Our emirate’s glittering and oft-photographed skyline means most people think the best way to view it is precisely that – at eye level. We were always happy enough to gaze at it maze-style from a passing taxi or, on one or two very lucky occasions, from offshore, while bobbing merrily on the back of a yacht. Until, that is, we were given the opportunity to take to the air.
Alpha Tours offers a selection of helicopter flights (half an hour or an hour, private or group) that whisk you up, up and away from its Festival City helipad and on a whistle-stop tour of the city. It’s a fascinating ride – by setting off on the Deira side of the Dubai Creek, the trip follows an almost chronological journey through the city’s development, from relatively flat, souk-bustling trading port through the environment-defying ambitions of its man-made islands, the Palm (realised) and the World (not quite as yet), all the way to the astonishing spectacle that is the newly finished Burj Khalifa (née Dubai).
Of course, the islands, especially, are tailor-made for this perspective – the striations of the Palm Jumierah and sandy ebb and flow of the World are at their jaw-dropping best from the angle that is bird’s eye. But it’s the rest of the tour that really surprises. From up here, residential developments such as the Gardens startle, their tidy circular-and-straight geometry looking like so many elegiac crop circles. The flat wastelands of Al Quoz, by contrast, appear even more desolate from on high than they do from the ground. It’s all over far too quickly, of course – we could have easily stayed up there all day – but as we hover back into Festival City it’s with the slightly naughty secret smiles of those who’ve been let into a very special club. Thanks, Alpha Tours, for the memories. Catherine Jarvie Tours depart from the helipad at Dubai Festival City. Dhs875 per person for 20 minutes, Dhs1,250 per person for 30 minutes. For more info, call Alpha Tours on 04 294 9888.