Perfecting the stealth boast on Instagram is quite an art and one that has helped some skilful and creative users amass millions of fans. While some of the most popular accounts are owned by professional photographers, many belong to creative amateurs that have made the most of their smartphone´s capabilities and have honed their shooting skills over time. Which means that such populace is literally at the reach of our fingers, though it definitely helps if we travel to exotic, scenic or aesthetically inspiring places that are picture-perfect.
Dubai is one of those wondrous places and the emirate showers all smartphone owners with amazing opportunities for jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring photos that are sure to get a lot of likes, or at the very least cause temporary jealousy among our followers and friends. A Dubai holiday presents us with the perfect chance to try our hand at being the coolest Instagrammer on the planet for a few days. Here, the intention is to give you some time tips on some of the best Dubai locations to achieve that Insta-perfect moment and snap it way (no filter required!).
The best part is that for an Insta-worthy collection you don’t need to lug around heavy pieces of photography equipment or hang a heavy DSLR on your neck. All you need is your smartphone, a steady hand and, at times, a bit of a creative eye to create some striking juxtapositions, though for most places in Dubai, the awesomeness of the buildings or the views is so great, that just pointing and pressing the capture button will be enough. You can enlist the help of a filter or two, but again, in the right places it most likely won´t be needed.
Whatever you do, wherever you go in Dubai, you simply cannot help but come across this marvel of engineering, at least once. It helps that it sits in the midst of downtown like the biggest jewel in the crown. This is where you´ll take the quintessential trophy photo that seals the deal that you’ve really been to Dubai and admired its greatest edifice, the world´s tallest and its biggest record-breaker.
Hard as you may try, unless you’re a professional photographer, or a highly skilled one atop a helicopter you won’t be able to get the whole sky-scraping length of the world’s tallest tower in a landscape shot, which makes your phone the ideal and only device through which you can attempt to capture (it will take a few tries) its colossal length. By the way, one final tip of advice, if there´s anywhere in Dubai where a selfie is a must-do, this is it. It´s all good and well to photograph the impressive tower on its own, but to really show the world that you were there, nothing like a selfie, or better yet, a selfie with help (like I did on my picture above) as you´ll struggle to capture yourself and the tower on your own.
At the Top - SKY level
Because taking a selfie with the Burj Khalifa in the background just won´t do, snapping Dubai from above is truly special. And you don´t need to book an expensive helicopter ride to do it (though you certainly can if you want) but instead go for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of climbing the world´s tallest tower to reach its amazing observation deck on floor 148, a.k.a. SKY level (the tower has 163 floors!). From here you´ll be able to see all of Dubai from a privileged vantage point. You´ll be snapping away at such speed that later on the hard part will be deciding which of your amazing pictures to upload. And you will have to be very selective! Although you could always go for (and might feel compelled to) the option of adding more than one picture and have your followers swipe for one striking vista after the other.
The Dubai Lake
While you´re there, in Downtown Dubai I mean, there are a couple of more places to capture for stunning Instagram shots. Once you´ve done the whole Burj Khalifa experience you won´t have to stray too far for your next great photo-op. Again, there are so many angles from which to capture this beautiful manmade lake that you might struggle (like I did) to choose just one (or even three to four) pictures to show.
The Dubai Fountains Show
Taking place every day as the sun starts going down (usually at 6:00 p.m. and then every half-an-hour thereafter until 11 p.m.) the famous Dubai Fountains Show is an unmissable sight to catch and an even better one to photograph. You can do so from many angles but the area surrounding it tends to get crowded at the start of the show as tourists huddle up, keen to capture the moment with their camera phones which means that the best spots right in front of the action get taken quick. It can all be avoided if you take a boat ride at this time, which is exactly what I did. The photos speak for themselves!
A word of advice, capture the fountain show during daylight and then at night for the most beautiful contrasts to wow your followers with. It will cause maximum impact. Be quick, each show lasts under five minutes and you´ll have to wait half-an-hour for the next one, although you can do so at ease by grabbing a bite with a view at any of the cafes and restaurants facing the Dubai Lake.
A foodie’s envy
It´s not just about making your Insta-followers’ eyes widen in awe with Dubai´s manmade marvels and shows, you can also make their mouths water with the excellent gourmet bites on offer at the many world-class restaurants. Haute cuisine abounds in Dubai and there are international flavours to tease your palate with from virtually every corner of the world.
Spectacular dining venues
Often in Dubai it’s not what you eat but where you eat it. And one of the most spectacular places in which to indulge your taste buds is either of these two underwater restaurants: Ossiano and Al Mahara, housed inside Atlantis The Palm and Burj Al Arab respectively. I dined at the former and the experience was out-for-this-world mind-blowing, one to definitely brag about on Instagram. This is dinner with a view, but a totally different view than what you’re used to!
Glitz and glamour
Of course, no Instagram chronicle of your trip to Dubai would be complete without some shots capturing exquisite designs, grand sculptures and decorations adorning Dubai’s swanky hotels and malls. With some interior designs being out-of-this-world amazing, like that of Atlantis The Palm’s underwater themed lobby (shown here), it’s almost sinful not to capture the majestic beauty that abounds indoors.
Capture culture and tradition in Old Dubai
You know what for every Instagram picture that shows the Burj Khalifa tower somewhere in the background (there’s around 2.5 million on them on Instagram), you will struggle to find decent ones showing the colourful and vibrant district of Deira (less than 500 in fact) in all of its shopping and haggling splendour. This part of town is a minefield for those wishing to strike a bargain and take pictures of colourful fabrics, lamps, silks, shoes, bags and scarves in the process.
Spice it up in Deira’s souks
While exploring Deira, you cannot miss the vendors selling neatly stacked sacks of nuts and spices. It makes for very photogenic Insta-moments and you’ll love the fragrances. Shame they can’t be passed on in the pictures you upload.
A beautiful mosque
If by comparison, less Dubai tourists take the time to tour the souks in Deira and photograph them, even less go rogue and explore off the beaten path to stumble about a beautiful mosque. I did and I found the encounter an unexpected surprise. It’s not the most beautiful or the grandest mosque in Dubai (for that you’ll have to head to the palatial Jumeirah Mosque) but it gave me a rare glimpse into every day worship for Dubai’s citizens off the limelight.
The Dubai Creek crossing
Often ignored by travellers in favour of glitzier, more glamorous hotspots like Dubai’s downtown, the glittering Dubai Creek offers a rare insight into tradition. Capture the authentic, don’t look away from it or try to gloss over it, capture the rust on some of the boats, soak in the older feel of the other side of Dubai, yes this is a more neglected area (though with the development of the new Dubai Creek Harbour and Dubai Creek Marina this might soon to change) and for now it feels all the more authentic for it.
Ride the Abra to cross the creek and board it for just 1 AED (, you’ll be in the most authentic company…I didn’t see one single tourist in sight. Not in my abra and in none of the others where I saw men boarding. It’s a scenic ride and great for contemplating life on the other side of town, away from malls and skyscrapers.
Dubai heritage - history and museums
To contrast the upscale, extravagant luxury of Dubai’s shiny malls and opulent hotels, the old part of town has some interesting relics that make for a totally different experience. The Al Fahidi Fort and Dubai Museum are a great stop not only for the Insta-snappers but also for the curious who want a taste of old Dubai with an immersive journey into how it came to be, from its humble origins to the life-threatening antics of pearl-divers and the tourism boom after they struck oil.
The Beach Life
While Dubai’s beaches might not be as famous as the Caribbean's, there’s no reason you shouldn’t boast about their beauty. While some stretches are prettier and more crystalline than others, the fine sands and emerald hues will be enough to make your friends back home jealous! Whether you’re on The Palm Island or Jumeirah Beach, shout it out to the world, how much fun you’re having splashing about in Dubai! And even better, with no one else in sight (like I was lucky to do!)
If you’re on western side of Jumeirah Beach, relatively close to The Palm you might be able to catch the distinctive majestic shape of Atlantis, you can see it here in the background this shot I took.
Walk the Walk
While we’re on the topic of beaches, let me tell you that you don’t have to stick to the one in your resort (assuming you’re staying beachside) but should aim to venture beyond o explore other sometimes prettier beach sections, like the one at The Walk, lined by pretty cafes and restaurants, having a floating water park and generally buzzing with a lively atmosphere. The sand is whiter here and for some reason the water more crystalline at the shore. As you can see below.
The Resort Life
If you’re living the high life and lapping up luxury at every turn in your hotel and Dubai resort, shout it out to the world, or better (and more effective) yet, show the world! You can caption it somewhere along the lines of: “This is my humble abode for the week”
Since you’re bragging about your hotel on Instagram, why not do so about your plush and elegant room, the more extravagant the better. Mine at The Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Spa was not too out-there or over-the-top luxurious but it was classic sophistication at its finest.
A Room with a View
If you’re lucky enough to get a room with a sweeping view in Dubai, then you must show it off to the world. After all you saved hard for that dream holiday so it’s only fair that you get to brag about the magnificent vistas you wake up to every day.
With so many great malls and so many fantastic attractions inside them (from the largest indoor ski centre in the Middle East to the region’s largest aquarium) hitting the malls in Dubai is “de rigueur”, so a shopping extravaganza should be accompanied by some great shots, whether that’s pumping your own frozen yoghurt or hitting the gold souks.
Housed inside the Dubai Mall, the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is a sight to behold and makes for a fun day out. Most importantly the chances of obtaining stunning photographs abound so you can try snapping the coolest angles for the most striking effects.
All that glitters
With so much beauty, gold, shiny marble, majestic staircases and radiance all around, in Dubai you’ll be coming across glowing, shiny things more often than not. Capture those moments, grab the opportunity to immortalise beautiful traditional Arabian lamps and do so in shops where they’re lined side by side for a more dramatic result, so that your followers can admire the sheer variety of pretty, shiny things.
Is that it?
Of course not, Dubai has endless spots in which to capture stunning, unusual, futuristic, awe-inspiring and over-the-top regal beauty with even newer, even more luxurious or otherwise remarkable spaces, museums or attractions being built as I type, so do snap up the essentials but don’t forget about going off the beaten trail every now and then to capture rarely seen images of Dubai, like the traditional Arabian Tea House below, seemingly in the middle of nowhere (close to Al Fahidi Fort and Dubai Museum).
Don’t forget about the forgotten ones
Yes, everyone will be dying in envy with your super sleek shots of Dubai’s ultra-modern, gravity-defying, jealousy-inducing photos. But you can’t miss the opportunity to surprise a few by also showing Dubai’s most modest side. The day-to-day life of workers in the Old Town, of merchants that make the daily crossing to and fro Dubai Creek, the hard-working labourers. Yes, capture that too. It offers a refreshing insight that most Instagrammers don’t see.
Go for alternative shots
Like the gravity defying cascade of Dubai Mall, showing a group of divers seemingly suspended in mid air as they take the plunge to the water below. Or capturing a rare shot of downtown and Dubai Lake at sunset.
In Dubai, everyone is about the modern, futuristic and plush factor, the lavish indulgence, the most extravagant luxury….Yet when it comes to more off the beaten path locations, few bother, hence giving you a perfect opportunity to wow your crowd of followers with little-seen shots of Dubai, showing a more authentic, raw, everyday sight away from the shiny glitz and glam of hotels. The shot above is of a particularly interesting building I found while walking along the old part of the city. It’s a beautiful mosque seemingly in the middle of nowhere.