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5 over-the-top experiences you must do in Dubai

A picture taken on Jan. 15, 2020, shows a view of Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, in Dubai.
A picture taken on Jan. 15, 2020, shows a view of Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, in Dubai.GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

Dubai is extra. Everything about Dubai is over-the-top, from its hotels to its dining scene to its activities. And that’s why we love it. Here are five over-the-top experiences you must do in Dubai . . . because you can only do them there.

Drive like James Bond James Bond loves to pose with his Aston Martin. We’ve seen him drive his epic car in “Goldeneye,” “Die Another Day,” and “Casino Royale” — and will once more in the soon to be released “No Time to Die.” When you stay at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, you can drive one of the Aston Martins through Dubai and the desert (posing in front of your Aston Martin in a desert with a camel photobombing is just about as over-the-top you can get). The experience is gratis for those staying at this Waldorf or at the Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah.

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Get an outrageous spa treatment Dubai doesn’t settle for average, especially when it comes to self-care. It feels like each spa tries to outdo the next, offering bigger, grander, more luxurious, extravagant treatments. But our favorite is the Sela Mineral gold and caviar facial at The Spa at Address Dubai Mall in downtown Dubai. Turns out, caviar isn’t just a delicacy to eat: It also firms your face. The gold revitalizes your skin, and an anti-aging pearl collagen is added for a touch of plumpness.

Pearl diving Dubai contains natural pearls and has a rich pearl history (pun intended). The tradition dates back more than 7,000 years, to when Ras Al Khaimah was a major trading post for pearls in the 1100s. In fact, many of the families who live in Dubai today are there because they wanted to live close to their pearl diving jobs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. While the UAE pearl industry plummeted after their pearls were replaced by artificial Japanese pearls in the 1900s, you can still take a pearl diving trip steeped in tradition — and you can keep whatever you find. There are a few pearl diving companies that are popular, including the Dubai Pearl Diving Tour or the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah experience at the Al Suwaidi Pearl Farm.

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Hang out with camels Exploring the desert via camel — a.k.a. a desert safari — is the only way to do it here. It’s the oldest form of transport, and is actually much easier than riding a horse, as they go incredibly slowly and all you have to do is sit and enjoy the ride. A desert safari in Dubai traditionally includes the sunset camel-ride, an Emirati dinner (lots of meats and hummus), belly dancing, henna painting, and a falcon show. It’s essentially a Dubai bucket list checked off in a single evening.

Play in the sand In California, you go surfing; in Colorado, you go skiing. In Dubai, you go sandboarding. It’s essentially snowboarding in the desert on sand through the dunes. The natural curves of the desert slopes make it the perfect place to slide down — sometimes from a height of 1,000 feet. You strap on a sandboard, and off you go. Yes, you will fall — but you’ll fall into the sand. Alternatively, try Dune Bashing, which is similar — but instead of sliding down on a sandboard, you travel over the sand in a Jeep. This is a bumpy, fun experience (take Dramamine if you’re prone to motion sickness) reminiscent of a roller coaster ride.

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Danielle Braff can be reached at daniellebraff@gmail.com.

People enjoy a city skyline view with the World's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in Dubai.
People enjoy a city skyline view with the World's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in Dubai.Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press