Melbourne may have the brains, but boy oh boy, Sydney’s got both the looks and the outgoing personality – and it sure knows how to work it. If you want to be shown a good time, Sydney will be love at first sight. It’s famed for its irresistible physical charms: the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, the world-class surfing beaches on its doorstep, the New Year’s Eve fireworks, the al-fresco restaurants, the weather and more. Easy to get to know, its brazen style and sunny hedonism have caught the roving eye of the world. In contrast to the founding European culture, there is a classless egalitarianism to Sydney where traders and ‘tradies’ (labourers) drink their flat white coffees and their schooners of Coopers in the same places, where criticism of the fat cats, aka ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, soon sees the bigheads cut down to size, where the Prime Minister can put his arm around the Queen if he so pleases.
There is also an obsessively healthy, outdoors, body-beautiful, feel to the city (all early-morning surfs and banana smoothies), although this is often just the cure for the big night before. Sun-drenched with colour by day, Sydney is arguably even more colourful after dark. Along the city’s pink strip – the ‘bottom end’ of Oxford Street in Darlinghurst – every night is Mardi Gras. Over in Kings Cross, the neon-streaked nightlife finds a harder edge as high-end cocktail bars and gentlemen’s clubs hawk for trade in the glare and blare alongside the unbalanced freakosystem of seedier venues and 24-hour pizza stalls.
Gorgeous as Sydney is from a distance, a closer inspection reveals dirt under the nail polish. Founded in 1788 but occupied by Aboriginal tribes for many moons before, this city was once the world’s largest open prison. Sydney neither forgives nor disowns its criminal past; like a scar, it’s worn defiantly, almost proudly. Scratch Sydney’s gloss and all that bad blood bubbles back up. But even in the gutter of the Cross and Oxford Street, the city is still gazing at the stars.
Emirates flies to Sydney daily, with return flights from Dhs5,760. (www.emirates.com)
Where is it?
On Australia’s south-east coast, in New South Wales, located around a collection of bays where the Parramatta River opens into the Tasman Sea
Moderate with hot and sunny summers (but with more rain than you might expect), and fairly mild in winter
European, south-east Asian, Lebanese, Aboriginal; 40 per cent of the population born overseas
The Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach, the ‘pink strip’ of Oxford Street, Sydney Cricket Ground, ferry to Manly, the world-class Sydney Aquarium, Palm Beach
Museum of Contemporary Art, Belvoir Street Theatre, Bronte Beach, Harry’s Café de Wheels, Hotel Hollywood, Quay restaurant, Ivy Pool Club, Bondi to Coogee cliff walk, seaplane to Jonah’s, Harbourview Park, Paddington Maze
Where’s the buzz?
The urban grittiness of Newtown; the bars, restaurants and vintage shops of Surry Hills; the café society and independent boutiques of fashionable Paddington; the beach culture of Bondi and Manly; the village atmosphere of Balmain
Lamb, beer, wine, bar staff, sports stars, soap starlets, A-list actresses, surfers, shark-attack news stories, media moguls
Convicts were transported to New South Wales from 1788 to 1840
Percentage of workforce with a university degree
20 per cent
Length of foreshore around Sydney Harbour
More than 240km
Number of tiles in the Sydney Opera House
Number of people who died during construction of the Harbour Bridge
16. It was completed in 1932
Sydney Tower, 304m
Record amount spent on Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks
A rather staggering A$5 million (Dhs18.3 million)
Arts & culture
Food & drink
Quality of life