Looking like some kind of oversized, upmarket Disneyland fantasy, the Madinat Jumeirah is one of Dubai’s most enjoyable pieces of outrageous make believe. This huge leisure complex is designed as a sort of self-contained Arabian city, with an endless sprawl of picturesque, vaguely Moroccan-looking buildings, topped with hundreds of pretty little wind towers and arranged around a series of canal-like waterways – opening up, here and there, to reveal jaw-dropping views of the adjacent Burj al Arab.
The complex is home to the luxurious Al Qasr, Mina A’Salam and Dar al Masyaf hotels, clustered around the beautiful Souk Madinat Jumeirah, which provides the entire development with its focal point. This is perhaps the most attractive replica souk in the city, with a tangle of meandering alleyways, topped with elaborate wooden roofs and lined with an excellent (if relatively pricey) array of upmarket souvenir and handicraft shops – not particularly big, although it’s surprisingly easy to get at least slightly lost.
At the far end of the souk, the various alleyways tumble down towards a long waterfront promenade, dotted with a long string of waterside bars and restaurants. It’s a beautiful spot at any time of the day, although really comes into its own after dark, when the restaurant terraces fill up with crowds of diners and hosts of locals and tourists come to strut their stuff alongside the waterfront walkway – one of the liveliest and most enjoyable places to spend an evening in the city.