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Bes for: Airbourne Antics

New: iFly

In Dubai, a mall has to have a gimmick. At Mirdiff City Centre, it’s iFly, an indoor skydiving centre. iFly has a 10m-high wind tunnel with two high-powered fans that keep divers suspended 3m in the air. Warning: the practice will make your face look like a melting waxwork.

Of course, iFly is a kiddie park compared to the real thing. Skydive Dubai is owned by the Dubai’s Crown Prince, who himself is an avid skydiver.

Skydiving newbies are strapped to an able expert, so you can concentrate on the surreal view of the manmade Palm Island and (as yet incomplete) World islands. 

theplaymania.com, from £34; skydivedubai.ae, from £305

Old: Falconing

Skydiving isn’t the UAE’s only airborne tradition. For centuries, Emiratis have been sending highly trained birds of prey to scour the sky for fresh meat.

Falconing is one of the earliest forms of hunting; pre-dating guns, the birds would attack, but not kill, their prey – a distinction that is especially important today, as meat isn’t considered halal if not properly slaughtered.

The birds are highly prized in the local culture, and some fetch upwards of £25,000. Falconing was inaccessible to travellers until last year, when Royal Shaheen Event paired with the Banyan Tree Wadi Hotel to offer the only open falconry courses in the region.

Handling a hungry falcon (and they’re kept hungry, to keep them tame) is no joke. In 2003, a falcon belonging to Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, took down a desert gazelle.

The birds are independent and fierce, and on Royal Shaheen’s two-day course, you not only handle one, but act as its sole source of food.

Imagine throwing a large bird in the air, then having it soar back towards you, talons at the ready, to pluck a piece of raw meat from your gloved hand. Terrifying, but thrilling.

banyantree.com; £697 for a two-day course (16hrs training), or stay at the five-star hotel to receive a discount

Best for: Party People

New: Clubbing, Mayfair style

This year has seen a surge in Mayfair brands making their way to Dubai. Polynesian nightclub Mahiki opened at the start of 2012, though it doesn’t draw quite the same calibre of celebrity clientele (no Prince Harry, we’re afraid, but the Made In Chelsea cast visited).

On Tuesdays, women get unlimited free cocktails from 9pm, and can get the party started even earlier at Embassy, where they get four free cocktails from 7pm. The crowd is a little more WAG than red carpet (though don’t tell the TOWIE cast … they’re regulars).

mahiki.ae ; grosvenorhouse-dubai.com

Old: Expat dives

Dubai’s drinking scene was once dominated by dingy Irish pubs – the sort of darkened dens that were a lifeline to homesick expats in the Eighties and Nineties.

Though a dying breed, cheap locals still dot the city, mainly around the once-popular areas of Bur Dubai and Deira.

At Fibber Magee’s, hidden behind the Costa Coffee on Sheikh Zayed Road, Depression-era drinks deals keep the place packed (nowhere else serves up cocktails for as little as £3).

The Tuesday night pub quiz, which involves sculpting plasticine (sometimes rudely) is hands-down the best in the city.
fibbersdubai.com


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