Exploring Dubai Marina & Riding in the Desert

Posted on February 1, 2015


I was back in Dubai, this time for a conference and a welcome break from the cold and rain. Last time we stayed on the Palm, the man made island shaped after it’s name sake and home to the Atlantis. On this trip we still wanted beach but wanted to be a little closer to downtown so settled on Dubai Marina, right next to Jumeriah beach.

Becoming spoilt, we opted to stay at the Ritz Carlton. It’s a fabulous hotel, fairly opulent with plenty of space right on the beach. I liked that they had some adult only pools and that the hotel never seemed busy (granted, it’s not high season). We upgraded to a club room which was well worth the price difference given the Club Lounge that served food all day long and drinks in the evening. We saved a fortune on meals.

The Ritz is a an old school brand and the hotel whilst opulent, didn’t have the exclusive feel as the Sofitel (suddenly I’m becoming an aficionado of five star hotels). They had lovely staff who were keen to cater to our every whim, but frequently failed as they didn’t understand or didn’t have the right information about other parts of the hotel. Although on the beach you were welcome with extra towels and water in a cool box – a good touch on a hot day.

One of the highlights of the Ritz was something I never would have expected…. Near the hotel is the Dubai Skydive centre and I loved lying by the beach watching the plane go up and then spotting them rain down as their parachutes opened. The more experienced were incredible, doing mid air somersaults and coming in to land at breakneck speed. I’m not one to sit on a beach for hours but this truly had me captivated.

The Marina itself is a new development (yes yes aren’t they all in Dubai) with a bouncing running track along the beach, a little market and tons of restaurants and bars – all of which are dry as it’s mostly only hotels that are licensed.

IMG_0141In the area there are a fair few good restaurants. We loved Zengo in the Meridian hotel. So much that we went twice. There’s a stylish ambiance, with DJ, a well stocked long bar inside and lovely deck with bar and tables outside, and an impressive range of sake. The food is a fusion of Asian and South American – such as shredded duck pancakes with chipotle, and sweet and sour seabass. The desert came out nitrogen frozen. IMG_0124The staff were amazing, best service I have seen in a long time, attentive yet not overbearing and a memory that puts mine to shame. They gave us a beautiful cake for our anniversary, an impressive extra touch. If you’re in the area go there. Be sure to book.

In the same hotel, closer to the beach is Maya, a Mexican that came highly recommended by two friends whose opinions I trust. However i wasn’t blown away. It was good, but not great. If you go, take a table outside.

A little further along is the Siddartur Lounge, an all white affair that’s good for pre or post dinner cocktails. It’s part of the same group as, and opposite,  Buddha Bar. Having been to a couple, including the original in Paris it wouldn’t usually have been high on my list of places to visit but the ambiance is great and the sushi is innovate and simply divine. The deep fried rice with spicy tuna was out of this world. Not cheap, but absolutely divine.

I’ve also been told that Frankies, the Italian on the strip is particularly good. I popped my head around the door and it looked fairly formal, I imagined more for couples or business dinners but it’s hard to get a real picture during the afternoon when the restaurant is empty. If you’re hankering after Italian food Splendido at the Ritz served excellent fayre too. The lobster ravioli was particularly good.

IMG_9506The highlight of this visit to Dubai for once wasn’t food related… it was taking a trip out to the desert to ride at  Al Jiyad stables. I did a little research and these guys came out top. Turns out it is well deserved. Staff were really friendly and incredibly flexible, not stressed about times or joining groups together, they just took me out on my own when I arrived. The horses are well looked after and the riding school horses only take a third of their stables, they also train horses for dressage and endurance. In fact the stables are next to the endurance track and part of my ride was a beautiful long canter on this imported sand before we hit the desert. The ride was under £30, a bargain on UK terms and we were out over an hour.