Many describe Dubai as flamboyant, glitzy and modernized. There is, however, a more traditional side to the city, especially during Ramadan, when the Emiratis proudly perform their song and dance. The tallest skyscrapers, fastest cars, hottest parties and fanciest hotels. Water sports, sand sports and air sports. Frenzied shopping extravaganzas, glitzy malls and traditional souks. A beautiful coastline and an exotic desert. All this is one city. All this is Dubai. Whether it’s a family holiday with the kids or a quick business trip, a romantic getaway with your significant other or a raucous holiday with your friends, Dubai promises a fun-filled, unique experience for every kind of traveler.
Places to Visit
It is the third largest city in the United Arab Emirates (after Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and just a stone’s throw away from Dubai. Also known as the Pearl of the Gulf, it has a number of historical landmarks such as the grand King Faisal Mosque, the Sharjah fort and the Heritage Museum. While at Sharjah, do not miss out the opportunity to shop at Al Markazi souk which is a haven, a treasure trove of handicrafts, jewellery and carpets. You can also take a look at another famous Souk – the Al Arsah – which is also the oldest souk in the country.
The largest city in the Emirates, Abu Dhabi is also its federal capital. One of the most modern cities in the world, CNN recently described it as the “richest city in the world”. And all that becomes apparent as you drive around the city, its well-laid out roads flanked by beautiful parks, boulevards and rows and rows of trees, the malls epitomizing lavishness, the skyscrapers kissing the clouds,and the oil companies telling us why Abu Dhabi is where it is! Some of the must-see sights when you are in Abu Dhabi are the Sheikh Zayed mosque (6th largest in the world), the Khalifa Park with its resplendent gardens, museum and aquarium and the spectacular waterfront known as the ‘Corniche’. For the alpha males, there is Yas Island –a haven for motorsport lovers – with its grand F1 track and Ferrari theme park.
The oasis or the ‘Garden city’ of the Emirates, Al Ain shares borders with the Omani town of Buraimi. Amongst the most popular sights in Al Ain is the camel market, where hundreds of camels are bought and sold every day. Lying close at hand are the scenic Hajar Mountains, its arid expanses interspersed with oases – some real, some mirages. You can also visit the Al Ain Wildlife Park that has besides herds of gazelles and the indigenous Arab Oryx, giraffes, zebras and the beautiful, rare white lions of Sambona. Another well-known sight is the Green Mubazzarah , at the base of the Jebel Hafeet mountain. With hot springs, lakes and green hillsides, it is one of the most popular family picnic spots in the region.
Built completely out of stone and resplendent with twin minarets, this mosque is the largest in the city and built along the medieval Fatimid custom. A beautiful example of Islamic architecture, this is one of the few mosques open to non-Muslims for tours. Evenings are a good time to visit, when it’s lit up with beautiful lights.
This old district, situated in Bur Dubai. If you’re looking for culture and tradition, this is the place to be, as it houses traditional structures with narrow lanes and high towers. Browse the eclectic art galleries and cultural centres, or watch life go by from one of the many cafes.
This cultural haven is a platform for artisans and craftsmen to showcase their wares. Situated in the Shindagha district, this open air venue is a conclave of museums, cafes, souvenir shops and crafts. Also situated here is the home of former Sheikh Rashid Al-Maktoum.
Palms Islands: These are three of the world’s largest artificial islands, each in the shape of a palm tree. Just off the coast of Dubai, this archipelago is a tourist haven with high-end beachfront properties, both commercial and residential.
Burj Al-Arab Hotel
Shaped like a billowing sail, this 1053 foot tower of luxury is a self-proclaimed 7-star hotel. Situated on an artificial island off the Jumeirah beach, this iconic structure boasts of a 600 ft high atrium, an underwater restaurant and 202 bedroom suites. A panoramic view of the Persian Gulf from a 660 ft high restaurant is not to be missed.
160 floors, 2717 ft high, over 10 world records. What do you get? The tallest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa, housing 9 hotels, the world’s highest mosque, swimming pool, restaurant and nightclub. Club this with the swankiest offices, residences, and an observation deck on the 124th floor, and you have an experience like no other.
A man-made canal flanked by glitzy hotels, extravagant shopping plazas, regal residences and a glorious city skyline is perfect to enjoy the city lights. Take a stroll along the two walkways, stop at the coffee shops or pick up some curios on your evening out.
Desert Safari & Dune Bashing
If you live for the great outdoors, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Strap up and prepare yourself for a roller-coaster ride through the golden sand dunes of the Arabian Desert, in your very own SUV! A trademark adventure sport in Dubai, it makes for a great day trip, but is not for the faint-hearted. Picked up from your doorstep, a trained driver will ferry you through the scenic desert and then ride the slopes, guaranteeing you the thrill of a lifetime. Enjoy the beautiful sunset from a vantage point, and then proceed for an evening of music, belly dancing and a traditional Arabic dinner. You could also go sand-boarding and stop at a camel farm.
Spend a day with the kids- splashing about in a wave pool, riding a water roller coaster, or plummeting down a 33m high water slide. This Arabian themed water park is a perfect family spot with a variety of rides for both the adventurous and faint-hearted. The Jumeirah Sceirah and Master Blaster will have you yelling your lungs out, but are still amongst the most popular rides.
Dubai Creek Cruise
The Dubai creek was originally a trading port for vessels from India, Africa and the Middle East. Some of the old culture is preserved in the traditional houses and defense structures lining the creek. Quaint wooden Abras and private boats alike ferry tourists through Bur Dubai and Deira for a relaxed cruise. Enjoy the sparkling city lights with a romantic dinner, music and belly dancing.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
For a panoramic aerial view of the magnificent Arabian Desert, set out on an early morning hot air balloon expedition. The cool morning breeze is the perfect setting for you to enjoy an eagle-eye view of the riot of colour that is the Arabian Desert. The red sands and golden dunes reflecting the sun’s first rays, ambling camels and desert oases, all make for a most memorable flight.
Nothing like sun, sand, surf and sport. Indulge your adventurous side at Dubai’s sandy white beaches. Go scuba diving, surfing or fishing. Take an excursion to the nearby KhorFakkan to explore the beautiful coral reefs abundant with aquatic life-forms.
Dubai’s traditional sport is picking up speed once again. Races are held on customized race tracks during the winter months, and culminate in the annual camel race festival at Al Wathba. Tourists can watch the race, visit the stables, browse the numerous curio stalls and buy souvenirs.
At this traditional Arabian marketplace, all that glitters is definitely gold. One of the largest jewellery markets in the world, you’re sure to get your fair share of bling here. Situated in the narrow lanes of Deira, intricately hand-crafted gold is sold in the form of necklaces, earrings and self-design jewellery. The shopkeepers are open to bargain and the storefronts guarantee to dazzle, so do pay a visit whether or not you’re in the market for gold.
As the name suggests, this is a historical market of fragrances. Thousands of aromas are available here, mostly traditional Arabic scents that are strong and spicy.
Ibn Battuta Mall
This mall is made up of 6 festive areas themed around the 6 countries of China, India, Persia, Egypt, Tunisia and Andalusia. A 21-screen cinema complex with an IMAX screen sits in the centre. Also attached are a Geant supermarket and a second hand book-store.