Dubai

The words ‘first, tallest, deepest, most expensive, lavish, outlandish’ could have been created for this city. Where else would you find a seven-star hotel, visit a series of 200 man-made islands in the shape of the countries of the world, or climb the world’s tallest building?

Amidst all this modernity, as you head from a swim in the sea or a business meeting to designer boutiques, a round of golf or a top teppanyaki restaurant, the age-old souks still attract those who like to haggle.

And yet only a few kilometers into the magnificent desert there are still camels roaming free.

There is a vibrant and cosmopolitan air about Dubai, for instance the way the traditional “Abra” boats carry a kaleidoscope of tourists’ side by side with sari-wrapped Indians and locals sporting spotless dishdashas.

Outside of Dubai life is more traditional and moves at a slightly slower pace.

As you explore the barren beauty of the mountains, or go about the UAE’s East coast beaches you will find people friendly and willing to chat, even when lacking a common language.

Burj Khalifa

Dubai’s landmark building is the Burj Khalifa, which at 829.8 meters is the tallest building in the world and the most famous of the city’s points of interest.

For most visitors, a trip to the observation deck on the 124th floor here is a must-do while in the city.

Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall is the city’s premier mall and provides entry to the Burj Khalifa as well as the Dubai Aquarium.

There is also an ice-skating rink, gaming zone and cinema complex if you’re looking for more entertainment options.

The shopping and eating is endless and there are nearly always special events such as live music and fashion shows within the mall.

The most famous of these are the annual Dubai Shopping Festival in January and February and the Dubai Summer Surprises Festival in July and August.

Dubai Museum

Dubai’s excellent museum is housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 to defend Dubai Creek.

The fort’s walls are built out of traditional coral-blocks and held together with lime.

The upper floor is supported by wooden poles, and the ceiling is constructed from palm fronds, mud, and plaster.

In its history, the fort has served as a residence for the ruling family, a seat of government, garrison, and prison.

Restored in 1971 (and again extensively in 1995), it is now the city’s premier museum. The entrance has a fascinating exhibition of old maps of the Emirates and Dubai, showing the mammoth expansion that hit the region after the oil boom.

Bastakia (Old Dubai)

The Bastakia Quarter (sometimes also called Al-Fahidi neighborhood) was built in the late 19th century to be the home of wealthy Persian merchants who dealt mainly in pearls and textiles, and were lured to Dubai because of the tax-free trading and access to Dubai Creek.

Bastakia occupies the eastern portion of Bur Dubai along the creek, and the coral and limestone buildings here, many with walls topped with wind-towers, have been excellently preserved.

Wind-towers provided the homes here with an early form of air conditioning – the wind trapped in the towers was funneled down into the houses.

Persian merchants likely transplanted this architectural element (common in Iranian coastal houses) from their home country to the Gulf.

Burj al-Arab

The Burj Al-Arab is the world’s tallest hotel, standing 321 meters high on its own artificial island on the Dubai coastline.

Designed to resemble a billowing dhow sail, the exterior of the building is lit up by a choreographed colored lighting show at night.

Decadent in every way possible, the Burj Al-Arab is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, with the most luxurious suites costing more than $15,000 for one night.

For those without unlimited credit, the way to experience the over-the-top opulence is to go for dinner at the underwater Al-Mahara restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling glass panels in the dining room walls allow you to view sea life while you eat, or you can enjoy lunch at California-style fusion restaurant Scape.

For the ultimate panoramic views over the city, book afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar (a minimum spend is required) on the 27th floor.

Jumeirah Beach

This strip of sandy white bliss is the number one beach destination for Dubai visitors. Hotels are strung out all along its length, with this being one of the most popular places to stay for tourists.

The beach has excellent facilities, with plenty of sun loungers, restaurants, and water-sport operators offering jet skiing.

While in the area, brush off the sand for an hour and visit the Majlis Ghorfat Um Al-Sheef, just a short hop from the beach.

Built in 1955, this was the summer residence of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum.

The residence, made out of gypsum and coral-block, has been restored and maintains much of the original beautiful decor, giving you a better understanding of the opulent lifestyle of Dubai’s rulers.

The Majlis Gardens feature a reproduction of an impressive Arab irrigation system and many shady date palms.

Mall of the Emirates

Mall of the Emirates is one of the city’s most famous malls with the spectacular (and surreal) Ski Dubai facility inside.

The indoor ski slope is complete with chairlifts and a penguin enclosure, all at a continuous temperature of -4 degrees Celsius.

There’s also a cinema complex and a family entertainment center with a whole host of rides aimed at both the big and small.

The shopping opportunities are boundless, as are the eating options, offering every conceivable world cuisine.

Kite Beach

 This long stretch of white-sand beach, south of Jumeirah beach, isn’t just a top destination for sunbathers looking to lap up a lazy day of swimming and soaking up the rays on the sand.

Kite Beach is renowned as Dubai’s premier destination for kite surfers and is home to an array of water sports operators.

This is where you come to get out on the water kite surfing or try your hand at stand up paddleboarding, with equipment hire and lessons all easily arranged on the beach.

Golf Courses

Home to 11 of the finest courses on the planet, Dubai is an extraordinary golf destination that should be on every golfer’s bucket list.

Since opening the region’s first grass course in 1988, Dubai has shown an unwavering commitment to the sport and is now one of the most esteemed golf locations on the planet.

What's new in Dubai?


IMG Worlds of Adventure

This theme park, near Global Village, is immersive entertainment at its finest and has thrills and spills for both kids and big kids.

With one zone devoted entirely to Marvel’s iconic characters; another to dinosaur-themed rides; and a zone where the Cartoon Network takes the helm, with gentler rides and activities for younger children, there’s something here for every age.

Whether you want to help the Avengers battle Ultron, scare yourself silly in a haunted house, or join Spider-Man as he swings through the city, this is heaven for families looking for a fun-filled day out.

Dubai Opera

For nighttime attractions, look no further.

Opened in mid-2016, Dubai’s classy new opera building is the centerpiece to the waterfront Opera district in downtown Dubai and set to become the city’s major cultural hub and main entertainment venue.

The Dubai Opera hosts a year-round program of famous musical theater productions, concerts by world-class musicians, opera, ballet, and classical music, as well as smaller productions, comedy nights, and concerts.

The 2000-seat theater building itself is an astonishing piece of architectural mastery and one of Dubai’s new landmarks, with its highly-contemporary glass and steel walls jutting out over the waterfront, built to resemble the curves of a traditional dhow.

Dubai Parks and Resorts

At Dubai Parks and Resorts, your entertainment needs are all rolled together into one location.

The only problem here is choosing what you want to do.

This mammoth project incorporates a swag of world-class theme parks providing something for everyone, whatever your age.

Motiongate takes its theme from Hollywood productions with rides based around movie blockbusters, Bollywood Parks brings the world of India’s famous movie industry alive on its rides, and Legoland Dubai provides younger visitors with a fun-packed day out on its interactive rides.

Legoland Waterpark is planned for the future.

The district’s attached Riverland Dubai dining hub means that there’s no need to leave after you’ve exhausted yourself with theme park pursuits, as there’s plenty of evening entertainment here as well.