Just got back

Andrés Cortina
Country visited
Manzil Downtown and Habtoor Palace


The Manzil Downtown is a small, boutique property with spacious rooms, superb food and beverage outlets and one of the most centric locations in Dubai. The hotel is steps away from the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and about 30 minutes away from the airport and desert safaris. It’s a great option for those looking for a more intimate hotel. Habtoor Palace was the second property we stayed at. Arriving at the property really is an experience in itself. If the ultra-luxury cars parked out front don’t wow you, the grand staircase certainly will. The minute you walk into the property, you become the center of attention. 5 steps into the lobby and you suddenly find yourself holding a glass of champagne and handing off your luggage to your own personal butler. This hotel is perfect for those guests who like to be pampered and attention to detail.

In a nutshell...

Dubai is definitely a must see destination. Whether you are experiencing it as a stopover on your way to other destinations such as Sri Lanka, the Maldives or Bali or combining it with its cultured neighbor, Abu Dhabi, it’s a must on every traveler’s bucket list.

Good grub?

There’s so much good food in Dubai. The mix of Middle Eastern, Western and Asian cultures is really prominent when looking at the restaurants. To get a more local street food, head to the old city.

Get any souvenirs?

After visiting some of the souks in the old town, I ended up buying about 3 pounds of dates, baklava and kanafeh.

What struck me most was…

How luxurious everything was. A great example is a Lexus LS picking us up when ordering a simple Uber X.

If you do one thing...

Sunrise hot air balloon. Floating through the Dubai desert as the sun rises over the mountains is one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Arabian Oryxes and Sand Gazelles run through the desert dunes below you as the falcon trainer releases the falcon to circle around the balloon. Once you land, you are picked up and taken to a desert camp to have a typical Arabic breakfast and tea.

Local gem?

Walking around the Souks in the old city really gives you a feel for what the city was like back before it became the lavish destination it is today.

Defining moment?

Bizarre encounter?

Coming from a progressive western country, it was a little strange when other men looked at me for approval when my female friend was ordering food, asking for the check or out shopping. It definitely took a little getting used to.

Favorite activity?

Skydiving over The Palm during sunset. That was by far the most thrilling moment of our time in Dubai. The omnipotent Burj Khalifa looked like a pin in the distance as we fell 125 mph above the Dubai Marina.

Favorite experience?

Watching the sunset in the desert. It’s such a wild landscape I had never seen before. I could only describe it as breathtaking. There is a stillness when sitting atop a sand dune, watching the sun slowly sinking into the horizon that can’t be replicated. The quietness really becomes palpable as you leave the busy metropolis behind.

Favorite restaurant?

Dubai is a very interesting melting pot between Western and Eastern worlds. There are incredible restaurants from every type of cuisine you can think of, but since we were in Dubai, we stuck to the local cuisine. We had our best dinner at the Reem al Bawadi, located at the Dubai Marina. The hummus platter and the warm naan, drizzled with a touch of garlic butter was just the beginning of our feast. We had lamb chops, meat skewers, falafel and baba ghanouj enough to feed ten people, but the two of us managed to somehow clean our plates.

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