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From the timeless tranquility of the desert to the lively bustle of the souk, Dubai offers a kaleidoscope of attractions for visitors. The emirate embraces a wide variety of scenery in a very small area. In a single day, you can experience everything from rugged mountains and awe-inspiring sand dunes to sandy beaches and lush green parks, from dusty villages to luxurious residential districts and from ancient houses with wind towers to ultra-modern shopping malls.

Dubai is both a dynamic international business centre and a laid-back tourist escape; a city where the sophistication of the 21st century walks hand in hand with the simplicity of a bygone era; a cosmopolitan society with an international lifestyle combining the comfort and convenience of the Western world with the unique charm and hospitality of Arabia.

Dubai is essentially a desert city with superb infrastructure, liberal policies (by regional standards), that became popular for its excellent tourist amenities. Just 5 hours from Europe and 3 hours from most parts of the Middle East, the Near East, and the subcontinent of India, Dubai makes a great short break for shopping, partying, sunbathing, fine dining, sporting events, and even a few sinful pleasures. It is a city of superlatives: for the fastest, biggest, tallest, largest and highest, Dubai is the destination. It has the largest immigrant population in the world. The weekly day off is on Friday. Note that, since September 2006, a harmonized weekend of Friday and Saturday has been adopted for the public sector and schools. 

Dubai is a desert gem, where seven-star luxury and glitzy skyscrapers overlook sandy beaches, and traditional wooden boats unload their spices on Dhow Wharfrage. Indulge in extreme activities: snowboard at Ski Dubai or go dune bashing in a 4x4. Despite the plethora of international cuisines and top cocktail bars, at its heart is a traditional society best experienced at the white stone Jumeirah Mosque.

Things to Do

Ascend 2,716 feet to Burj Khalifa's observation deck, the world's tallest building, with skyscraper-studded views from its open-air terrace. Everything else dwarfs by comparison, including the narrow alleyways of the heritage village Bastakiya with art cafes and traditional wind-tower houses, and Dubai Museum's Bedouin displays. Cruise Dubai Creek on a traditional abra (water taxi) between Bur Dubai and Deira to feel the evening breeze in your hair.


Whether haggling in souks or cooling down in air-conditioned malls, shopping is an essential pastime. When you've had your fill of top designer gear and computer gadgets at the Dubai Mall, the world's largest, change your pace at the ice skating rink. If you prefer more traditional shopping experiences that involve bargaining for local goods, meander the alleyways and inhale the heady scents at the Spice Souk, and gaze at glittering displays at Gold Souk in Deira.

Nightlife and Entertainment

For unique Dubai entertainment, cheer on the miniature robot jockeys at camel races where these ships of the desert go through their paces. You'll always find cocktails and top wines at Jumeirah Beach's hotel bars. However for a more authentic, local experience, puff away on a shisha pipe with a strong Arabic coffee, enjoyed while overlooking Dubai Creek or, even better, on an overnight desert safari.

Restaurants and Dining

Dubai is a city of culinary extremes, where you can taste world cuisines in luxury hotels, or pan-Asian street food in informal restaurants. Splash out on a multi-course Lebanese banquet with slinky cabaret show in Jumeirah Beach luxury hotels, or join locals filling up on a hearty lamb shawarma in Deira's backstreets. At the sail-shaped seafront Burj al Arab hotel you can dine in Arabian luxury next to the subterranean aquarium or sip afternoon tea at the 1,053 foot-high Skyview Bar.

Planning a trip

The most important factor to consider in planning a trip to Dubai is the climate. From mid-October to mid-April, while much of the northern world is buttoned up in the cold, Dubai is bathed in sunshine, blue skies, and moderate temperatures. This is high season here, and the time that most outdoor activities and special events occur. It's also the most expensive period. During the rest of the year, Dubai is hot. In summer, it is excruciatingly so. Think of Dubai's seasons in reverse: During the winter months, everyone spends their time outside, and in the summer months, folks stay put in the air-conditioned inside. The one benefit to coming during the off season is that prices drop, and if you're primarily coming to shop in Dubai's extravagant malls, the outside temperature may not matter much. But if you want to spend time at the beaches, theme parks, or in the desert, stay away during the sultry summer months.

Some travelers wonder whether Dubai is affected by the turmoil in some parts of the broader Middle East. The answer is no. Dubai is moderate politically, rich economically, and stable socially. The many national and ethnic groups inhabiting and visiting Dubai do so in harmony. In fact, Dubai is one of the world's safest cities. The one thing to remember is this is still an Islamic society, and as such there is an expectation that non-Muslims will respect local customs. That generally means not wearing provocative clothing or engaging in public displays of affection in places frequented by Emiratis. Dubai might remind you of Ibiza or Las Vegas in some of its beachfront resorts and nightclubs, but it's still a traditional society outside those Western enclaves.


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