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We descend into one of the most opulent and tourism-rich cities in the world to find out what it packs for car and travel enthusiasts like us.

Story: Joshua Varghese

They say travelling broadens the mind but when going to a place like Dubai, be prepared to have those limits stretched to their fullest. We were recently in UAE’s crown jewel to soak in the tourist experience and find the most reasonable answer to the question “why should a motoring enthusiast go to Dubai?”

As the aeroplane began its descent, the desert was the first thing I saw. Tonnes of sand stretched out endlessly in all directions and that is perfect because nothing else sets the stage for what comes after. To truly understand the gravity of why Dubai is on another level when compared to any other city in the world, one must realise that everything that they see around them was once a desert. Dubai’s towering skyscrapers, luxurious lifestyle, ingenious engineering, and strict legislation were developed from scratch or, in this case, sand; and oil money, of course. Lots of it.

The road network is exceptional and with enough money one could rent just about any car they want. Literally almost any car. Although driving in town is significantly better than what we are used to, if you do not have much experience, it is best to leave it alone. The laws in Dubai are strict and the penalties are financially severe. Don’t even think of an “under the table” settlement unless you want to spend a few days in the nearest jail.

The good news is that there is a much better option for us petrol heads. Located in Dubai’s Motor City is a 5.39-kilometre-long FIA-sanctioned racetrack, called the Dubai Autodrome. Search for the same on Google and you will end up on their website which offers multiple options for an arrive-and-drive experience around their club circuit layout. Their car line-up is diverse and there is something for every kind of driver. The most accessible experience is a session with the Mini John Cooper Works which is priced at a reasonable United Arab Emirates dirham (AED) 850 (Rs 19,185 approximate). If you have more money, then your childhood dreams of driving an F1 car could come true. For a whopping AED 9,995 (Rs 2.26 lakh, approximate), one could rip around the track in a 2000 Jaguar R1 or the 2002 Arrows A23, icons of a bygone era. This is without doubt the easiest way to drive an F1 car. Other hot options include Ferraris, BMW Ms, and even a Renault Clio Cup car. An international driving licence is not necessary for any of these but a driving licence is mandatory. The next best option is to cross the road and enter Dubai Kartdrome, a state-of-the-art facility for go-karting.

After standing by and ogling at the line-up for some time, yours truly got a chance to go around the track in a BMW M240i. Driving after sunset on a racetrack is not what I would have preferred but the floodlights around the circuit ensured that it was still an enjoyable experience. Despite doing 200-plus km/h down the main straight, there was never really a moment of doubt or fear. Primarily because of the way they had organised things. A clear safety briefing was followed by a familiarization lap, after which the seasoned racing driver sitting next to me would ensure that things were well within control by stepping in with a word of advice (or caution) about braking points and apexes. Following such an intense experience, here is my advice to car enthusiasts who are planning a holiday in Dubai: go to Dubai Autodrome and drive whatever you can afford. Advice over.

When moving around Dubai, one feels small and insignificant owing to all the skyscrapers. However, the city also offers the discerning tourist a chance to look down at its landscape. Due to obvious reasons, the best bird’s eye view of the city is from the expensive interior of Burj Khalifa but there is a relatively reasonable alternative. Skyviews Observatory, which is quite close to the Burj, offers a similar experience. When the lift screen started counting past 50 floors, I stopped keeping track of how far above the ground I was. From an all-glass viewing deck it was impressive to take in Dubai and its citizens go about their daily routine but that is not all. Like me, if you have also been waiting for a chance to be Ethan Hunt from Ghost Protocol, opt for the Edge Walk package. They gave me a suit to change into, connected its harness to an overhead railing and I was out on the side of the building, leaning off its edge and into the strong, cold wind while the harness kept me from falling several hundred feet to the ground. Seeing the world from a height like that is impressive enough but dangling off the side of a building is a unique perspective that is not easily available.

Let’s say there are some who refuse to be impressed by one of the best engineered cities in the world. There is something for them too. There are multiple spots within a two-hour drive from Dubai which are resplendent in unique scenery, culture, and experiences. Hatta dam is an interesting option. In addition to giving me a tranquil hour of kayaking, it was there that I met some of the hardest workers on the planet.

The Hatta Honeybee Garden and Discovery Centre is nestled away from the main body of Hatta. This quiet haven is home to thousands of honeybees and a few exotic trees too. Bees are the world’s best at reviving barren land and the way they have contributed to that region is immense. Thanks to a detailed tour, we got to understand and appreciate exactly what they are capable of.

Dubai is not just about fancy cars and luxury. It also has a remarkably diverse culture. Easily evident from the food we had during our travels. “11 Woodfire” was undoubtedly the most premium dining experience in this part of our journey. It is a Michelin Star restaurant that served us dish after dish of exquisite taste but their masterpiece was a simple, unassuming beef burger. It must be said that was the best beef burger I ever had. Earlier that same day, I also sampled street food and even experienced the local flavour. Trust me, there is a lot to do in Dubai. Especially for car and travel enthusiasts. Can women travel there by themselves? Absolutely. It is among the safest places in the world for women.

Best time to visit is between November and March because the weather is most pleasant then. When you do visit Dubai, hit us up on social media and tell us all about it. We will also be happy to help with recommendations and suggestions. We hope this article has answered only half of the question “why should a motoring enthusiast go to Dubai?” because there is more coming in the April issue. See you then.

Also Read:

Cars and Coffee in Dubai

Legendary Designer Marcello Gandini Has Passed Away

 

About the author: Joshua Varghese

 

Would gape at fast cars. Still does but now has a chance to drive some of them. Hates driving in traffic but makes up for with a spot of off-roading or the occasional track outing. Insta: @motoknight

 

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