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
Souqs of Dubai
Dubai's best beaches
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...
Dubai's best nightclubs and bars
Dubai & Abu Dhabi city guide
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. Dubai a shrinking violet? Never!
4x4 Dubai Desert Safari
Travel by 4x4 across the deserts of Dubai on this exhilarating 5-hour excursion! Enjoy an adrenaline rush sandboarding down Dubai’s desert dunes, take a camel ride and get a henna tattoo! Complete your experience with a delicious barbecue dinner under the twinkling Arabian stars while watching a traditional tanoura dance performance.
Dubai & Abu Dhabi - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Dubai & Abu Dhabi starts here. You’ll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on gastronomic highlights, sporting events, day spas and the best shopping spots.
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...
This is a destination that is original, extreme and full of scope and surprises. Be prepared to be spoiled rotten by excellent restaurants, pampering spas, New York–style shopping, luxurious hotels and a legendary nightlife.
Dubai Hot Air Balloon Flight
Glide up, up and away in a hot air balloon over Dubai Desert Conservation Revservation! After traveling from your central Dubai hotel to Margham by minibus, take to the morning skies and glide over the tranquil desert as the sun starts to rise.
Skiing in the desert? Puh-leeze! Where else but in Dubai? The city’s most incongruous attraction, Ski Dubai, is a faux winter wonderland built right into the gargantuan Mall of the Emirates. The longest of the five runs is 400m and there’s even a ‘black diamond’ run for daredevils, and jumps and rails for borders.
With its labyrinthine lanes lined with traditional wind-tower architecture, the old Bastakiya quarter on the waterfront east of Bur Dubai Souq is a magical place to explore.
Against the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa in the midst of a massive artificial lake, these choreographed dancing fountains are the antithesis of what you’d expect to find in the desert. Water undulates as gracefully as a belly dancer, arcs like a dolphin and surges as high as 150m to stirring soundtracks gathered from around the world.
Bur Dubai Souq
The breezy renovated Bur Dubai Souq may not be old as the Deira souqs but it can be just as atmospheric – although be prepared for pushy vendors. Friday evenings here are especially lively, as it turns into a virtual crawling carnival with expat workers loading up on socks, pashminas, T-shirts and knock-off Calvins on their day off.
Bedouin Breakfast in the Desert with Transport from Dubai
Rise early for a breakfast at a desert camp site, and enjoy the company of a local Bedouin host! After leaving Dubai by open-roof vintage Land Rover or Mercedes-Benz G-Class (SUV), look out for wildlife as you pass through Dubai Desert Conservation Range on the way to a Bedouin-inspired camp in the grounds of a royal residence.