The city state of Dubai looks set to become one of the most dynamic places to be in the 21st century. Located at the very tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai is one of seven Emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is best known for its ambitious building projects, luxurious lifestyles and gloriously clean white beaches. From its humble beginnings as a fishing and diving village, Dubai blossomed under the rulership of the Maktoum family in the early 20th century but only made a mark on the international map when oil was discovered here in the 1960s. Since then it has become the undisputed trading hub of the Middle East and one of the most rapidly expanding cities on the planet.

Due to Dubai’s dizzyingly fast pace of growth the city’s attractions grow on a monthly basis. Vast leisure and housing developments are currently being built along the coastline on man-made islands so large they can be seen from space. The Palm Jumeirah is in the final stages of completion and properties on the developments have already been bought up by some of the most famous footballing names in the planet. Another two larger palms are being built at Jebel Ali and in Deira by the same company. The World, one of the most ambitious offshore projects, is an archipelago of islands which are up for sale to the seriously rich – Rod Stewart is rumoured to have bought 'England' and other reclusive celebrities are taking advantage of the fact that you can only reach the 'countries' of The World by private boat or plane.

There's no doubt that Dubai has become a playground of the rich and famous, but it has not forgotten its roots as a trading post – the old commercial areas of Bur Dubai and Deira are a bustling, cosmopolitan world away from the glitz and glamour of the coast. With the hot Arabian sun beating down on average 250 days of the year (visit for more information), Dubai is the ultimate sun break destination. Shoppers can delight in miles of air conditioned malls boasting international brands and there is a veritable wealth of sporting activities on offer for actively minded visitors. With plenty on offer for both families and business travellers, Dubai is the most desirable destination in the Middle East.


The clear blue waters of the Gulf line miles of beaches which have become the focus of much of Dubai’s recent construction and development drive. Consequently some resorts resemble building sites, so it's wise to do some research into the area that you will be staying or you may find yourself looking at a crane for the duration of your stay. Most of the city’s hotels and resorts are located along the waterfront in Jumeirah where the leafy streets of low-rise pastel-coloured villas lend the area a Southern Californian feel. There are two public beaches in Jumeirah as well as a well-maintained beach park that has a life-guard on duty and plenty of palm trees providing welcome shade from the scorching sun. If you fancy getting away from the crowds, a good number of the five-star hotels in Jumeirah will allow non-residents use of their private beaches and luxurious pool-complexes for a fee of around Dhs100 (£15). Close to the border with Sharjah, Al Mamza Park is a complex of parks, pools and extremely well looked after beaches. The sea is especially clear here and ideal for snorkelling.

Unsurprisingly given the heat, water-sports are extremely popular in Dubai and there are a number of places along the coast where you can try kitesurfing, wakeboarding, water skiing, windsurfing as well as a number of other less conventional aquatic activities. If you fancy getting wet but would rather not brave the waves, the tubes, slides and pools at Wild Wadi, Dubai’s much-loved Arabian themed water park is a diverting place to while away an afternoon.

Sailing is a favourite pastime with many of Dubai’s richer denizens and there are a number of companies that offer manned-charters around The World and The Palm, as well as tailor-made fishing trips.

Thanks to the efforts of long-sighted Sheikh Mohammed, Dubai has become the sporting capital of the region. Every spring the world’s richest horserace, the Dubai World Cup, is held at Nad al Sheba racecourse as the culmination of the annual racing festival. Nad al Sheba is also home to a camel racetrack where you can see dromedaries pounding the dust every weekend during the racing season (October-May). There are also a number of endurance races held around Dubai – this is a noble and ancient form of racing where riders and their mounts cover staggering distances in timed stages. Another equestrian pursuit which anyone is free to watch and participate in is polo at the Dubai Polo Club at Arabian Ranches. Here novices can have lessons with the promise of playing a chukka by the end of a 3 hour session. Dubai hosts the Rugby 7s tournament which is held every November and the much-feted Dubai Tennis Open as well as a number of motor events.

Dubai is also home to the world’s biggest indoor skiing facility. Attached to the Mall of the Emirates on the Sheikh Zayed Road, this fake mountain is covered in real snow and offers skiing and snowboarding lessons as well as access to a snow park complete with slides and toboggans.

The city’s hotels are an attraction in themselves and range from such edifices as the Emirates Towers standing at the apogee of modern luxury-living, to the vast Disney-like complex of the Madinat Jumeirah which is replete with its very own system of canals and a traditional market. The Burj al Arab – the tallest hotel in the world and the latter day symbol of the city – is Dubai’s only seven star hostelry and boasts stunning views of The World and The Palm from its Skyview Bar.

Outside the city there are miles of rolling dunes stretching out to the interior of the UAE. Numerous tour operators offer desert safari trips as a taster of life in the sands. These tailored trips invariably involve dune-bashing (roller coasting up and down the highest dunes in a 4x4, quite a breathtaking experience), a trip to a camel farm and dinner at a Bedouin encampment.

Old town Dubai is built around the creek which has been the focal point of the commercial life of the town for hundreds of years. This is the embassy district and home to the city's oldest souks, which sprawl under wooden canopies by the water's edge. To get a real feel for Dubai take an abra (traditional water taxi) from Deira across the Bastakiya, the old town. Rebuilt as a series of traditional wind-towers and majlis style houses, Bastakiya is the city’s cultural heart and its where you will find Dubai's informative little museum and a number of Arabic-focussed art galleries.


Shopping is a national pastime in the Emirates and nowhere is this more evident than in Dubai. The city is home to over 20 major shopping malls which house international brands, luxury department stores and vast hypermarkets. At the Burjuman in Bur Dubai you’ll find designer labels, couture dresses and a selection of the very best in international design at Saks 5th Avenue. Currently the largest indoor shopping centre in the Middle East, the Mall of the Emirates is home to its own hotel, hundreds of outlets, some remarkably good restaurants and the glamorous London-based department store, Harvey Nichols. Along the creek there are a number of traditional souks which have more of a flavour of old Arabia to them. On the Bur Dubai side you can shop for myriad textiles which can be turned into a bespoke outfit by one of the area's many tailors. On the Deira side you will find the fragrant spice and perfume souks, as well as the Gold Souk where you can pick up some remarkably good value jewellery if you are prepared to haggle. Dubai is also home to the Arabian Peninsula’s most notorious fake-goods market, Karama. Just off Trade Centre Road in Bur Dubai this rabbit’s-warren of shops sells extremely convincing fake designer bags, sunglasses and watches and is also a good place to pick up some well-priced authentic Arabian souvenirs such as shisha pipes and scarves.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Despite being in a Muslim country, Dubai has a diverse and lively nightlife for most of the year, although in the heat of the summer many of the city’s outdoor venues shut-up-shop. The city’s nightlife also slows down during the holy month of Ramadan when it is forbidden to eat, drink, smoke or chew between dawn and dusk. Live music and dancing are also forbidden during this time which is in the 9th month of the Muslim calendar, although the exact dates changes from year to year. Outside of Ramadan, bars can only sell alcohol if they are attached to a licensed venue like a hotel, so most independent places tend to only serve soft drinks. Many of the bars you will see lining the city’s streets are unlicensed shisha bars where locals come to relax with a mocktail and a pipe. There are also a large number of English and Irish pubs in the city which are patronised by the city’s ever-growing expat community. The most popular of these is the Irish Village in Garhoud, around which are a number of small, eclectic restaurants and bars. Be aware that there are certain establishments in many of the city’s hotels which have a seedy air to them and are often frequented exclusively by overly friendly hostesses and their clients.

Clubs in Dubai open until 3am and get their fair share of major international dance and rock acts. Pubs are often open until late and there’s a diverse live music scene which sees most watering holes laying on live entertainment from September to July. In the city’s famously lavish hotels there are suitably lavish nightclubs. The Apartment at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Madinat’s Trilogy play host to some of the world’s best known DJs, and the IBO at the Millennium Airport Hotel is a favourite with the more leftfield of Dubai's night owls.

Given the diversity of nationalities which have flocked to Dubai in the past twenty years, it's unsurprising that the gastronomic culture of the city has gone from strength to strength. Every fast-food chain imaginable is represented in the vast food courts of Dubai's malls and a tasty shwarma (kebab) can be picked up for a couple of dirhams from any one of the street vendors who line the roads of Bur Dubai and Deira. There are a number of restaurants which have won international recognition for their culinary achievements in the city's five star hotels although they often have prices to match. However, there is some excellent Arabic, Indian and Asian food to be found in the independent unlicensed cafés, street food stalls and restaurants around the creek. Traditional Emirati food is less easy to come by, but there are a couple of restaurants offering this authentic desert fare in the Bastakiya district.

Tourist Information

There are a number of places around the city including the airport where the Department of Tourism has offices supplying advice, maps and other information about the city.

Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce PO Box 594 DubaiPh +971 4 223 0000Fax +971 2 223


The airport is situated is in Garhoud district of the city on the Deira side of the creek, The airport services international flights to Europe, Asia, Australia, America and all around the Middle East and buses run to it from stops all over the city.