Dubai International Airport is a major aviation hub in the Middle East, & is the main airport of Dubai. It is situated in the Al Garhoud district, 2.5 miles south-east of the city & is operated by the Department of Civil Aviation. The airport is the home base of Dubai’s international airlines, Emirates, FlyDubai & Emirates SkyCargo.
The Emirates hub is the largest airline hub in the Middle East, with the carrier handling 60% of all passenger traffic, & accounting for 38% of all aircraft movements at the airport.
The airport will become a secondary hub for Qantas in April 2013, after a major partnership was formed between Emirates & the Australian carrier.
Qantas will use Dubai as the main stopover point for flights on travelling to Europe. As of September 2012, there are over 6,000 weekly flights operated by 130 airlines to over 220 destinations across every continent except Antarctica.
Dubai has the distinction of being the only airport in the world to have a dedicated terminal to the Airbus A380, which will be used exclusively by Emirates & Qantas.
From a spotters point of view, this hotel is widely thought of as the best hotel at this busy & fascinating Middle Eastern airport, being located right under the flight path of arriving or departing aircraft.
The Sheraton Deira is located around one mile away from the airport. Although the hotel does not operate a shuttle service to/from the terminals, when booking with World of Transport Travel, we always include round trip shuttle transport on arrival & departure.
Dubai – The Report
What can I say? Firstly, it’s very hot & this would be an understatement! Even though it was the end of September, the temperature was between 38°C-41°C each day, reducing to between 30°C – 35°C at night. Luckily, the rooms & the rest of the hotel are air-conditioned which makes it comfortable.
I arrived at 0830 & although check-in was supposed to be from 1500, my room was ready for me to occupy by 0930, which, as they say, was a result!
Staff sent me up to the pool area, located on the top – sixth floor, to wait & then came to get me. Alas, I didn’t take any photos of the room but needless to say, for a 4* star hotel, they were absolutely fine. I was in room 454 which faces towards the airport allowing views of the planes either departing or arriving over the hotel.
On hindsight, a room on the fifth floor (554, or 555) may well have been better, as you’d get a view of the actual airport, just!
Anyway, back to the room. It had a king-size bed, chairs, desk, big flat-screen TV, a decent bathroom (even if it only had luke-warm water), & a kettle with tea/coffee facilities. There is a fridge/mini-bar but it is sealed & if broken you have to pay for it. I didn’t touch it all week! The U.A.E. operates the same plug sockets as in the UK, so no need for adaptors.
OK, what about the viewing? Well, it is done from the pool area. This is open from 0700 – 2230. I was up there most days for at least 14-15 hours! Others left when it got dark.
There is a decent sized pool up there which has a swim up bar. There are three areas where you can sit under cover & other areas where you can lay out in the sun. With the heat though, under cover was where I spent most of my time, apart from when I was in the pool.
You will find plug sockets dotted around the swimming pool area. As you can imagine this becomes very handy indeed when using a laptop with SBS/AirNav. Cargo, biz jets & maintenance are all on the left of the airport as you look, along with the Fly Dubai terminal. This is also used by most Iranian flights, Air India Express & a couple of other low cost airlines. To the right are the terminals used by most scheduled airlines although you can’t see much of them as the view is blocked by the metro station.
There is also a taxiway that runs between the runways, which is used by a lot of the departing aircraft to get to the runway thresholds. The only problem is the heat haze, as it stopped me reading off any numbers from aircraft on the ground, all week. Some of the spotters with large telescopes &/or big lensed cameras were able to read off some registrations, but not many.
For the first four days, the planes were always departing over the hotel. Usually on the runway to the left as you look at the airport from the hotel, although they did have some single runway use for a time due to runway repairs. If they are taking off, you can read off any numbers under the wings, usually just with the mark one eyeball.
You may have problems with any planes with no numbers under the wing, such as US carriers. Anything you see landing towards you, way off in the distance, will be identifiable but you have no chance of reading them off.
If landing over the hotel, which they did for part of the last two days, again you will be able to read them off without binoculars, even the US aircraft. Anything taking off will be visible at the holding points before it lines up. Biz jets are frequent movers, however, you will only get them if they either land or depart over the hotel.
Overall, for registrations, you will get the numbers of whatever passes the hotel, but you will miss the rest. An SBS is a real god-send as I’m sure that I would have halved the amount of numbers without it. On the up-side, out of the five or so people/groups of spotters I saw there, all but one had an SBS, so if you need a number I’m sure they would help.
It gets dark around 1800, so after dark, whilst you could read off a few if you have good binoculars, the SBS well & truly comes into it’s own. However, it’s a personal choice as to whether you take numbers that may appear to be just lights, or whether you need to see more. I personally only took ones that I managed to get a good view of on taxi etc, or if they passed the hotel. Each to their own as they say.
Photography. Well, you will get shots of some weird & wonderful planes/airlines. They will though, be very similar. If landing past the hotel you can get some good side on shots, shots of them approaching you head-on or after they have passed. When taking-off over the hotel the shots will mainly be of the bottom of the plane or a quick glimpse of the tail as they pass.
You will also get overflights from Sharjah, occasionally, which can be tied up with SBS. Although it is only about 10 miles away, the haze makes it impossible to see. The same can be said with the new all cargo airport, Dubai Cargo Airport (Al Maktoum International Airport), to the south at Jebel Ali (but some arrivals/departures will route over the top at about 10,000 feet. There are plenty of overflights as well.
Would I recommend the place. Well, in a word, yes. Would I go back? Again, a resounding yes. Is it great for photography? Well, I’m not convinced that it is. Photos are all pretty much the same, there is not much you can do to alter the angles. However, the variety well & truly make up for it.
General details. There is a bar at the pool that serves drinks/food. Cans of coke etc are DHS18 (£3), beer DHS35 (£7-8). Pretty pricey, but it is a four star hotel, in a country that only really allows alcohol in hotels.
However, there is a mini-market about 100 yards from the hotel that sells soft drinks for about 30 pence each, along with biscuits, crisps etc. Whilst you cannot chill them in the room, you can take them up to the pool & drink them on the quiet. As long as you buy a few drinks over the day, staff will not worry. You also get given a couple of bottles of water each day in the room which you can take up there.
Food wise there are various options. They have two restaurants downstairs. One does breakfast, both do lunch & dinner, & there are themed-night buffets. I didn’t use them though, as I only ate upstairs at the pool. The latter has a snack menu, that serves burgers, club sandwich, fish & chips etc. These are actually quite reasonable at about DHS35-DHS60 (£7-11).
As I was up on the roof by 0730 – 0800, I chose not to have breakfast, instead choosing to have a snack from the mini-market, & then a lunch & evening snack on the roof. That was plenty for me.
Happy hour from 1800 – 2000 each day, meant 25% off of drinks. The bar opens from 0900 to 1900 each day. There is also a sports bar on the fifth floor, open in the evening until 0300. However, be warned, this is very pricey & you certainly would not want to get drunk. Mind you, it would not be wise to be drunk in the U.A.E., per say.
I would recommend that you make the effort to get out into the city for a look around. The hotel offers a city tour lasting four hours which was worth going on for a quick overview of the city. The cost was DHS110 (£16).
There are other tours such as a trip to the sand dunes in a 4×4 with quad biking & a meal in a Bedouin tent. I would like to do this but didn’t feel it was right for me on my own. Maybe next time.
You also need to visit the two main shopping malls, if for no other reason but to see the indoor ski-slope or the three-storey aquarium.
The dancing fountains at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa Tower are also worth a visit. I wanted to go up the tower; there’s a viewing platform on the 124th floor! (yes, really!!), but you need to book in advance & it was sold out for each day I was there.
Getting about is easy, the metro costs DHS16 (£3) for a day pass & the nearest station (Abu Baker Al Siddique, located on the green line) is only a five to ten minute mins walk from the hotel. It is very safe & easy to use. Please note that there are female & family carriages, first class, & regular carriages, so if you are male, don’t use the female carriage. You will be politely asked to leave. (Editorial note: We suggest you buy a NOL card from the ticket desk, which can topped up at any time, rather like the Oyster card in London).
Taxis are also abundant & not that expensive (you need only look at the cost of petrol in the U.A.E. to realise that).
Shorts are acceptable to wear in most places, the hotels, malls, sightseeing etc. However, if visiting a bar/restaurant it would be best to wear long trousers, jeans etc.
If you would like to make a reservation for this hotel, with or without flights, please contact us with your requested dates, number of people travelling & number of rooms. We offer bed & breakfast or half board (dinner, bed & breakfast) rates, so remember to tell us which meal plan you require.