My first trip to Dubai felt like drinking from a firehose. I was there to do research for our upcoming AFAR Experience and there was so much I wanted to explore to get to heart of the real, unexpected Dubai. But, on this preliminary outing, I chose to experience the quintessential offerings of this young, superlative-rich nation. So I joined Platinum Heritage’s desert safari, which transported me across a sea of sand to a moodily-lit Bedouin camp, where I sipped date juice while watching a falcon swoop perilously close to our heads and ate steaming hot bread straight from the kiln, imagining myself to be an Arabian princess. I took an abra (water taxi) across the creek to the old town of Bur Dubai, where merchants sell aromatic spices and impossibly soft pashminas in the souks while locals cool off with icy lemon sorbet from back-alley vendors. I flew high over the Persian Gulf on a seaplane tour, looking at the jewels in Dubai’s crown—the man-made islands known as the Palm and the World—surrounded by sparkling green seawater, Burj Khalifa’s peak glistening in the distance.

Speaking of Burj Khalifa, Dubai’s greatest achievement just may be that it has attracted the world’s greatest talents to produce these amazing architectural and engineering feats. The city is truly a multi-ethnic global hub for creativity, design and innovation, from its roster of world-class chefs to the new Dubai Design District that nurtures emerging local talent. It is an extraordinary example of a place—a once-barren landscape—that now offers visitors a playground of experiences where imagination is the only boundary.

Finally, I gave into (even more) luxury at the One & Only Royal Mirage, where I was steamed, bathed, and scrubbed until I resembled tuna sashimi, then massaged until my skin felt like the softest in the world. Huh, another superlative! I must be in Dubai.

Come explore with Jill: Sign up for our 2016 trip to Dubai at Afarexperiences.com!