Dubai is a commercial centre of United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a modern, trend-setting city with state-of-the-art tourist infrastructure, magnificent beaches and a paradise of duty free shopping.
Its skyline is constantly being upgraded with new developments providing the infrastructure and facilities needed for a progressive society, including luxury residential developments, world-class hotels, shopping plazas and outstanding sports facilities.
Dubai Creek divides the city centre into two parts: Deira on the northern side and Bur Dubai to the south. Each has its fair share of souks, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and fine mosques.
From within these high standards of luxury and convenience, visitors can experience exotic Arabia in the bustling souks or a night in a Bedouin tent with belly-dancing under the starlit desert skies, as well as a way of life that is still embedded in the Islamic traditions of an ancient land. Dubai’s attraction lies in the contrast between the ultra modern and the enchantingly traditional, which gives the city a personality like no other and visitors a variety of experiences to choose from. From desert oases and unspoiled beaches, camel races and old wind towers, to top-class shopping opportunities, avant-garde architecture and the finest international cuisine, Dubai has more than enough depth to satisfy even the most seasoned of travellers.
One of the city’s top attractions is its excellent shopping. As an open port with low import duties, Dubai can offer an incredible range of top brand names at cheaper prices due to the tax-free environment, and ‘shopping tourists’ are drawn from around the world to this paradise of malls, souks, boutiques and modern department stores selling everything from Paris fashions to Japanese electronics. The annual Shopping Festival attracts millions of tourists to the city for a shop-till-you-drop holiday.
The natural seawater inlet that cuts through the centre of the city is the historical part of Dubai where visitors can take an abra (small water taxi) and view the old trading port and the dhows from the water. A cruise to Al-Maktoum Bridge will pass many of the city’s historic as well as modern landmarks. A stroll around the wharf offers a picturesque glimpse of Dubai’s trading heritage, where dhows bound for distant places dock to unload their goods.
The old Bastakiya district is a step back in time to the days before electricity and air-conditioning, where traditional courtyard houses were cooled by wind towers. Old Dubai was famous for its wind towers that lined the Creek on both sides, and today the narrow lanes festooned with the distinctively Arabian architecture is a popular historical attraction that has been marked for tourist development.
The souks or traditional markets are popular with bargain hunters as well as sightseers and photographers. The most famous is the gold souk where the narrow streets are lined with shops selling everything golden from 24-carat bars to rings and elaborate necklaces and all at low prices. The tiny lanes of the traditional spice souk are scented with sacks of cinnamon, incense, spices, and dried fruit, while the modern fish souk bustles with activity and is redolent with smells of a more unpleasant nature. At the heart of the Bur Dubai souk lies Al Fahidi Street, selling the latest electronics, photographic equipment and home appliances at competitive prices. Other streets sell everything from materials and carpets to traditional coffee pots, loaves of unleavened bread and hubble-bubble pipes.
One of the most advanced water theme parks ever designed, the five-hectare (12-acre) water park at Wild Wadi offers families and thrill seekers hours of fun, relaxation and adrenalin-pumping action. Designed like an Arabian wadi (oasis), the park has an Arabian folklore theme and features some of the highest and fastest water rides outside of North America with 24 state of the art, high-adrenaline rides and slides. Rides for thrill seekers include Jumeirah Sceirah, a 108ft (33m) free-fall at 50 miles per hour (80km/hr), Master Blaster slides that are water roller coasters propelled uphill by high-powered jets, the white-knuckle ride at Rushdown Ravine or the high waves at Breakers Bay.
Boasting the city’s tallest minaret at 230 feet (70m), the Grand Mosque is a notable landmark with its multi-domed style and impressive size. It is an important place of worship and can accommodate up to 1,200 worshippers inside. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the Mosque.