Madinat Jumeirah

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Souk Madinat Jumeirah

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One of Dubai’s most attractive developments, Madinat Jumeirah is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional Arab village, complete with a souq (market), palm-fringed waterways and desert-colored hotels and villas festooned with wind towers. It’s especially enchanting at night, when the gardens are romantically lit and the Burj Al Arab gleams in the background. There are exquisite details throughout, so if you see some stairs, take them – they might lead you to a hidden terrace with a mesmerising vista of the sprawling complex.

Architecture of Madinat Jumeirah

The architects of this luxurious resort village at the foot of the Burj Al Arab looked to Dubai's original creekside settlement in Bur Dubai for inspiration. Wind towers, traditional wooden boats used as water taxis, waterways and even a market create modern Arabian flair in this complex that comprises three palatial hotels and dozens of private villas set in a richly landscaped garden.

People shopping at Souk Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai
Souk Madinat Jumeirah is constructed to look like a traditional Arab market © Tupungato / Shutterstock

Shopping at Souk Madinat Jumeirah

At the heart of the complex lies Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a maze-like bazaar with around 75 shops lining wood-framed walkways. Although the ambience is too contrived to feel like an authentic Arab market, the quality of some of the crafts, art and souvenirs is actually quite high. For a bit of Western culture, see what’s playing at the Madinat Theatre. There are numerous cafes, bars and restaurants, the nicest of which overlook the waterways and the Burj Al Arab.

An abra floats through the waterway at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai
Visitors can ride traditional-style boats through the waterways of Madinat Jumeirah © Seqoya / Shutterstock

Riding an abra at Madinat Jumeirah

Explore Madinat Jumeirah's 2.5-mile-long network of winding waterways on a leisurely 20-minute cruise aboard a traditional-style abra (a motorized wooden boat) with cushioned benches. The desert seems far away as you glide past enchanting gardens of billowing bougainvillea, bushy banana trees and soaring palms, all set against the dramatic Burj Al Arab backdrop. Tours leave from the Souk Madinat waterfront (near Trader Vic's). No reservations are necessary. If you are staying at a Madinat hotel or eating at one of the restaurants, your abra shuttle is free.

Open-air bar-restaurant in Madinat Jumeirah, with the Burj Al Arab in the background
Madinat Jumeirah has plenty of bars and restaurants with great views of the Burj Al Arab © Gimas / Shutterstock

Where to get Friday brunch at Madinat Jumeirah

At the start of the weekend in the United Arab Emirates, Friday brunch in Dubai is a time-honored tradition, especially among Western expats. The Madinat hotels Al Qasr and Mina A'Salam are famous for putting on some of the most most opulent spreads in town. Both dish up an unbelievable cornucopia of delectables – roast lamb, sushi, cooked-to-order seafood, beautiful salads, mezze and all sorts of hot dishes, plus there are cheese and dessert rooms. Make dinner or brunch reservations at least one week ahead for most of the restaurants.

Turtle watching

The Jumeirah Al Naseem resort is the latest addition to Madinat Jumeirah and the home of the nonprofit Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project. It has nursed more than 560 injured or sick sea turtles back to health and released them into the Gulf. The turtles spend the last weeks before their release in the hotel's sea-fed lagoon. The enclosure is open to the public daily for free, and feedings take place at 11am on Wednesdays. Access is via the hotel. Keep an eye out for specimens of the endemic hawksbill turtle that limped onto the list of critically endangered species, with only 8000 nesting females known to exist worldwide.

Yoga on the beach

Downward dog and sun salutation with a view of the Burj Al Arab? Just sign up for the daily sunset yoga sessions  for Dhs90 ($24.50) organized by the on-site Talise Spa and on Madinat Jumeirah's private beach. An even more spiritual journey awaits during Full Moon Yoga – if you can get the timing right.

Madinat Jumeirah at night
Madinat Jumeirah has a handful of five-star accommodations © Peter Pesta Photography / Getty Images

Where to stay near Madinat Jumeirah

Madinat Jumeirah is located in the Jumeirah neighborhood of Dubai. Luxury lovers should steer towards the Burj Al Arab or the hotels at Madinat Jumeirah. The cluster of midrange hotels and hotel-apartments next to the Mall of Emirates offer great value for money.

Where to eat near Madinat Jumeirah

Take advantage of happy-hour deals offered at many Madinat bars. For sunset drinks with a view of the Burj Al Arab, the rug-lined terrace of the Bahri Bar is a perfect vantage point. Book early for delicious seafood with Madinat and Burj Al Arab views at chic and sophisticated Pierchic.

How to get to Madinat Jumeirah

The nearest Dubai Metro station is Mall of the Emirates, but you'll need to take a taxi or bus from there. Buses 8, 81 and 88 pass by Madinat Jumeirah.