Aaaarghh, & # 39; shouted Imogen, at the fantastic moment of surprise when we came face to face with Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon, the breath of the beast on our cheeks.
We were suspended from the job tracks in Motiongate, one of the main attractions in the new Dubai Parks complex.
Dubai has long been a favorite family destination, but Dubai Parks seems to have raised the bar. Designed to mimic Florida theme parks, the difference here is that the six interconnected attractions are all in one place.
Dazzling: the business district of Dubai where the world's tallest building is located
It was opened in December 2016, with the final part, the Six Flags roller coasters, which will start next year.
Until then, it might be best suited for families with younger children – perfect for us with Maisie, eight and Imogen, six, in tow. And if busy theme parks are not your bag, it is the art to avoid weekends and holidays.
The parks are huge, but it is the right time and you will not have many queues. In fact, How To Train Your Dragon was the only ride we had in the queue all day long.
We started in the Legoland Water Park, for children from two to twelve, with all classic water park ingredients. Our favorite was the racer, where you slide on a mat and run through individual tubes before rejoining for a final sun-drenched race through the rollers.
A desert safari tour is almost as exciting. In the past caravans of camel merchants led through the sand. Today, caravans are Toyota Land Cruisers, racing through the landscape and picking out every feature while digging on dunes and taking their steep slopes, such as freestyling sandboarders.
Our driver, Alfred, has been doing this for 22 years, and real skill is needed to keep the deflated tires under control with dust that comes from the other vehicles.
You will end up in a camp where the children can ride a camel, try sandboarding, take a henna tattoo and watch juggling belly dancing and fire juggling with stars. It is a somewhat worn-out tourist base, but the children love it.
We stayed in the Oberoi in the business district of Dubai, home of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
The Oberoi is well positioned for the parks and shopping centers of the city and has a large swimming pool on the roof. On Friday there is Karnival, a renowned brunch, culminating with your own dragon's breath passion fruit meringue & # 39; cooked & # 39; in liquid nitrogen. It is amazing to remember that this entire mini-city has been built from scratch in just 12 years – the pace of building here is as breathtaking as the view of the Burj from our hotel window on the 17th floor.
Fun in the sun: Legoland Water Park is suitable for children from 2-12 years old
Perhaps the most intriguing ongoing development project is Al Zorah, in Ajman, also known as the forgotten emirate, 25 minutes from Dubai International Airport. Al Zorah is an eco-development around some of the most beautiful mangroves in the Middle East, with a marina, championship golf course, nature reserve and a long stretch of coastline.
Visit it now and you have it practically for yourself.
The man to know is Brian Parry from Questforadventure.net, who set up kayak mangrove tours here, as well as a wakeboard cable park.
Brian explained what makes the area special because we were kayaking through a network of narrow canals. "The ecosystem is exceptionally healthy because it has been untouched for so long," he said. & # 39; The mangroves are the highest in the UAE and we have 118 different bird species. & # 39;
We felt like real explorers and the girls cried with joy as a swarm of pink flamingos came into view. & # 39; The flamingo & # 39; s follow the tide through the mangroves and eat, & # 39; Brian said.
Later that day we tried to wakeboard, the expert English instructors who led Maisie to get up. She is now hooked.
Instead of being dragged by a boat, wakeboarding holds onto a rope a cable mechanism that takes you around a circuit.
All infrastructure is available to develop accommodation for 100,000 people, but at the moment the only hotel that is built (yes, another) is Oberoi, a low-key limestone-clad design by the world-famous architect Pierro Lissoni.
The children loved the 85-meter pool and wave jumping on the private beach, while we listened to the serene architectural design, free yoga classes and excellent food. It felt special to be here at the beginning of the project. But in a hurry, with the pace of building work, an entire city will stay in place for too long.
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Oberoi hotels (oberoihotels.com, 020 3198 0769) offers seven nights B & B for a family of four from £ 950pp. Day passes for Dubai Parks and Resorts are £ 51pp (dubaiparksandresorts.com) and desert safari & # 39; s starting from £ 64pp. More information on visitdubai.com. Emirates (emirates.com) return flights from London £ 442pp.