The glittering port city of Dubai is located on the northern coast of one of the seven emirates that together make up the United Arab Emirates.
As far back as the 1500s, Dubai was a thriving hub of the Middle Eastern pearl trade – and it has continued throughout its history to play an important role as a centre of trade. Today Dubai is one of the most advanced, cosmopolitan cities in the world, famous for its glamour, ambitious development projects and innovative skyscrapers. Together with the modern, it offers visitors the chance to experience Middle Eastern culture, architecture and landscapes that have survived through the centuries.
Every year, almost 8 million people travel to Dubai to shop, rejuvenate and explore this fascinating city. Here are five out-of-this-world attractions that set Dubai apart from other travel destinations:
Dubai boasts over 70 shopping malls, including the largest shopping mall in the world – the Dubai Mall. This massive shopping and entertainment complex covers the same area as 50 football pitches, and is home to about 1,200 retail outlets. Among the attractions at the Dubai Mall are an aquarium and an ice skating rink.
Gleaming, modern malls are not all that Dubai has to offer shoppers. The city also features numerous souks – traditional open-air markets. These give visitors the opportunity to experience more traditional Middle Eastern culture as they browse handmade goods, clothing and fresh produce and sample Middle Eastern street foods.
If you have a head for heights, you won’t want to miss out on a visit to the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest skyscraper. The building stands 829.8 meters high, which is over 200 meters taller than the next highest human-made structure on the planet (America’s KVLY-TV radio transmission mast).
Visitors to the Burj Khalifa can take an elevator to the building’s observation deck, which stands at a height of 452 meters above the ground and provides panoramic views of the city.
At the base of the building, you’ll find the artificial Burj Khalifa Lake and the incredible Dubai Fountain, which is the largest choreographed fountain in the world. It shoots jets of water up to 50 stories high, accompanied by timed music and coloured lights. The beam of light at the base of the fountain is one of the brightest spots in the Middle East and is visible even from space.
Palm Islands are two artificial islands, each created in the shape of a crescent-topped palm tree. The “crescent” is a barrier against the waves of the Persian Gulf and each “frond” of the palms provides a stretch of prime beach front. The islands extend from the Dubai coast into the Persian Gulf and are home to an assortment of five-star hotels, beaches, spas, pools and lush gardens.
The islands are popular with revelers, thanks to a bustling nightlife. Palm Islands’ hotels are licensed to serve liquor, and many venues provide live shows and entertainment. During the sunny days, visitors can snorkel or dive in the crystal clear waters around the islands.
Skiing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you consider a city in the desert. However, Dubai knows how to defy expectations. It offers year-round indoor skiing and snowboarding at the indoor Ski Dubai facility, which is located in the massive Mall of the Emirates.
Ski Dubai is nothing less than an indoor Alpine Ski resort, complete with five different runs to cater to skiers of all ability levels. Facilities include clothing and ski rental, as well as ski lifts to the summits of the ski runs.
Dubai has a rich and varied history, dating back to its role as a centre for trading pearls in the Middle Ages. Although the city has grown exponentially in the last three decades and the pearl traders are long gone, visitors can explore a number of historic sites in Dubai.
These include the old Bastakiya quarter, with its narrow lanes and distinctive wind-towers – designed to cool homes long before the advent of modern air conditioning – and the Dubai Museum, which is located in the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1799. In addition, several Heritage Villages provide a sense of what the city was like in bygone eras.
Dubai also has a strong Islamic spiritual heritage and is home to several beautiful mosques. Visitors can take a guided tour of the majestic Jumeirah Mosque with the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU).