Just a relatively short 10-hour hop from the UAE lands you in Cape Town, one of Africa's most incredible cities, that sits at the very edge of the Western Cape, surrounded by enough natural beauty to make your eyes sting.
With a population hovering around the 3.5 million mark, and its position as one of the world's most multicultural cities, Cape Town long dominated the headlines for its violent and bloody past, but now garners column inches as Africa's most popular tourist destination - a designation the city fully deserves.
Boasting a busy harbour, from which hundreds of thousands of tourists disembark from their monolithic cruise ships to take in the abundant natural beauty of the city; the must-visit Camps Bay where dolphins and whales are to be spotted frolicking just yards from the beach; the magnificence of Table Mountain, from which the Western Cape stretches out before you, and the throbbing nighttime pulse of the V&A Waterfront, you'll never run out of things to do in Cape Town, as celebrity visitors including Morgan Freeman and Robert De Niro will surely attest.
During the balmy evenings, head to the V&A, where you'll find a mix of shops, bars and clubs, as well as museums and aquariums, where you can enjoy dinner and drinks by the waterside; and get stuck into one of the steaks the country is rightly famous for. Restaurants are open until late in this vibrant city, testament to the fact that Cape Towners won't be rushed, so neither should the visitor. For the ultimate in chilled-out entertainment, head to Camps Bay - one of the trendiest areas of a city packed with them. Find seafood restaurants serving up just-caught-that-day dishes along the strip with the Atlantic serving as a glittering backdrop. The Bay is where locals come for evening sundowners and weekend R'n'R, with Caprice and Sandbar standout eateries. For a great place to take the family, try the unstuffy and relaxed Retreat Kitchen and the Barocca Club; or leave the kids with a babysitter and hit up Sandy B - the private beach club of the Bay Hotel, whose prime position overlooking the beach makes it a great place to head to after a hard day of sunbathing.
Book a table
No visit to Cape Town is complete without a trip up to Table Mountain, via a vertigo-inducing cable car ride, or a strictly-for-the-fit hike. The world-famous mountain, which has earned a place on Cape Town's flag, stands 3,558 feet above sea level and is visible from across the city, offering views all the way to the Twelve Apostles on the Atlantic Seaboard. Access to the top is at the whim of the weather, and the sheer scale of the natural landmark often sees the top swathed in orographic clouds - dubbed the ‘table cloth' by locals - which legend has it was down to a smoking contest between a local pirate called Van Hunks and the devil.
Located between Table Mountain and Signal Hill, you'll find Lion's Head, of which you can reach the top after an hour-long hike - a popular thing to do in the city during a full moon - with paragliding on offer for adventurous types from the top.
Nightlife for all
When it comes to seeking out your after-dark entertainment, you're spoiled for choice in the cosmopolitan city, with a diverse range on offer, including lounge bars for a more laidback vibe, as well as international clubbing brands including Buddha Bar, which attracts DJs from around the world. The Bang Bang Club on Loop Street is one of the city's most popular, which is shoulder-to-shoulder come the weekend, and strictly for the super-dressed up - no trainers here.
Take things down a notch at Barmooda - a chilled pizzeria by day, with an equally ‘loungey' feel at night, along with the nice touch of a live band on Thursday evenings. Also, if you're lucky, they just might kick off one of their infamous city street parties whilst you're in residence. For an even more down-to-earth vibe, it's best to hit up one of the many pubs Cape Town is home to, including the city institution, Brass Bell on Main Road, which is the ideal Sunday afternoon spot; Caveau at the Mill for those who take their grape seriously, and - if you're missing the Middle East - Baghdad Café, which is all giant cushions and shisha served up on Long Street.
When in town…
As with most big cities, Cape Town boasts a huge range of attractions and things to do, from the expected to the esoteric - with some just a short drive from the main metropolis. Head to Boulder's Beach, just south of historic Simon's Town, where Cape Town's largest penguin colony makes its home in a protected cove, with visitors able to dive right in and swim with them. Dry off with a stroll through the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve at the tip of the Southern Peninsula - a kid's fantasy land filled with rock pools, leafy trails, shipwrecks, lighthouses and abundant wildlife.
To experience a different side of life in Cape Town, the ImiZamo Yethu Township Tour on Mandela Road aims to take tourists out of their vacation comfort zone, allowing them to mix with locals, make purchases to benefit the community and also try the home-made beer on offer. Plus, you'll also find a range of alternative medicines it may well worth be trying out for any niggling ailments modern medicine hasn't yet cured.
Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm
If you want a trip and need to make it snappy, this croc farm will delight both adults and kids alike. With over 1,000 of the reptiles on site, the walkways get you as up close and personal to these beasts as health and safety recommends - and there's the chance to sample crocodile pie in the restaurant afterwards.
A short ferry ride from the city, no visitor leaves Robben Island unaffected by it former status as a prison that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Having housed many political prisoners since its formation back in the 17th century, it's most famous inmate, Nelson Mandela, was famously imprisoned there, and the island now houses a museum, with visitors able to tour the cell blocks and hear talks from former inmates.
Franschhoek Champagne Festival
Each December, the gorgeous town of Franschhoek outside of Cape Town hosts a champers festival, complete with tasting stations, live music and dancing and all kinds of gourmet offerings, amid some of the most stunning wine country you'll ever experience.
One & Only Cape Town One of the chicest hotels in the city, the One & Only offers up 131 rooms and suites, some with incredible views of Table Mountain - which is also visible from the Vista Bar and Lounge. With a spa tucked away on its own mini island within the luxe resort, here you can enjoy treatments and massages traditional to Africa, as well as longer ‘journey's', before kicking back at the hotel's branch of Nobu, or sampling some exquisite local fusion fare at Reuben's.
Primi Royal Boutique Hotel The tiny Camps Bay hotel boasts just 10 rooms and is just a few minutes walk from the beach. With some rooms featuring elegant four-poster beds, the rich, dark wood and raffia interiors make for a traditional African vibe, with a fire crackling away in the bar throughout winter - making it a fantastic place to enjoy a glass of wine.
Protea Hotel Breakwater Lodge Ideally placed right in the heart of the V&A Waterfront, the shops, bars and restaurants of this lively area are right on your doorstep. With no trace of its former incarnation as a prison remaining, you'll find beaches, buzzing nightlife and all the main attractions within easy reach - also cutting down on costly taxi fares. And for eats, choose between the Time-Out Café, with great views of Table Mountain, or Stonebreakers, catering to a wide variety of tastes.
Ask The Dust
Lord of War
Etihad flies directly to Cape Town. Visit etihadairways.com for details.
“When we were in South Africa, [Nelson Mandela’s minders] said, ‘Mandela is here in Cape Town. Would you like to go see him?’ Obviously yeah, but I would rather give him five minutes to relax; he doesn’t know who I am. Morgan [Freeman] knows him very well.”