Las Vegas is filled with fun, one-of-a-kind attractions, from the famed casino-strewn Strip uptown to the quirky Atomic Testing Museum. Julie Jacobson / AP Photo
Las Vegas is filled with fun, one-of-a-kind attractions, from the famed casino-strewn Strip uptown to the quirky Atomic Testing Museum. Julie Jacobson / AP Photo

The fun doesn't stop at the casino doors in Las Vegas



I wore my MP40 Beretta machine gun slung low at my hip. In front of me a hooded Nazi zombie was approaching. I narrowed my eyes, squeezed the trigger and let rip. Bullets tore into the sinister figure, peppering it with ragged holes.

I'd never even so much as touched a machine gun before. I held no licence and I'd had no practice. But my instructor, a young female ex-marine called Nena, clad in a figure-hugging outfit and knee length leather boots just loaded up another magazine after she reeled in the target and handed me back the gun. "Don't you ever get crazies coming in here?" I asked, as I prepared to fire another salvo.

"Sometimes," she said. "Not for a few months, though."

I was in the Gun Shop in Las Vegas, which they claim is the most popular retail outlet in America. Outside, there was a 100-metre queue of people waiting to get into the public ranges and unleash their frustrations on one of the targets (apart from Zombie Nazi, you could have Angry Woman, Terrorist, Annoying Boss, etc).

In the souvenir shop you could buy T-shirts, mugs, jackets and, of course, guns - big, dangerous-looking ones. I even saw a bazooka. This place was an affront to the civilised values of peace and cooperation everywhere, but it was also some of the greatest fun I'd ever had.

Fun, of course, is what Las Vegas is all about. Mainly, this fun is sold in the form of gambling, but I don't gamble, since I possess the unwavering and statistically correct conviction that I'm almost certain to lose. Instead, I was going to spend three days having a good time away from the tables.

A good place to start was my hotel, the brand new Cosmopolitan. Like most of the hotels uptown on the Strip, it was built around gambling, but also, like many of the modern hotels, it had a strong cultural element. You could not turn a corner without stumbling across a striking installation or sculpture. In the lobby, multiple giant pillars glowed with endlessly changing displays of vibrant digital installations. Even the parking space is more like a gallery than a garage, with giant frescoes on the walls by contemporary artists.

This trend of culture over trash started at Bellagio Las Vegas hotel, almost opposite the Cosmopolitan. Suspended over the lobby there is one of my favourite pieces ever: Dale Chihuly's Fiori di Como, 2,000 dazzlingly coloured blown-glass blossoms. I ate in sight of the sculpture at Michelin-starred Michael Mina's. I just had a starter - caviar parfait. It slid down easily, but the price stuck in my throat - US$450 (Dh1,652) for what was essentially three mouthfuls.

I moved on for my main course to the hotel's Picasso restaurant. I couldn't remember the food, only my view through the window of the spectacular dance of the famous giant multicoloured fountains accompanied by Con Te Partiro by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. There were also a multitude of original Picassos hanging blithely over the tables. People think Vegas is tacky, but you're unlikely to get that kind of decoration on the walls of your local branch of McDonald's.

By the next day I'd had enough of indulging myself with food and art. It was time for a bit of educational roughage in my rich diet, so I decided to visit a museum. But the museums here are slightly more quirky than other major cities. Or, at least, this was true of the Atomic Testing Museum.

The most amazing sight here was a photo of the Golden Nugget Casino pictured with a giant, billowing mushroom cloud in the background. The idea that you could be enjoying your holiday while a few miles off the military were exploding nuclear weapons seems bizarre beyond belief.

I enjoyed the exhibition of the atom in popular culture, featuring atomic pudding, atomic hairdos and children's atom bomb chemistry sets. The mannequins that were used for the original blast testing are on display, as are some darkly hilarious civil defence films that show you how to survive a nuclear attack. Apparently, all you have to do is hide under a table and cover your head with your hands - "duck and cover", a friendly cartoon tortoise informs you. Then you'll be fine, once the million-degree fireball has rolled over you.

I headed down to downtown Las Vegas, the original site of old-school casinos like Harrah's and the Golden Nugget (where, like in Abu Dhabi, you can buy real gold nuggets from an automatic dispensing machine). This is a cheesier but somewhat charming version of the uptown experience. The Bellagio might lure you in with appetisers for $450 (Dh1,650), but outside Mermaid's, the bait is Twinkies (a sort of sponge cake) or Oreo Cookies, both deep-fried, for 99 cents (Dh3.6). Outside, a man dressed as Mickey Mouse pulls off his foam rubber head, slumps on the ground and lights a cigarette while his partner, Minnie, continues hustling for change.

In the distance, I can see a couple having their wedding photographs taken outside a disused warehouse. Vegas is marriage central: there can be more than 4,000 of them taking place in a single day. Women dressed like meringues and overweight men stuffed into dinner jackets are as ubiquitous as neon signs.

Half a mile east of Fremont Street, the scene is very different. In 2008, the property prices in Vegas tanked worse than nearly anywhere else in the US. Apartments that were selling for $600,000 (Dh2.2m) now go for $150,000 (Dh551,000). As a result of the oversupply of cheap housing, a new wave of hipsters is moving in.

I visited the Beat Coffee house in the Emergency Arts building, a cheap and funky cafe a few hundred metres from Fremont Street, but a world away in style. Here, artists and musicians sip coffee and make use of the community resources - a fanzine library, studios, exhibition spaces, even a tiny museum of burlesque that is more arty kitsch than an authentic attraction.

The changes to the area are widespread and ongoing. Next month, a "Museum of the Mob" to "honour" the law enforcement agencies that bought the Mafia to justice, built around the original courtroom where the key Mafia trials took place in the 1930s, will open. There is also a substantial new performing arts centre, The Smith Centre that opens this year, and a Neon Museum in the lobby of the renovated, iconic La Concha motel.

Downtown Las Vegas is becoming unrecognisable but there is still an atmosphere of seediness. I passed one bar which was empty except for a lone showgirl stripping dejectedly under harsh neon light for two hefty bikers nursing a beer.

Vegas central, for all its pleasures, can be wearing. Fortunately, you can take a day trip away from the madness. Some explore the natural beauties of Red Rock Canyon or Zion National Park, but I chose to take a helicopter to the Grand Canyon to visit a cowboy ranch.

This takes you over the statuesque Hoover Dam and into the Canyon, one of the biggest land fissures on earth. It is hard to get a sense of the scale as you fly, until you see another helicopter outlined like a tiny dot against the canyon walls. Then the immensity of what you are in the heart of makes your stomach lurch.

A 45-minute flight after a 6am start took me to the ranch, where I was greeted by a singing cowboy and an exhibition of herding skills by "authentic" cowboys. A few "yippee hi ays" later, you are sitting down to a hearty breakfast of eggs and biscuits, followed by a horse trek through a forest of Joshua Trees in the shadow of a gigantic mesa.

Here, you'll find the original house on the settlement where the ranch was set up in the 19th century, supposedly by a member of the James gang on the run from the law. You can spend the night in a tent or a log cabin, but I hightailed it back to Vegas central again for a last look.

One of the best things about the Cosmopolitan is that it is one of the very few hotels in Vegas with balconies. I sat and looked out over the city on the 30th floor as the sunlight faded, watching the neon come up against a purple sky. Newly constructed wonders greeted my eyes - the Veer Towers leaning precipitously towards one another, and the glittering, swanky CityCentre complex and shopping centre.

Meanwhile, the old familiar wonders stayed in my mind - the fountains at the Bellagio, the biggest TV screen in the world suspended over three blocks of Fremont street, the spouting volcano at the Mirage, the pirate show at Treasure Island.

You don't need to gamble to enjoy Vegas, you just need to be sensible enough to hold on to your money long enough to spend it on the real attractions. Then, whether or not Lady Luck is on your side, you'll have a great time.

If You Go

The flight Direct flights with Etihad Airways (www.etihadairways.com) from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles cost from Dh4,760 return. Return flights from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with American Airlines (www.aa.com) cost from US$134 (Dh492). Prices include taxes

The hotels Double rooms at the Cosmopolitan (www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com; 00 1 702 698 7000) cost from $184 (Dh676) per night. At Bellagio (www.bellagio.com; 00 1 702 693 7111), double rooms cost from $214 (Dh786) per night. Prices include taxes

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

The stats

Ship name: MSC Bellissima

Ship class: Meraviglia Class

Delivery date: February 27, 2019

Gross tonnage: 171,598 GT

Passenger capacity: 5,686

Crew members: 1,536

Number of cabins: 2,217

Length: 315.3 metres

Maximum speed: 22.7 knots (42kph)

Signs of heat stroke
  • The loss of sodium chloride in our sweat can lead to confusion and an altered mental status and slurred speech
  • Body temperature above 39°C
  • Hot, dry and red or damp skin can indicate heatstroke
  • A faster pulse than usual
  • Dizziness, nausea and headaches are also signs of overheating
  • In extreme cases, victims can lose consciousness and require immediate medical attention
NBA Finals so far

(Toronto lead 3-1 in best-of-seven series_

Game 1 Raptors 118 Warriors 109

Game 2 Raptors 104 Warriors 109

Game 3 Warriors 109 Raptors 123

Game 4 Warriors 92 Raptors 105

Green ambitions
  • Trees: 1,500 to be planted, replacing 300 felled ones, with veteran oaks protected
  • Lake: Brown's centrepiece to be cleaned of silt that makes it as shallow as 2.5cm
  • Biodiversity: Bat cave to be added and habitats designed for kingfishers and little grebes
  • Flood risk: Longer grass, deeper lake, restored ponds and absorbent paths all meant to siphon off water 

Tewellah by Nawal Zoghbi is out now.

Results

5.30pm Maiden (TB) Dh82,500 (Turf) 1,400m

Winner Spirit Of Light, Clement Lecoeuvre (jockey), Erwan Charpy (trainer)

6.05pm Maiden (TB) Dh82,500 (Dirt) 1,900m

Winner Bright Start, Pat Cosgrave, Saeed bin Suroor

6.40pm Handicap (TB) Dh92,500 (D) 2,000m

Winner Twelfthofneverland, Nathan Crosse, Satish Seemar

7.15pm Handicap (TB) Dh85,000 (T) 1,600m

Winner Imperial Empire, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar

7.50pm Handicap (TB) Dh92,500 (T) 2,000m

Winner Record Man, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar

8.25pm Handicap (TB) Dh92,500 (D) 1,600m

Winner Celtic Prince, Fabrice Veron, Rashed Bouresly

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

The Specs

Price, base Dh379,000
Engine 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6
Gearbox eight-speed automatic
Power 503bhp
Torque 443Nm
On sale now

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

Mia Man’s tips for fermentation

- Start with a simple recipe such as yogurt or sauerkraut

- Keep your hands and kitchen tools clean. Sanitize knives, cutting boards, tongs and storage jars with boiling water before you start.

- Mold is bad: the colour pink is a sign of mold. If yogurt turns pink as it ferments, you need to discard it and start again. For kraut, if you remove the top leaves and see any sign of mold, you should discard the batch.

- Always use clean, closed, airtight lids and containers such as mason jars when fermenting yogurt and kraut. Keep the lid closed to prevent insects and contaminants from getting in.

 

Company profile

Name: JustClean

Based: Dubai with offices in other GCC countries

Launch year: 2016

Number of employees: 160+ with 21 nationalities in eight cities

Sector:
online laundry and cleaning services

Funding: $30m from Kuwait-based Faith Capital Holding and Gulf Investment Corporation

Dates for the diary

To mark Bodytree’s 10th anniversary, the coming season will be filled with celebratory activities:

  • September 21 Anyone interested in becoming a certified yoga instructor can sign up for a 250-hour course in Yoga Teacher Training with Jacquelene Sadek. It begins on September 21 and will take place over the course of six weekends.
  • October 18 to 21 International yoga instructor, Yogi Nora, will be visiting Bodytree and offering classes.
  • October 26 to November 4 International pilates instructor Courtney Miller will be on hand at the studio, offering classes.
  • November 9 Bodytree is hosting a party to celebrate turning 10, and everyone is invited. Expect a day full of free classes on the grounds of the studio.
  • December 11 Yogeswari, an advanced certified Jivamukti teacher, will be visiting the studio.
  • February 2, 2018 Bodytree will host its 4th annual yoga market.
Your Guide to the Home
  • Level 1 has a valet service if you choose not to park in the basement level. This level houses all the kitchenware, including covetable brand French Bull, along with a wide array of outdoor furnishings, lamps and lighting solutions, textiles like curtains, towels, cushions and bedding, and plenty of other home accessories.
  • Level 2 features curated inspiration zones and solutions for bedrooms, living rooms and dining spaces. This is also where you’d go to customise your sofas and beds, and pick and choose from more than a dozen mattress options.
  • Level 3 features The Home’s “man cave” set-up and a display of industrial and rustic furnishings. This level also has a mother’s room, a play area for children with staff to watch over the kids, furniture for nurseries and children’s rooms, and the store’s design studio.
     

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