity fest I had imagined before my first visit to the city, I am now left feeling like Marty McFly — desperate to get Back To The Future.
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