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Your Complete Guide to Dubai

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One of the most popular cities in the Middle East (and arguably around the world) is Dubai, a fast-paced, ultramodern city in the heart of the desert. The emirate (also named Dubai) is the second emirate in the UAE, formed in 1971. The city is warm, the people are friendly, and the atmosphere is tolerant and open, thanks in part to the city’s large expatriate population. Thanks to such a diverse population, the city is able to cater to the needs of all its tourists and residents, with many hotspots providing a range of home comforts. Though the local religion is Islam, the city is tolerant of other beliefs, though daily life is shaped by Islamic law (the weekends are Friday and Saturday, instead of Saturday and Sunday, and during the month of Ramadan, restaurants are shut during the day as Muslims are expected to fast from dawn to dusk).The city is extremely safe, efficient, and business-friendly. 

The best, biggest, and brightest

The city offers a number of tourist activities and cultural sites to visit, and though the city is relatively young (the country was formed around 49 years ago), the space has undergone remarkable growth and transformation during the last few decades. Two important landmarks are Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, both located in downtown Dubai. The largest mall and the tallest building in the world are both impressive sights to see, each offering unique vantage points. The largest mall offers a number of entertainment options, from an indoor VR (virtual reality) park, to a fun, child-friendly park known as Kidzania, to an Olympic-sized skating rink indoors. The mall also has an aquarium and underwater zoo to add to its list of attractions, along with many brands, making it the perfect place for the pickiest shopper. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes to comfortably explore the largest mall in the world. Attached to Dubai Mall is the Dubai Fountain, a stunning water feature with scheduled performances where visitors can watch timed jet streams of water ‘dance’ along to classical and popular music. The tallest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, offers visitors a chance to get a bird’s-eye view of the city on the 124th floor. The tower also offers Sky Lounge stretching from the 152nd to the 154th floor, making it the tallest lounge on the planet. Guests can also enjoy a scrumptious meal in the clouds at Atmosphere, a restaurant on the 122nd floor. 

The city is also home to the world’s largest manmade marina, Dubai Marina. Guests can walk along the marina and soak in the sparkling skyline of the city, or enjoy a lovely trip on the water on a traditional dhow cruise. For a relaxing dinner, enjoy a meal at any one of the waterside restaurants, and dip into the Dubai Marina Mall for a quick shopping spree. The Marina is also home to the XLine, the world’s longest urban zipline, a perfect visit for adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers to see the city from a fun, new perspective. 

Beaches and idyllic island charms

The emirate is also home to Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree – it is one of the largest artificial islands in the world, and visitors and residents alike can enjoy walks along the man-made coast and soak in the stunning view. In the centre of the Palm is the Atlantis, a large, high-end resort that contains a thrilling waterpark, Aquaventure. The water park is home to a number of thrilling water slides, rides, and play areas, along with a lazy river running around the park. The fronds of the Palm are connected by a monorail that runs down the trunk, making it more accessible than ever. 

Another popular beach in Dubai is The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residences. Guests who want to shop, dine, see a movie, and enjoy a walk at the beach can visit this stunning stretch of coastline, filled with restaurants, an open-air cinema, and amenities for the family to enjoy. The Beach is also connected to the new Bluewaters Island district via a pedestrian bridge, and the Bluewaters Island is home to Ain Dubai, the city’s ferris wheel, and the Caesar’s Palace Bluewaters Dubai, the world’s second Caesar’s Palace.  

A fun spot for water-lovers is Kite Beach, the best spot for guests to test out various water-sports, enjoy a swim in the sun, or even go for a lovely walk along the beach and grab a smoothie from the many open-air cafes along the coast. The beach is the perfect spot for friends and family alike to bask in the sun and go for a dip in the sparkling blue waters. This beach is iconic for photographers as well, with the Burj Al Arab providing the perfect background for those sparkling Instagram posts. 

Historic and natural hotspots

The city is also home to a number of museums and older heritage sights, including the popular Etihad Museum, which features a plethora of pavilions and exhibitions where visitors can explore the history of the UAE, with an emphasis on the significant period between 1968 and 1974, an important time when the country’s independence was cemented. Guests can also learn about the country’s rich heritage before unification, learn about European influences in the region, and the significance of pearl-diving before the oil boom in the 1930s. Guests who want to visit older parts of the city can visit Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in Bur Dubai, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. Visitors can walk through a maze of small alleyways and check out older, traditional wind towers that would keep residents cool during the hotter months. Those interested can also check out the Sheikh Muhammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, a space that offers heritage tours and mosque visits for those looking for a deeper understanding of the city they visit. A ride across the abra lands you in Deira, one of the country’s prime centers of trade during the founding years.

Though the city is an ultra-modern landscape, the UAE is located in the desert, and the nation’s heritage is deeply tied to its geography. Less than a 20 minute drive from the main city, visitors can experience the delights of the desert, from desert safaris, to quad biking and sand-boarding down dunes. Package trips will include visits to sites for a traditional barbecue, entertainment and performances, and camel rides. Those with a valid UAE license can rent a four-wheel drive and take a trip to the desert themselves, and enjoy a cool, clear night underneath the stars. Once the sun sets, the desert can get chilly, so make sure you equip yourself for breezy nights. Those looking for some rest and relaxation outside the city can book a weekend stay at the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, and enjoy a pampered weekend away from the hubbub of the city. 

For those looking to further explore the emirate, Hatta is a small town located within the emirate, but is not part of the main city. This little town is the perfect place for a laid-back weekend, and is a popular spot for hiking, biking, kayaking, and other outdoors adventures,  and photographers and heritage enthusiasts alike will enjoy the stunning landscape views – the Hatta Dam is an incredible sight to see, with sparkling blue waters set against the rough mountains. The Hatta Heritage Village is another major landmark, and this restored museum comprises of 30 buildings, including huts and houses, that have been reconstructed as they were centuries ago. The village also keeps record of relics and documents from the past, and visitors can learn more about the emirate’s history, from their food to their folklore. Tours around the village include visits to the watchtowers and forts in Hatta, and the museum hosts several events during national holidays, making it the perfect place to visit to get away from the city crowds. 

Dubai is a must-visit for any traveller looking to explore the Middle East, as it is the perfect blend of modernity and history, carrying its past with it into the future. The city offers a range of activities, from waterparks and theme parks to heritage sights, to museums, to water-related activities, to luxurious resorts, and so much more. Be it a quick weekend or a longer, more relaxed vacation, the city truly does offer a unique perspective to all its visitors, and truly is worth the trip. Also take a look at our road trip suggestion.

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This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual. We take no liability for the accuracy of the information and cannot be held liable for any third-party claims or losses of any damages.

This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual. We take no liability for the accuracy of the information and cannot be held liable for any third-party claims or losses of any damages.

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