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Dubai is a cosmopolitan metropolis and global city on the Arabian Peninsula. One of the ten most popular tourist destinations in the world, it is developing at an unbelievable pace, especially in tourism and trade. The most modern and progressive city in the Middle East, it is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a country, though it is just part of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is a commercial and cultural hub of the Middle East, it's a global transport hub, and has attracted world attention through many large innovative construction projects and sports events. The city is symbolised by its skyscrapers, including the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in addition to ambitious development projects including man-made islands, world class luxury hotels, and some of the largest and extraordinarily modern shopping malls in the world. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Dubai
Dubai is a mixture of old and new, traditional and modern. From old traditional souks and historical buildings (now being preserved for cultural reasons or already part of the national heritage) to modern Dubai's overwhelming shopping malls, incredible artificial islands and giant modern skyscrapers that include the world's tallest building, Dubai is a world in itself and offers plenty of wonderful attractions.
The city has numerous museums and historical buildings, but Dubai Museum is a must see for a first-time travellers to the Emirates. It provides a glimpse of the old life of Dubai, its people and their culture and heritage.
Dubai has a justified reputation as a concrete jungle, but there are nice pockets of greenery within the city. The city parks are modern and very well-maintained, with the most popular located in Jumeirah.
The city of Dubai is situated on a coastal strip bordered by desert and gets very hot. It is dry on the hottest days and humid during the cooler days in the summer. Cooler, more pleasant weather lasts from the end of September to the beginning of May (although pleasant is relative, with daily temperatures from October to January and March to May still being 20°C-25°C (68°F-77°F), but be prepared for cold night temperatures. In winter the temperature at night is usually from 10°C-16°C (50°F-60°F). From May to September, the sun is intense and in August temperatures can touch 54°C (129°F) in the city and even higher in the desert. The heat, coupled with a humidity of 60%-70% near the coast, effectively precludes most activity outdoors for the daylight hours during summer.
December to April generally produces the highest precipitation, though little of it, at 10 cm (5 in). Some years yield no more than a few minutes of shower.
- Abra ride. Best done at night in the cool weather and to enjoy the city lights. Abras can be hired for a private tour (for a price negotiable with the driver, but usually very cheap). This is quite a popular activity at sunset on a clear day, particularly if the driver is able to enliven the tour with stories about the structures on either side of the Creek. Just make sure that the purpose of one's abra hire is made clear at the outset – otherwise you will be in for a very expensive cross-river trip or a crowded private tour. See also the Get around section above.
- Beaches and sea. There are endless water sport opportunities as Dubai has some of the whitest and sandiest beaches in the world. Ocean temperatures range from 22°C in winter up to 35°C in summer, there are few wave breaks and the strong winds can make swimming difficult. The water is also very salty so many prefer to use their hotel swimming pool. Diving activities have been severely affected by offshore construction work for the Palms and The World; consequently, long boat trips are necessary to reach wreck sites. Alternatively, one can make the 90 minute road journey to the East coast Emirate of Fujairah or the Sharjah enclave, Khor Fakkan, for top class diving on coral reefs supporting extensive marine life.
- Camel Race Track. One of the more unusual attractions, with races being held on Thursday and Friday in the winter. You can watch the races, and you'll have the opportunity to visit the paddocks. Vendors sell everything from beads to rugs and blankets, so you can purchase souvenirs.
- Desert safari or dune bashing. Head out to the desert in an SUV with specialist desert drivers. The drivers will take you for a thrilling roller-coaster ride over sand dunes, show you the sunset from a strategic vantage point and then take you to a traditional Arabic Bedouin campsite where you'll be offered lavish barbecue buffet dinner with music and belly dance to complete the atmosphere. The duration of tour is usually around five hours and cost per person at around AED 150. You may want to stay clear of the dune bashing if you get carsick easily. A desert safari is one of the best things to do while in Dubai. Another option would be renting/buying a 4x4 and joining the many growing 4x4 clubs in the UAE. A majority of them have an online presence like Emarat 4x4 , Arabian OffRoad Academy , Dubai 4x4  and UAEoffroaders , among others. Neighbouring cities like Abu Dhabi also have their own clubs like AD4x4. For all of the Dubai-based clubs, membership is free of charge and they conduct trips for absolute beginners into the desert on a regular basis.
- Natural outdoors. Although at first glance the outdoors may seem dull and uninteresting, and even dangerous due to the desert conditions, there are actually amazing natural destinations in the Emirate of Dubai, which extends into Hatta. There are pristine waterfalls, cliffs lined with fossils, even freshwater lakes.
- Yacht charter. An easy way to explore the man-made Palm Islands and coastal skyscrapers. Fleets are available for hire from Dubai Marina from many of the yacht charter agencies.
- Dubai Creek cruise/ride. Dubai Creek is the foundation from which Dubai grew. It originally served as a port for trading vessels plying to and from India, Africa and the Middle East. Today a bit of the old shipping culture still remains. In and around the Creek one can see some of the original buildings that have served as customs houses and defense structures. You can book a ride (usually four hours) on the Dubai Marina cruise or rent a private boat to take you on an hour-long ride up and down the Creek.
- Golf. It may be a desert, but a lot of money and water is spent on irrigating opulent golf courses. Alternatively, for a more local flavor, try sand golf!
- Hot Air Balloon Ride. Great fun seeing all the sand dunes and mountains early in the morning or during sunset.
Shawarma is the most available food item on almost all streets (and cheap) in Dubai. It is the Arabic equivalent of the burger. It is meat that has been cooked on a skewer and then cut into thin strips and placed into a kuhbus (pita) bread with vegetables and dressing. It costs about 5 AED for either the plain-jane variety or the more exotic Lebanese and Iranian varieties. The shawarma sold by Indian restaurants are arguably the cheapest.
Another local snack is fala-fil (felafel, falafel), which is as cheap as shawarma.
Most of the American fast food chains have set up shop, including KFC, Chillis, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, and McDonalds. The beauty of the food in Dubai is that you will probably find cuisine for every taste.
Dubai has a big selection of budget Indian vegetarian food. Dosa, vada, idlee, samosa, chapaati/roti, with generous servings of sabji (cooked vegetable stew) are available at throwaway prices, typically less than 10 dhs (US$2.50) per course. The more expensive stuff costs up to USD 5. Bur Dubai (particularly Meena Bazaar area) and Karama are the places that abound in these restaurants. Most of them are open from 7AM till 10PM or 11PM throughout the week.
Pork is eaten here mostly by non-Muslim Filipinos and Europeans. Pork sections exclusive for non-Muslims are found in Spinneys (numerous branches, including ones in Jumeirah and Dubai Marina), Al Maya Lal's (generally caters to Filipinos; there's a branch in Satwa) New Westzone Supermarket (has a branch in Satwa that's bigger than nearby rival Al Maya Lal's).
Most malls have food courts, which offer good value menus and are a fast and reliable option for travellers and locals. There are also several food chains for most flavours (Pakistani, Indian, burger) that are scattered all over the city. See the district articles for individual recommendations.
- Automatic, this is a chain of popular Lebanese restaurants found all over Dubai. Famous for its lamb chops & Friday lunch buffet. No alcohol served.
The top hotels all have at least one restaurant serving (most commonly) some form of international cuisine - Italian, Japanese, Indian and so on. Quality tends to be high, along with price, but non-guests are able to reserve tables as well, thus allowing the rest of us to experience a bit of these hotels.
Dubai has supercharged the nightlife in the last decade and most international known brands have a sister location in town. Most 3-5 star hotels have bars and nightclubs for those interested in the nightlife. World-class DJs frequent Dubai's nightclubs, and many A-list musical celebrities are adding Dubai to their list of tour dates. There is nothing missing and during the high tides of the party time, the impression of being in Ibiza is not misleading. Most of the night lift is geared at the beaches of Jumeirah or the Dubai Marina. Bur Dubai is more family-oriented (e.g. Dubai Fountain), while Deira was able in parts to maintain its more Arabic focussed style. Dubai is very popular with Arabic travellers, so an Arabic blend is added quite often
Dubai has several laws regarding alcohol which travelers should be aware off:
- Alcohol is available only at licensed premises, usually attached to hotels (most nightclubs and bars are in or attached to hotels, though they may have separate entrances).
- Alcohol is not sold on religious holidays, nor during daylight hours in Ramadan (even to non-Muslims).
- It is illegal to drink alcohol in public places, and there is a zero-tolerance policy on drunk driving. Anyone involved in a collision found with alcohol in their blood will usually get a month's jail sentence and fine.
- Alcohol can be bought only for home consumption at certain outlets in Dubai, and an alcohol license is required. Supermarkets only stock non-alcoholic beers. Even food items containing alcohol are not sold in supermarkets.
- Remember to carry some sort of identification when visiting a bar if you are young, as you will not be let in otherwise. The law prohibits anyone below 21 to enter.
- The Authorities take disruptive behavior while intoxicated very seriously, which as you can imagine will lead to jail time or deportation.
- Prostitution is illegal but can be seen in bars. Both parties act illegal but in rather (in-)famous clubs it can be seen rather obvious. Keep in mind that most hotels have a strict guest policy.
Dubai is practically synonymous with shopping and could be called "Do buy". Low tariffs and a huge amount of cargo passing through its port ensure that practically anything is available at fairly competitive rates, although the appreciation of the Dirham and the plentiful supply of shoppers means that Dubai is no longer a bargain basement shopping city. You'll also find products in Western chain stores, still with the original tags quoting euro or sterling prices, being sold with a 20-30% mark-up once converted to dirhams. The best things to buy are textiles, electronics and gold; electronics are believed to be much cheaper, while there is a wide selection of textiles and gold.
Dubai shops suffer from the standard developing world shopping phenomenon of having no storeroom and no stocks in reserve, even in the mega-malls – and for clothes shopping this may mean that you struggle to find the style you want in the size you want. Shops open as early as 9AM and stay open to 10PM, and on weekends to midnight or 1AM.
Remember to haggle in the souks, as discounts are almost always available and even in situations where the item will not become much cheaper, the customer is always expected to "play the game" of haggling. A simple question of "what's your best price?" will often result in a shop-keeper going to extraordinary lengths to sell his stock. Prices in the malls and other Western shops tend not to be negotiable. Far from being a bad thing, this allows the canny visitor to work out comparative prices for common souvenirs – an invaluable aid when a shop-keeper in a souk is asking for a higher price.
Dubai Shopping Festival has been the biggest shopping event in the Middle East since 1996. Almost every shop has a sale, starting in January and ending February. There's also a very similar Dubai Summer Surprises trying to pull in punters during the summer low season.
Dubai is known for its gigantic malls and is a magnet for shoppers. Among the dozens of malls, two stand out due to their size and quality. See the district articles for more detail on malls. Several malls have a large supermarket where you'll find the lowest cost electronics, and groceries for self-catering. A Carrefour is also located near the Shindagha waterfront in Bur Dubai.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Dubai on Wikivoyage.