Pakistan v England Cricket Tour 2012 - UAE
At the end of 2011, when the idea of the Pakistan v England series being hosted in the UAE had developed from being just a rumour to a probable reality, Howzat Travel Managing Director Ian Kerr visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi to discover more. This reconnaissance report from his trip will hopefully give you an idea on what to expect...
With two new venues that no discerning cricket enthusiast will want to miss out on - plus guaranteed sun, the best service levels and jaw-dropping architecture - this tour will no doubt attract a good following from the England contingent.
I travelled to the UAE with an open mind about what to expect and I can tell you that I loved every minute! Yes, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are desert cities, however they are modern (to the extreme) and mainly made up of the expatriate communities. The infrastructure of roads and public transport is excellent, making it an ideal place to easily move around and visit the many tourist attractions that it has on offer.
My over all impresssion is that as a new cricketing destination, the United Arab Emirates definitely has the 'wow' factor!
Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It is rather like an independent city-state and is the most modern and progressive emirate in the UAE, developing at an unbelievable pace - in the tourist and trade sectors especially.
The current ruler of Dubai (and the prime minister of UAE) wants Dubai to become the top tourist destination in the world and this is evident as you moved around the city; there has been an epic boom of construction on a large scale and Dubai already ranks and the 7th most visited city in the world with 7.8 million visitors in 2009. This figure is expected to go up to 15 millionby 2015!
3* Howard Johnson Hotel -
This hotel - formerly The Highlands Hotel - is located in the bustling quarter of Bur Dubai and boasts 123 stylish and tastefully decorated rooms and suites.
Each room has complimentary tea, coffee and water, a mini-bar & satellite TV. Within the hotel itself, you have two restaurants and a 24-hour coffee shop. The hotel also has an excellent gymnasium and roof-top pool.
The hotel has its own night club called Rock City, where you can play pool or even enjoy the nightly bands and DJs.
Due to its great location, you can expect an easy 30-minute daily transfer to Sports City or take the 10-minute stroll to the Metro station to head out and explore the city.
4* Royal Ascot Hotel -
Our chosen 4* property - also in the Bur Dubai part of town - is the Royal Ascot hotel. The hotel's ideal location, comfort levels, facilities and value for money makes it an ideal choice for guests staying in Dubai for the first and/or third Test match.
Each of the hotel's 80 rooms consists of a mini-bar, tea & coffee making facilities along with a plasma TV and satellite channels. Wi-Fi is available and chargeable.
The Royal Ascot hotel also offers complimentary coach travel for those that would like to visit the beach on days off from the cricket. If you would prefer to stay local, then the hotel has its own health spa and beautiful outdoors swimming pool.
Finally, after a long day in the sun at the cricket, why not enjoy the hotel's very own Irish bar.
You can expect an easy 40 minute daily transfer to Sports City.
Dubai International Cricket Stadium
The 25,000-seater Dubai International Cricket Stadium is affectionately known as the 'Ring of Fire' due to its unique floodlighting system, and it holds claim to being one of the most amazing cricketing arenas in the world.
With state-of-the-art players' facilities and spectators' needs at the forefront of the stadium's design, it's easy to see why the world's best players are suggesting this is now the best venue in world cricket.
What to see and do...
Until recently called Burj Dubai, at 828m and 160 floors this is the world's tallest structure by a long shot, over 300m taller than the previous contender in Taipei. The observation deck at the 124th floor is the 2nd highest in the world after the Shanghai World Financial centre. Already dominating the Dubai skyline, the newly opened tower houses nine hotels and a Las Vegas-inspired fountain system.
The Dubai Fountain
At 270m in length and sporting a jet that shoots water up to 150m, the Dubai Fountain is the world's largest dancing fountain and one with a very enticing display - a definite must see. The show starts every evening at the Burj Dubai Lake. The easiest way to approach it is via the Dubai Mall.
Beaches and sea
There are endless water-sport opportunities as Dubai has some of the whitest and sandiest beaches in the world. Ocean temperatures range from 22°C in winter up to 35°C in summer. The water is also very salty so you may prefer to use your hotel swimming pool. You could also make the 90-minute road journey to the east coast emirate of Fujairah or the Sharjah enclave, Khor Fakkan, for top class diving on coral reefs supporting extensive marine life.
Al Safa Park
This is one of the oldest in Dubai. It's a favourite for sports enthusiasts, and many visitors enjoy playing tennis, volleyball, and soccer. Children love playing games in the video arcade, or riding the ferris wheel and bumper cars. The park even has a maze to wander through. Barbeques and picnic areas are available for those who want to make a day of it.
The Camel Race Track
This is one of the more unusual attractions in Dubai, with races being held on Thursday and Friday in the winter. Not only can you watch the races, but you'll also have the opportunity to visit the paddocks. Vendors sell everything from beads to rugs and blankets, so you can purchase souvenirs.
Desert Safari or Dune Bashing
Head out to the desert in an SUV with specialist desert drivers. The drivers will take you for a roller-coaster ride over sand dunes, show you the sunset from a strategic vantage point and then take you to a lavish dinner with music and dance to complete the atmosphere. You may want to stay clear of the dune-bashing if you know that you get car-sick easily!
Dubai now has its own snow skiing centre. Located in the new Mall of the Emirates (MOE), on the Sheikh Zayed Road, it offers both skiing and snowboarding. The slope is quite large for an indoor area. All equipment is available for hire. Although it is -4°C inside, you don't need to bring a jacket because they supply pretty much everything except gloves and a hat (which you can buy there).
Wild Wadi Park
This is the perfect place for the entire family to spend a day, as well as being a great way to beat the heat and enjoy the day away from the bustle of the city. Located close to Jumeriah Beach, the park has water rides, slides, and a lagoon that's hidden away. You'll enjoy waterfalls, out of the way swimming holes, and a tidal pool.
Dubai Creek Cruise/Ride
The Dubai creek is the foundation from which Dubai grew. It originally served as a port for trading vessels plying to and from India, Africa and the Middle East. Today a bit of the old shipping culture still remains. In and around the creek one can see some of the original buildings that have served as customs houses and defence structures. You can book a ride on the creek with a dinner cruise or even rent a private boat to take you on a hour long ride up and down the creek.
It may be a desert, but a lot of money and water is spent on irrigating Dubai's extravagant golf courses. Alternatively, for a more local flavour, try sand golf!
Hot Air Balloon
Great fun seeing all the sand dunes and mountains early in the morning or during sunset.
Abu Dhabi is the federal capital and centre of government activity in the United Arab Emirates. It is also one of the most modern cities in the world.
With a population of just under 1.5 million, Abu Dhabi is the headquarters of numerous oil companies and embassies and has been descibed as “the richest city in the world”. It features large gardens and parks, green boulevards lining all the streets and roads, sophisticated high-rise buildings, international luxury hotel chains and opulent shopping malls.
Abu Dhabi offers little in the way of historical or cultural sights but it certainly isn’t lacking in attractions and many of them are free. The city has several large green spaces, many of which include play areas and equipment for children and the city is studded with lovely fountains, swathes of neon light, and the occasional sculpture.
3* Park Inn, Yas Island -
Our chosen 3* hotel in Abu Dhabi is the Park Inn, conveniently located on Yas Island. This new 3* hotel purpose-built for the 2009 Grand Prix boasts 204 well-appointed rooms with superb amenities such as Amerigos Mexican restaurant, high spend complimentary internet access, an outdoor swimming pool, tennis court, health club and gym.
With Yas Links Golf Club and Saadiyat Golf Course, plus lots of other activities such as the newly-opened Farari World all on the hotel's doorstep, hosting our customers at the Park Innl was an easy choice to make.
The city centre of Abu Dhabi is 25 minutes away and Dubai is a 45-minute drive from the hotel. It isalso ideally-located for Zayed Sports City, which is 10 minutes away.
4* Holiday Inn -
A palm-lined driveway leads to the glittering glass facade of the 11-storey Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi. This modern hotel is located in the centre of Abu Dhabi Island, 3km from government offices and a 5-minute drive from Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
The Holiday Inn has wireless internet in all rooms and public areas, and you can sunbathe on loungers by the lovely rooftop pool, wilst enjoying views of the Grand Mosque's dazzling white marble domes.
The hotel is just 2km from Zayed Sports City Stadium for the Cricket transfers.
Sheikh Zayed Stadium
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi cost $22 million to build and is arguably one of the world's finest cricket grounds. It was opened in May 2004 and staged its first first-class match when Scotland played Kenya in the Intercontinental Cup that November.
The ground is dominated by two large stands at either end, with the areas square of the wicket offering large grass banking for spectators to sit, although during the daylight hours that might be less than appealing as there is no shade. There is no pavilion as such, with the large changing rooms under one of the stands, and teams watch from inside air-conditioned glass rooms.
What to see and do...
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The sixth largest mosque in the world - construction is mostly completed. Entry into the mosque for non-Muslims is restricted to Saturday-Thursday mornings.
Abu Dhabi’s spectacular waterfront stretches for miles from the breakwater near Marina Shopping Mall almost up to the Mina Zayed port. It has a walkway for the entire length, and certain stretches have sandy beaches. There are also many activities like go-cart riding, playgrounds and even stages for shows. All this against a backdrop of the impressive towers of downtown Abu Dhabi. In the evening, it feels as if the whole of Abu Dhabi has come here for their evening walk!
At 123m, this is among the world’s tallest flagpoles, and you won’t miss the massive UAE flag hanging off it. It is located on Marina Island across from Marina Mall.
Located off Al Salam Street near the Grand Mosque, this is the best park by far, built at a cost of $50 million. It has its own aquarium, museum, train, play parks and formal gardens.
The alpha-male motorsports den of Yas Island features a world-class motor sports racetrack, which held its first Formula 1 race in 2009. Since then, Yas Island has opened the theme park 'Ferrari World', and also the Yas Links Golf Course.
NB: Howzat Travel reserves the right to make alterations to any aspect of the itinerary, including accommodation stated. Equivalent alternatives will be provided if this is the case.