Gotwo / Dubai: Sheikh and bake

Burj Al Arab 2A city based on tourism and shopping, Dubai has been a firm favourite with celebs and sun seekers alike for years. And although the recession has hit this global city hard, it makes it a rather perfect time for us to visit as many of the more expensive hotels have slashed their prices to ones more suited to us mere mortal students.The weather is unbeatable of course, summer temperatures can easily reach 50ºc by mid-morning, making daytime activities a sweaty and knackering affair. Summer is so hot in fact, that many places close their beer gardens by June, and don’t re-open until September. The best time to visit then, is between October and March when the daytime temperatures are a pleasant 30ºc.Contrary to popular belief, the night life is nowhere near lacking. Most of the big hotels run all you can eat and drink buffets in the evenings, and they mean ALL.Of course a city break isn’t complete for us Irish until we’ve visited the ubiquitous Irish pub, and in true Dubai fashion, they go a whole leap further with the Dubai Irish Village. Populated mainly by Irish, British, American and bizarrely, French ex-pats, no one will frown at you for drinking here. Alternatively, the hotel bars are a safe haven for a western night life.Dubai’s a city which is suffering greatly at the hands of the recession, but that perhaps already suffered quite a bit from its development. There are only two small stretches of public beach left in the city, with most of the coastline bought up by the hotels for use as private beaches. The skyline is dominated by, now motionless, cranes and many of the building sites are dormant, left unfinished or in official terms “postponed”. Even ‘The World’ project off the coast has been shelved, and work on the remaining palm islands has fallen behind due to lack of interest from property buyers.That said, the Burj Al Arab, the world’s first seven star hotel (possibly because there is no such thing) is one of the must-see landmarks of Dubai. But don’t expect to waltz in for a few photos, you can only access the man-made island if you have a reservation. Another must see is of course the world’s new tallest building, the unimaginatively named but phenomenal Burj Dubai. It’s part of the new Downtown Dubai project, which is unfortunately ridiculously far away from everything else in the city. Down on the waterfront windsurfing, parasailing, sunbathing and rowing are all on offer, or visit the Mall of the Emirates for an indoor skiing lesson at Ski Dubai. For experienced drivers, try renting a four wheel drive for a trip up the sand dunes like ‘Big Red’.Although by no means a cheap city (20th most expensive in the world), it really is a shopper’s paradise. Whether you’re looking for designer or high street, you’ll find it in one of the many, many shopping. Those on a budget should visit Karama, one of the older parts of the city, famous for its less than legal/authentic designer gear. The shops are well worth a visit – even if you’re not buying, seeing a secret panel open up behind a tatty coat rail revealing a hidden spiral staircase leading to a cornucopia of Louise Vuitton handbags and Dolce & Gobanna sunglasses is rather impressive.Dubai is a great city to visit as a somewhat wealthy couple on a mid-spring break, but it’s not quite a student group holiday destination. The fact that the one time of year we could spend any decent time there is also the time of year that it takes five minutes for life threatening dehydration to set in is rather a setback. It’s also one of those cities that really shouldn’t be done on a budget, so wait a few years, save up and then dig out this article and go.