Dubai is a modern city of two million with a futuristic skyline and an ancient heritage. One of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai's economy was built on the oil industry, but has since diversified and one of its main revenue sources today is tourism.
And Dubai has the attractions visitors want - everything from snow-skiing to desert safaris and eclectic amusement parks - as well as Arab cultural sites, traditional souks and grand hotels.
But perhaps Dubai is best known for the warmth of her people and a tradition of hospitality to visitors, a defining characteristic that has not been lost as this vibrant and cosmopolitan metropolis keeps its eyes on the future.
Attractions in Dubai
There are far too many must-see attractions in Dubai than we have space for, but here are some visitor favorites and consult the links that follow for more.
Burj Al Arab - This hotel, shaped like a traditional Arabic boat with a billowing sail, is Dubai's signature building; it is taller than the Eiffel Tower and sits on its own artificial island. The decor has been called "contemporary Arabian fantasy" and it boasts butlers on call around the clock, personal shoppers for guests and a restaurant surrounded by giant aquariums. If you can't afford a room (prices start at about $1,000 a night), go there for high tea or enjoy the nightly light show.
The beaches of Dubai - A warm azure sea surrounded by shimmering white sand make this a perfect place to relax, but don't forget a hat and some sunscreen - summer temperatures typically hit triple digits (tip: the big season for tourists is December through March).
Desert Safari - As mentioned above, desert safaris are a must when in Dubai. Several companies offer these guided tours of the desert which typically include a thrilling ride over dunes and a catered BBQ dinner. Camel rides and belly dancing optional.
Dubai Museum - See artifacts dating from the third millennium B.C. plus exhibits on traditional Arab life including a souk and a date farm, and a vivid display on pearl diving.
Shopping and Restaurants in Dubai
Dining: The restaurant scene in Dubai is truly international; choose from native Arabic delicacies to French cuisine and gourmet Chinese, and yes, you can even get a great pizza here. Alcohol is available in hotels, restaurants, and pubs.
Shopping: There are over 70 shopping malls in Dubai (including the Mall of the Emirates which offers an indoor ski resort), plus an annual Shopping Festival featuring music, fireworks and more. Visit one of the famed souks or marketplaces for a more traditional experience: at the Spice Souk, see cinnamon, cloves and incense sold out of sacks, or try the Gold Souk for ancient and modern jewelry designs.
Check out the U.S. State Department's "country specific information" section for the United Arab Emirates for embassy contacts and visa/passport requirements, plus information on traffic, safety concerns and medical care in Dubai at Travel.State.Gov.
Flights to Dubai
Flying to Dubai is relatively simple, and finding cheap flights to Dubai is easy, too, with FareCompare's search site. On arrival, passengers will note that the modern airport features numerous duty-free shops, restaurants, open garden areas, showers, spas and even a swimming pool. Perhaps best of all, the airport is just two-and-a-half miles from Dubai.
Dubai International Airport (DXB): This is a major Middle East hub airport served by Delta, United, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and many others, plus it is a hub for Emirates. Daily flights from Heathrow, plus nonstops from New York and other U.S. cities.
More Information on Dubai
For more information on Dubai attractions, consult with these websites; you'll find great choices for sightseeing plus recommendations on places to stay, and where to dine.
Dubai Dept. of Tourism and Commerce: An excellent guide to attractions and things to do in Dubai, plus a directory of hotels, restaurants and shopping centers, plus maps; sign up for the weekly newsletter and check out the section on useful tourist tips (don't drink alcohol out in public, and don't take photos of military installations or Muslim women).
Dubai Tourism: Attractions and listings of special events including jazz festivals and motor racing, plus where to go for ice skating, horseback riding, scenic flights, and golf.
Go Dubai: This commercial site features Middle East news and weather, plus specials and deals on everything from dinner cruises and desert safaris to ballooning excursions.