29 September 2015 City in the spotlight, Insider’s Guide

The port town of Jebel Ali in southwest Dubai might be the tax-exempt trading centre of the United Arab Emirates, but that doesn’t mean it can’t hold its own as a holiday hotspot too. Whether you’re visiting the country for work or just fancy a few days soaking up the sun in average summer highs of 41 °C, here are just a few reasons to visit Jebel Ali:

1. Get down to business in the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA)

JAFZA is home to more than 5,000 global businesses, thanks to its status as a ‘free zone’. The lack of currency restrictions, corporate taxes, personal income tax and minimum capital investment are just a few benefits attracting traders and manufacturers to this industrial district every year. So, if you’re scouting locations for your startup, a trip to JAFZA could really pay off.  

2. It’s a hop, skip and a jump from the airport

As well as boasting the world’s largest (and 9th busiest) port, Jebel Ali is home to what’s expected to become the largest airport in the world. Al Maktoum International, which opened for passenger flights in 2013, is just 18 minutes by car from the centre of JAFZA and forms part of the under-construction Dubai World Central complex, a development that’s said to be handling 20 million visitors a year by 2020.

3. Have a free day at the races

The 2200-metre Jebel Ali racecourse is owned by Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, son of the UAE’s former prime minister. Built to Sheikh Ahmed’s exacting specifications in 1990, the horseshoe-shaped track was designed in the style of a right-handed Epsom Downs. Unlike the flat, oval racetracks typically found in the east, the unique Jebel Ali course is full of twists and turns and famed for its punishing uphill finish. There are usually six half-hour races every afternoon, and admission is free.

4. A bird’s eye view of Dubai

For breathtaking views of Dubai, get picked up on Jebel Ali’s seafront and set off on an incredible aerial excursion of the city’s coastline by seaplane. In 40 minutes you’ll see Burj Al Arab (the fourth tallest hotel in the world), Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest skyscraper), the historic Dubai Creek and a host of spectacular manmade islands (more on those later).

 5. Hunt for souvenirs

Enjoy a spot of tax-free shopping in Jebel Ali’s malls, including the world’s largest themed shopping mall, Ibn Battuta. Designed to celebrate the travels of its namesake, a renowned 14th century Moroccan explorer, the building is split into six zones: Andalusia, Tunisia, Egypt, Persia, India and China. It houses more than 275 shops (including BHS, Debenhams and Forever 21), 50 restaurants and a 21-screen megaplex cinema, which includes UAE’s only IMAX.

6. See Palm Jebel Ali from above

In 2002, work began on an artificial collection of islands just off the coast of Jebel Ali, built – incredibly – in the shape of a palm tree. Sadly the ambitious project was paused indefinitely in 2008 but developers and investors are confident the project will soon be completed. When it is, the archipelago will be home to six marinas, several theme parks, a SeaWorld centre and homes built on stilts to house 250,000 people. Until then, you’ll have to make do with a stunning aerial view of the islands, courtesy of a seaplane or skydive. Construction might not be finished but the islands are still a sight to behold, and Palm Jebel Ali is 50% larger than nearby Palm Jumeirah – another artificial island group – so it’s definitely worth a look down.

If you’re staying at easyHotel Jebel Ali, ask at reception about any of these trips.