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Dubai NYE 2014/15

What do Hot Since 82, Groove Armada and a camel have in common?

New Year's Eves are notoriously a night of boozy midnight advances, over Instagramming and a silent we-have-to-have-the-best-night-of-the-year-fuelled pressure. So when my friend, Laura, suggested something entirely diverse to welcome in 2015 I looked at my faded, now non-existent, Ibiza tan and I was all for it. The tabloids notoriously never miss a beat when reporting that the likes of Kendell Jenner, Mark Wright, Michelle Keegan and the TV personalities from 'The Only Way Is Essex' all grace the white sandy beaches of Dubai (or in TOWIE's case “Doobs”) and it was hard to escape hearing about Abu Dhabi recently with Lewis Hamilton steering himself to victory at the Formula One World Championship in November. I wondered why it seemed that the United Arab Emirates was progressively becoming the most sought after sunshine destination. “Middle East me," I concurred.

An eight hour plane journey, forty winks and five episodes of Game of Thrones later, we were ready to culture-dabble in Abu Dhabi. The Emirates capital takes the role of a more reserved state in comparison to its flashier, flamboyant family member Dubai. Yet, although the exotic city embraces a conservative Islamic ethos, Abu Dhabi encourages foreign tourists with a Formula One race track, the UAE's first ever epic waterpark Yas Waterworld and the world's largest indoor theme park, Ferrari World. Anyone else seeing a car theme here? Admittedly it's hard to pack everything in but there's no time for ‘don'ts'…only 'Abu-Dhabi-dos'. (No…? Not even a bit funny?)

The week began with us buckling up for the fastest rollercoaster in the world. No other theme park ride ON THE PLANET notches up the speed of The Formula Rossa at Ferrari World. Plastic goggles are compulsory to prevent the gusty gales turning eyeballs drier than an Arabian desert but unfortunately mine were whisked off my face seconds in to the rocket ride due to sheer force. They probably landed somewhere in Saudi Arabia, I never saw them again. Eyeballs were the least of my worries anyway; my cheeks were pulled so taunt, it felt like they were hitting the seat behind. Although terrifying, it was a mind-blowing, exhilarating experience. Goggles or no goggles, I wanted to go on it again and it's easy to see why thrill seekers from all over the world love the white-knuckle chance of launching 0 to 240 kilometres in just 4.9 seconds. With the red roof designed to emulate the iconic brand's badge, Ferrari World is an architectural spectacle in itself.

PHOTO | The view from Zero Gravity.


If that wasn't enough of an adrenalin rush, it was fast cars and even faster heartbeats at the Yas Marina Circuit the following day. A guided tour whisked us around the track from the pit garages to the media centres to the north grandstand which overlooks the course's tightest hairpin. Visitors are even able to burn rubber themselves in a Formula Yas 3000 vehicle but I side-stepped that (thankfully) as my driving license is still a novice, provisional green. Not that I even have a need for speed, I was finally coaxed in to taking the passenger seat in a drift car …which induced blood-curdling screams, my life to flash before my eyes and the poor driver, Luke, to exclaim “If you could just calm down that would be awesome, you're putting me off!”

Leaving Luke deaf in one ear, we headed to the neighbouring destination of Dubai. Dubbed 'New York On Steroids' because of its tottering tower blocks and multiplying motorways, it's an ever changing, evolving city that never sleeps. The gigantic high-risers dwarf the people below them but the buildings' neat, colour co-ordination reminded me of a perfect toy town. Warning: It is impossible to see every part of this breathtakingly beautiful place and it's impossible to describe everything we did see with this word count. Highlights include the most visited shopping destination in the world, the Dubai Mall and elevating to the top of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khaifa. (And I thought the Eiffel Tower was high.) We visited the world famous Atlantis which rests on the man-made metropolis, Palm Jumeirah. Basically, they built an island shaped like a palm tree and crescent moon that is so big it can be seen from space. Yes, really.

As we rode camels and watched the final sunset of 2014 in the middle of a Middle Eastern desert, I looked forward to seeing what Dubai's nightlife had to offer in contrast to the White Isle's. The Arabian sunset was picturesque yet there were no applauds like there are for the Balearic ones along the sunset strip back in Ibiza.

PHOTO | Camel, the only way to travel


Zero Gravity, our New Year club of choice, perched on the Dubai seafront adjacent to the soaring skyscrapers of the Marina's skyline that tower in the background. As we arrived at the inside bar area, the zesty vibrations of Ibiza's beloved Conjure Balearia (Maceo Plex) pulsed through from the outdoor dance floor. It became clear that this fiesta was of the alfresco variety as we walked through to the open air showground where Hot Since 82 was gracing the decks. With the backdrop of Dubai's iconic horizon in the distance and the clappy, snappy taps of Bigger Than Prince playing overhead, this clubbing experience reminded me of those early morning sunrises at Hideout's Croatian utopia Noa Bar. The clock struck twelve and fireworks from the distance illuminated the sleepy night sky, signalling the dawn of 2015. Guy Fawkes, eat your heart out. Groove Armada triumphantly took to the turntables, showcasing an impressive back-catalogue of their own chart-topping hits including the cheeky I See You Baby and the saxophone smash Superstylin' as well as Lil Jon's Drink. And do you know what? Even in the desert you can't escape the crunchy buzz shufflers giving it their fanciest footwork to a bass-heavy beat.

The tourism of the UAE will continue to climb with Expo 2020 set to drive businesses to reach dizzying new heights. Yet Dubai attracts tourists more with its glitz, glamour and luxury shopping precincts, not no-sleep-style partying. Desert moons and Arabian magic carpets are more important here than packed, never-ending dance floors, and I've learnt to admire and enjoy both for completely opposite reasons. Happy New Year!

WORDS | Francesca Evans


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