With the first historical mention in 1095 AD, Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, has since become a cosmopolitan hub and one of the metropolitan centers of the Persian Gulf. This has become even stronger in recent years with the increase in construction and luxury tourism.
Located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf, about 150 miles northeast of Abu Dhabi lies the city of Dubai, main city of the emirate with the same name. Dubai was established in 1833 by 800 members of the tribe of Bani Yas led by Sheik Maktoum bin Butti Al-Maktoum. It eventually became its own independent emirate in 1971 after leaving the protection of the United Kingdom. It has only been recently that Dubai has become one of the more modern and progressive places to visit in the Middle East. With over two million people and one of the largest immigrant populations in the world, it has become a popular destination for shopping, nightlife and fine dining.
There are quite a few attractions, both old and new, that are sure to enchant first time visitors to Dubai and help understand its juxtaposition as a city that has old roots in the Middle East while looking towards the future with cutting-edge architecture and high-class luxury. Here are several highlights of this up-and-coming destination:
THE BURJ KHALIFA. With 160 floors located in downtown Dubai, this building stands at 828 meters, or just over half a mile tall, making it the tallest manmade structure in the world. The observation deck at the 124th floor is the second tallest in the world, after the Shanghai World Financial Center. With hotels, shopping and entertainment all located nearby, this building on the Dubai skyline is certainly a sight to see.
BURJ AL-ARAB HOTEL. This hotel is distinctive for both its shape and being one of the most luxurious hotels in Dubai. Available for spa treatments, afternoon teas or cocktails, this hotel claims to be the world’s only seven-star hotel and resort, which features a water park, a turtle rescue and shopping. However, if you plan to visit, make sure to make a reservation, as you won’t be permitted inside without one.
SHOPPING. Whether you’re visiting the numerous shopping malls or going to the souks, or traditional marketplaces filled with spices, delicacies and inexpensive souvenirs, there are plenty of shopping opportunities available. This includes the Dubai Mall located near the Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest shopping mall with one million square feet of space. This mall features high-end brands as well as entertainment, including an aquarium.
THE DUBAI FOUNTAIN. Designed by the same team behind the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas, the Dubai Fountain features performances with water jets that shoot about 500 feet in the air along the Burj Khalifa lake. It has shows every half hour from 6 pm to 11 pm nightly and features several local popular songs.
PALM ISLANDS. These artificial islands off the coast of Dubai serve a double purpose: They are housing developments intended to help expand the amount of beachfront property available to residents in the country while providing an architectural market. These developments are shaped to look like palm leaves, with a trunk connecting them to the mainland. Three are currently planned, but currently only one, the Dubai Marina, is currently open. However, it features luxury resorts, sporting marinas and upscale shopping.
Even though Dubai is a progressive Arab society, visitors should be aware that while Western-style dress is welcome in bars and nightclubs, public spaces do require a certain amount of modesty in dressing. Public displays of affection, drinking alcohol in the wrong places or eating in public during the holy month of Ramadan are all considered extremely offensive, so precaution should be taken as a visitor.
For more information about traveling in Dubai, from transportation to safety precautions, visit http://wikitravel.org/en/Dubai.