The stunning helicopter tour of Dubai

The stunning helicopter tour of Dubai

With so much to see from Dubai’s skies, we join a helicopter tour of the city to take in the sights in style

By Mohamad Kadry (Senior Reporter)

Published: Sat 15 Nov 2014, 12:26 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 8:22 PM

In the chaos and complexity of Dubai’s ever-changing cityscape, to truly appreciate what has risen from the desert requires more than a glance from the observation deck of the world’s tallest tower.

While travelling by helicopter is usually reserved for the likes of world leaders and business magnates, local companies like Alpha Tours offer guests the chance to experience a different side of the city that is all the more surreal from up in the air. Try and picture those popular miniature dioramas that accompany each new mega project and you’ll get an idea of what kind of view awaits you.

It’s a crystal clear morning as I hop on board the six-passenger Agusta 109 E Power helicopter from the company’s launching pad at Atlantis resort. The thrill of riding in the ultimate form of private luxury is not lost on me but with the frenzied whipping of the air, I have to wonder what sort of styling products Donald Trump must be using to keep his hair so coiffed during take-off.

I take a seat next to the pilot in the nose of the cabin where the panoramic window offers the most spectacular views. Everyone on board is strapped in and given a headset to communicate and we begin to ascend over the waters of the Arabian Gulf. Our journey will last only 15 minutes – a popular and budget-friendly way to see most of the city – as we make our way towards the Burj Khalifa and Downtown district.

Soaring down the coast, the first thing that comes to mind is a scene from the animated Pixar classic A Bug’s Life when the pudgy Bavarian caterpillar, upon becoming a butterfly, proudly proclaims, “From way up here you all look like little ants!” Childhood imagination has a funny way of popping up when witnessing palm shaped islands jutting out from the sea.

Dubai’s manic urban plan - with its many quadrants and dedicated zones - can only be fully understood from the sky, making for a fascinating glimpse into how the city’s residents live and commute. From inside the cabin you get the sense that our emirate really is nothing more than a gleaming dot in a vast desert as you take in the whole panoramic view. It’s stunning and breathtaking, but mostly humbling.

As the aircraft whips back around from the Trade Centre, we head towards the World Islands for an up-close look at the city’s most audacious project. Hovering closely over the dozens of sand pits, one can only imagine what the empty development might look like in ten or twenty years. For the time being, it’s a priceless image that almost looks like a sketch someone decided to draw upon the crystal blue waters of the sea.

The exhilarating flight begins its descent over the Palm and we’re flying so low it’s almost possible to peak through the windows of the many villas lining the fronds. The rest of the passengers on board, all tourists, are beaming with a sense of excitement mixed with bewilderment. The concept of fantasy that Dubai mastered long ago is enough to make anyone speechless, and from up in the air, the city’s big picture is on full display. A 15-minute ride costs Dhs795 per person. To make a booking, call 04 294 9888 or visit

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