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Dubai is a popular stopover destination for many airlines flying from New Zealand to Europe or the Americas. However, even if you are only there for 24 or 48 hours, a stopover in Dubai is a golden opportunity to experience a slice of the Arab culture. Here is how to experience Dubai on a really tight timeframe, and make the most of what is a really unique culture.

Tip 1: Don’t Stay in the Airport

Find accommodation outside of, but close to the airport to maximise your time. Dubai is a land of luxury and excess, and it is well-known for its over-the-top accommodation options, so make time to indulge. Your experience could include jewel-encrusted furnishings, an underwater hotel suite, complementary belly-dance performances or a falcon display. You can easily search for Dubai hotels online to find options in close proximity to the airport, or at the very least near easy transport options. You can also book a range of flight and accommodation packages, specifying Dubai as your preferred stopover destination, which is a great option for Kiwis literally flying from one side of the world to the other. As well as breaking up tediously long flight times, a Dubai stopover is an opportunity to add a whole new country to your travel itinerary with minimal effort. So what are you waiting for?

Tip 2: Sample the Local Cuisine

Regardless of whether you are there for three hours or three days, step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to sample some of the local dishes, instead of falling back on “safe” and stodgy airport options. Dubai cuisine is a mish-mash of Lebanese, Iranian and Arabic foods, and the result is a culinary masterpiece. Signature dishes include falafel (best described as chickpea and spice patties), esh asarya (a light cheesecake-style dessert), hummus (chickpea, olive oil and tahini-paste dip), ghuzi (roasted lamb with rice, veggies and nuts) and tabouleh (tomato, green onion, cucumber, fresh mint and lemon salad). Like the typical Kiwi diet, it’s fresh, healthy, wholesome and delicious! Best of all, it’s easy on the wallet.

A Cultural Immersion in 24 Hours

Tip 3: Visit the City’s Main Tourist Attractions

Dubai’s main tourist attractions can all be found in the heart of the city, so you don’t have to wander very far to find a new experience. Make the time to marvel at the architecture of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. If shopping is more your style, check out one of the many mega-malls, including the Dubai Mall or The Mall of the Emirates. If sandy shores are your thing, head towards one of Dubai’s pristine beaches or take a stroll along the Dubai marina with its backdrop of Dubai’s most spectacular buildings. The renowned Dubai Aquarium and Under Water Zoo is also worth a look, as is the Dubai Museum, which boasts pieces of Arab culture dating back 4000 years. For a snapshot of how the other half live, visit the infamous Dubai Gold Souk (the gold markets).

Tip 4: Strike Up a Conversation With a Local

It’s amazing how much you will learn by conversing with a local. The majority of people living in Dubai speak very fluent English, and are warm and welcoming towards tourists. They also seem to have a soft spot for Kiwis, but doesn’t everybody? Dubai also has a huge ex-pat culture, so be prepared to bump into a fellow Kiwi, or at the very least, an Aussie neighbour. Make the effort to stop and speak to the guy standing next to you. Ask them questions about who they are and what they do. Chances are they will be as interested in you as you are in them, and you never know where the conversation might lead!

About the Author: Brenda Stewart is a born-and-bred Kiwi who fell in love with Dubai five years ago after being seconded there for a 12-month work contract. She tries to include a Dubai stopover in every holiday itinerary, usually staying in Expedia hotels.