Passengers arriving by air are transfixed by the view: futuristic skyscrapers flanked by a glittering coastline and surrounded by endless desert.
Embracing the Extraordinary
It’s little wonder so many entrepreneurial designers and architects love Dubai. Together with a tax-free escape from throttling budgets, stringent building regulations and cookie-cutter specs, this place likes to show off. Tallest building in the world? Tick. Artificial island shaped like a palm? Tick. So-called seven-star hotel? Tick. Largest global shopping mall? Tick… And indoor snow slopes to boot? Tick.
While it’s true that recent economic woes have led to some major projects hitting the dust or being scaled down, such as Dubailand, others are being gradually resumed. More superlative-worthy projects to come? Tick. Dubai, a shrinking violet? Never!
Before the 1970s, the only time you could shift your credit card into overdrive in Dubai was at the Gold Souq. Serious fashion choice required jetting off to London or New York. Today the city vies with both metropolises as a shopping destination, as well as providing much more than a mere retail experience. While temperatures spiral outside, the malls morph into places to shop, play, eat, drink (coffee) and socialise. If you want a glimpse of a more traditional culture, there are still souqs, particularly in Deira and Bur Dubai.
Feeding Body & Soul
Dubai has a glut of excellent restaurants. Be prepared to be spoiled rotten with cuisine that ranges from East to West, from celebrity-chef-driven to Asian street-style. This is a foodie’s fantasy destination, where atmosphere, surroundings and service are an accepted part of the culinary combo. Continue the self-pampering at one of Dubai’s spas, with treatments and massages designed to soothe away stress and revitalise the senses. Or flop on a white sandy beach, take a dhow dinner cruise or watch the sunset over rippling red-gold sand in the desert, sharing a vision that was once deeply rooted in Dubai’s Bedouin society.
Beyond the City
Travel beyond Dubai to experience another world altogether as a skyscraper skyline is replaced by a more traditional desertscape.
Abu Dhabi is a fascinating and easily accessible destination to the south. This is the emirate that continues to surprise, quietly vying with Dubai with its considerable investment in culture, innovation and architecture. It is also home to the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Mosque, a magnificent must-see sight.
Why I Love Dubai
By Josephine Quintero, Author
I lived in Kuwait for seven years and thought I was pretty savvy about the Arab way of life. How wrong I was. Dubai is a real one-off and full of surprises. There is nothing mundane or matter-of-fact about this place; it is all about drama and extremes – from the architecture to the weather to the food… Ah, the food! I also love the fact that there is a burgeoning, innovative art scene here and in Abu Dhabi. Discovering some fabulous galleries in the dusty Al-Quoz district was a real high point for me – along with travelling to the top of the Burj Khalifa, that is!
Best places to stay in Dubai
Where to go in winter
The rewards for braving the cold are many. The Northern Hemisphere offers wonderful winter travel, with fewer crowds than in the summer months. A dusting of snow makes anywhere look charming, and it’s the one time of year when you can get away with wearing seriously nasty jumpers.
Souqs of Dubai
Dubai's best nightclubs and bars
Dubai destination guides
Indie shopping in Dubai
Dubai may be home to the biggest mall in the world and consumerism might possibly be in the city’s very DNA -- but there are alternatives to chain store shopping for luxury labels.
Dubai's top museums and galleries
4x4 Dubai Desert Safari
Travel by 4x4 across the deserts of Dubai on this exhilarating excursion! Get an adrenaline rush sandboarding on the Dubai desert, enjoy a camel ride and get a henna tattoo! Complete your experience with a delicious barbecue dinner under the Arabian stars and live folk and belly dance performances.
Dubai Hot Air Balloon Flight
Leave the glitz and glamor of Dubai behind and join this early-morning hot-air balloon expedition deep in the heart of the desert. Rising early to see the desert is something you'll never forget! Prepare for an exhilarating flight with unrivaled views as you enjoy a magic carpet ride over giant red sands, emerald green oases, gazelles and wandering camels.
A shopper's guide to Dubai
Dubai loves to shop. The city has just about perfected the art of the mall, which is the de facto air-conditioned 'town commons', the place to go with the family, hang out with friends and take in some entertainment. So what kind of goods should you look for? We've got the lowdown. But before we go shopping, just a quick note.