Dubai’s Coastal Paradise

An oasis in the desert, Dubai is loud, crazy, glamorous, and a host of other adjective, all of them extreme. It’s one of those place that you either love or hate. But beyond the shimmering steel skyline that continues to expand at a rapid pace, there is an array of sightseeing attractions suitable for all tastes.

Burj al-Arab. Photo credit - Photo SG.

Burj al-Arab. Photo credit - Photo SG.

First, The Glam

You can’t miss the boat-like outline of the Burj al-Arab Hotel, which proclaims itself as the world’s only 7 star hotel. Amenities include chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royces, private helicopter landing pad, and deluxe suites with spiral staircases (yes, they’re that big), Jacuzzi, and Hermes-Faubourg toiletries. Plebeians can make reservations in advance to tour the hotel, have afternoon tea or a meal, or just drinks in the bar but keep in mind the dress code – we’ll leave you decide what “very smart casual” means.

Palm Islands, the largest artificial islands in the world. Photo credit - twocentsworth.

Palm Islands, the largest artificial islands in the world. Photo credit - twocentsworth.

Alternatively, head for the flat but just as impressive Palm Islands, the largest artificial islands in the world. More impressive from above, the islands (which are not completely finished) will have residential housing, shops, marinas, restaurants, as well as a nice opportunity for a waterfront stroll.

Ski Dubai, indoor ski resort. Photo credit - JonRawlinson.

Ski Dubai, indoor ski resort. Photo credit - JonRawlinson.

If all of that wasn’t enough, then how about skiing? Yes, Dubai has its own indoor ski resort, Ski Dubai, where you can show up and rent everything you need for a few runs down the slope. When the heat is on, head for the snow.

Then, Something More Reserved

Of course these towering expressions of modern infrastructure overshadow the “old Dubai”, Dubai has been here for awhile. The first mention of the city was in 1095 and this glitzy town was a small fishing village which had one of the largest markets in the region. Perhaps the city was bound for its current cosmopolitan destiny.

Al Fahidi Fort. Photo credit - Trippin Larry.

Al Fahidi Fort. Photo credit - Trippin Larry.

To understand this history a bit more, it is best to start at the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1799 and the oldest piece of architecture in the city – considered a masterpiece of its time. Underneath there are exhibits that beautifully illustrate the city’s rocketing timeline to fame and fortune. The fort is in the Bastakiya District which is a great area to soak up some atmosphere with all of the medieval construction and pop into a gallery or café.

Jumeirah Mosque. Photo credit - Simon Halsey.

Jumeirah Mosque. Photo credit - Simon Halsey.

The city’s largest mosque and most popular with the tourists is the Jumeriah Mosque. Build in 1978, it’s a gorgeous structure and a great way to learn more about the local Muslim culture. Plus it’s the only mosque in town where non-Muslims can visit. Tours are 10AM Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday; there are no reservations but be sure to arrive on time. Shoulders should be covered and women should not wear short skirts.

Gold Souk. Photo credit - lloydi.

Gold Souk. Photo credit - lloydi.

And a Word About Shopping

Dubai isn’t the discount shopper’s paradise it once was; the malls are seemingly endless and you’ll have no problem finding what you’re looking for. But head out to the souks for a more interesting shopping experience. The gold souk is not for the faint of heart – this is the real deal and items are priced accordingly. But be sure to stop in even just to window browse – this is one of the oldest market areas. If you go to any souks, be sure to haggle as it is to be expected. If it is your first time haggling, check out this story of Haggling for Dummies to ease your fears.

If You Go

Dubai is relatively easy to access nowadays with a burgeoning air network to/from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE only 1.5 hours away. Keep in mind that in summer, Dubai is hot – during the summer (May-September) the days are scorching hot at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, bring your sunglasses (or buy new ones), and be prepared to adjust your schedule accordingly so you don’t wilt in the desert sun.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.

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