Dubai is a thriving multi-cultural melting pot that offers something for everyone. There are examples of man-made ingenuity, including the tallest building in the world and a whimsical palm-shaped island. Then there are the natural wonders found in the desert and along 1,000 miles of coastline. With this much to do and see, you simply cannot get bored in Dubai.
It is one of seven municipalities that comprise the United Arab Emirates, located in the eastern portion of the Arabian Peninsula and southwest of the Arabian Gulf. Dubai is one of the only cities in the Middle East that is welcoming of tourists, but visitors must be respectful the Islamic traditions that dominate this place.
For those who can sensitively navigate an environment very different from the western world, Dubai offers an eye-opening and even life-changing experience that can be had in very few other places.
Many have tried, but only the architects and engineers of the Burj Khalifa were able to create the world’s tallest tower. This building can be seen all over the city, but there is much to be admired from up close.
The view from the observation deck on level 124 is not to be missed, and you should stick around for a meal and some drinks from At.Mosphere on 122, The Top Sky Lounge on 148, or The Lounge Burj Khalifa that spans levels 152, 153, and 154.
Right next door is The Dubai Mall for incredible shopping and restaurants, as well as an ice rink, indoor waterfall, theme park, and the huge Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Just outside of the mall is the iconic choreographed outdoor fountain, the Dubai Fountain. This incredible water feature is the world’s largest, with illuminated jets of water arcing 150 meters in the air.
They like their technological marvels big in Dubai. Moving on from the world’s tallest building you’ll find one of the world’s biggest artificial islands. Palm Jumeirah is shaped like a palm tree and features a selection of high-end hotels and upscale restaurants.
Even if you’re not staying there, you can hang out on the island all day and never get bored of its water parks, wildlife encounters, and beach clubs. Getting there (and back) is a snap due to a clever monorail system that runs down the 3-mile trunk of the palm and connects to the mainland’s tram system.
Dubai is known for its over-the-top architecture and glamorous lifestyles, but its true heart lies at Dubai Creek. This saltwater estuary is the location of the original Bani Yas settlement, and today visitors can immerse themselves in the city’s history of pearl diving and fishing at the Dubai Museum.
Take time to explore the traditional souks, or local markets, where you can find textiles, spices, coffee, and organic fruit. Don’t be afraid to haggle, as it’s all part of the experience here.
Before you leave the Creek, take a ride on a traditional wooden boat called an abra. The views are spectacular and it’s an incredible value at just AED1 per ticket.
When you’re in the mood to experience the arts, venture to the Opera District in the heart of the city. The Dubai Opera keeps a robust schedule in line with the top entertainment venues in the world. Even if you don’t see a show, the building itself – inspired by the shape of a traditional Arabian dhow ship – is gorgeous to behold.
The stage converts in order to accommodate all types of shows, including concerts, movies, and plays. Visit the Dubai Calendar to find out what’s showing during your visit.
Dubai is a city that is always growing and innovating. For proof, just look to the Dubai Frame, one of the newest and most intriguing features of the city’s skyline. This marvel of engineering is located in Zabeel Park, directly between new and old Dubai.
The massive structure offers brave visitors sweeping panoramic views of the city from a dizzying 150m up. A clear glass bridge connects the parallel vertical towers of the frame to dazzle visitors and residents alike.
Everywhere you look in the city of Dubai is evidence of man’s mechanical ingenuity. But when you’re ready to get back to nature, a short 20 minute drive takes you to the Arabian Desert. Here you can let loose on a sandboard or quad bike before chilling out with a more traditional camel ride, henna art, and barbeque meal.
Take a cultural heritage tour to experience Bedouin life first-hand by following the journey of these nomadic desert dwellers. If you run out of time to do everything, spend the night among the dunes at one of two resorts – and then recharge at a luxurious spa.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
The past comes alive on a trip to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, one of the oldest communities in the city. Plan to walk the winding alleyways and take in the traditional wind towers. Make time to take part in a selection of heritage tours, guided mosque visits, and even Arabic lessons at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU).
Numismatists will get a kick out of the Coins Museum where over 470 rare coins are displayed, including features on the monetary system of the British Empire and India. You’re right on the Creek in this neighborhood, and can catch an abra ride to the souks on the other side when you crave a snack or a coffee.
Dubai is an incredible city that holds both ancient relics and modern marvels within its borders. Visitors can expect to be pampered, awestruck, and deeply humbled in the same day by the deluxe modern amenities layered on top of a deep respect for history.
In Dubai, you will experience the heights of human innovation while keeping your feet firmly in the dust of the ancestors. You’ve really got to go – they’re ready and waiting for you.