Dubai is one of the seven emirates belonging to the federation of United Arab Emirates. It is located on the Arabian Peninsula, south of the Persian Gulf.
It is the country’s most modern and progressive commercial center and a tourist hub. Dubai’s economy lies mostly in tourism, property and financial services replacing the oil industry as the previous primary source of income. It is home to the world’s biggest shopping malls, tallest skyscrapers, and most extravagant hotels – in fact, the world’s first seven-star hotel was built here. The city has truly come a long way in the shortest of time; from a dusty desert town to a world business, shopping and tourist hub in only 20 years.
The discovery of oil in the mid 1960s attracted people from around the world, making Dubai a cosmopolitan city, and now as much as 80% of its population is represented by foreigners.
One of Dubai’s biggest draws is its superior shopping opportunities; it is as an open port with low import duties and so merchandise is sold here at cheaper rates than elsewhere and fashion and electronics are the big drawcards. The shopping festival held every year at the end of January attracts throngs of tourists to its innumerable boutiques, huge shopping malls, bazaars and department stores.
Dubai has an arid subtropical climate, with sunny days all year round and infrequent rainfall. Summers (June to September) are extremely hot and humid. Temperatures frequently exceed 45°C, and humidity levels often soar to around 90%.
During the rest of the year temperatures are slightly more moderate. The coolest period is between December and March, during which time the most of the city’s sparse rainfall occurs. Average temperatures are 25°C, and humidity is lower.
January average temperature 18 deg Celsius 15.6 mm rainfall February average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 25 mm rainfall March average temperature 22 deg Celsius, 21 mm rainfall April average temperature 26 deg Celsius, 7 mm rainfall May average temperature 30 deg Celsius, 0.4 mm rainfall June average temperature 32 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall July average temperature 34 deg Celsius, 0.8 mm rainfall August average temperature 35 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall September average temperature 32 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall October average temperature 28 deg Celsius, 1.2 mm rainfall November average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 2.7 mm rainfall December average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 14.9 mm rainfall
Taxis are the most common way of getting around. They are cheap and available everywhere. The best places to look for a cab are at the taxi queues at one of the malls or outside a hotel. Hailing a cab in the street is difficult during rush hour. Cream colored taxis with drivers in uniform are metered.
The newly built Dubai metro operates the one (red) line and the second (green) line is scheduled to open in 2011. The Red line connects to the airport’s Terminal 3, city center, the Burj Khalifa and the Mall of the Emirates. Combined Metro and bus passes can be bought both at the metro as well as major bus stations.
Car rental offices are widely available. The rental rates are cheap and easy to organize. Some agencies may require an international driving permit. Some even rent out cars with drivers. Driving during rush hour is not recommended as traffic can be incredibly congested.
Dubai creek can easily be crossed with ‘abras’ – small ferries that dash between Bur Dubai and Deira every few minutes and, in addition, supply a very picturesque view of the city.
Dubai is almost synonymous with shopping; the city is truly a shopaholic’s paradise. It has low import duties and no sales tax and thus offers some of the world’s cheapest high-tech and audio-visual gear. Most shops are open from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm, weekends 12:00 am to 1:00 am. Apart from the malls the best shopping is available at the souks traditional Arab markets, where haggling is still expected. The city has two shopping festivals: the Dubai Shopping Festival in January and the Dubai Summer Surprises.
Until recently, this was the largest mall in Dubai, featuring 200 shops, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and, startlingly, a ski center! The ski slope measures 400 meters and features 6,000 tons of snow.
There are numerous other malls in this shopping Mecca, such as the Town Center Jumeirah, the Ibn Battuta Mall, the Souk Madinat Jumeirah, just to name a few.
The Gold Souk, Dubai’s most famous souk, is located at the mouth of the creek and has been around since the very beginnings of Dubai’s history. Gold jewelry is sold by the weight. It is of high quality and made by skilled craftsmen. Spice Souk is another historic market, not far from the Gold Souk, but has been largely rivaled by the offer of spices in large shopping malls. Haggling is expected.
Dubai is famous for having some of the best golf courses in the Middle East. Their spectacular design makes them interesting for golfers and non-golfers alike. Apart from the lush green golf courses, you might also want to try a local peculiarity: sand golf.
Dubai’s Golf Courses: Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club Emirates Golf Club Nad Al Sheba Club The Al Badia Golf Resort The Montgomerie Dubai The Desert Course at Arabian Ranches Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa
Dubai is blessed with an endless stretch of white sandy beaches and pleasant water temperatures ranging from 22°C in the winter to 35°C in the summer. The city’s main beach is located at the Jumeirah Beach Park and the Al Mazmar Beach Park where visitors can relax and soak up the sun or take part in any watersports activity. Beaches are best visited during the winter as summers are searing hot. Excellent coral reef diving is available around Fujairah or Sharjah, a 2 hour drive from Dubai.
Indoor skiing and snowboarding is available in the Mall of the Emirates snow center which features a large slope and also rents out all the necessary equipment.
Roller-coaster-like driving across sand dunes in sturdy SUV vehicles is available from numerous agencies, and is often combined with a lavish dinner party while watching the sunset.
DUBAI CREEK CRUISE
The Dubai Creek is an inlet that cuts through the city center providing a stunning backdrop for a dinner cruise as you sail past Dubai’s numerous old and new landmarks. Dhow (cabin house) dinner cruises are available. Alternatively, abras, (small water taxis) can be hired to cruise the old trading port. A walk around the wharf affords a glimpse into Dubai’s trading heritage.
Located in Downtown Dubai, the 828 meter tall building is currently the world’s tallest structure. Its observation deck, situated on the 124th floor, is said to be the highest as well. The tower features nine hotels and an extravagant fountain system.
The English translation of Dubai’s famous hotel is Tower of the Arabs. Also known as Arab Sail, Burj Al-Arab is the world’s only 7-star hotel and symbolizes Dubai’s urban transformation. Constructed on an artificial island 280 meters from Jumeirah beach, it is connected to the mainland via a private bridge. You can visit the hotel for a drink so that you catch a glimpse of the rich and famous enjoying the good life. In addition, tours can be booked when the hotel is not full. A month in advance is required for booking a room; a meal however can be booked just a few days in advance.
Just off the coast of Dubai, three of the world’s largest artificial islands are located, each in the shape of a palm leaf, with the trunk connected to the mainland. This project gained Dubai a lot of first-class beachfront property featuring top notch resorts, shopping areas and marinas.
The newly opened aquarium and underwater zoo boasts the biggest viewing panel of one of the biggest tanks in the world, making it one of the most popular attractions in the Emirates. The establishment is home to over 30,000 species making a visit here an exciting and educational experience.
DUBAI JUMAIRAH MOSQUE
Address: Jumeirah Road, Jumeirah 1
The mosque is one of the most beautiful in the region and also one of the few open to non-Muslims (on Thursdays and Sundays). The beautiful stone building is a fine example of modern Islamic architecture, adorned with a majestic dome and twin minarets.
Address: Al Faheidi Fort Phone: (0)4 353 1862 Open: Sat – Thu: 8:30 am – 8:30 pm, Fri: 2:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Dubai may not seem old enough to warrant a museum, but the town has an interesting historical background. It gives a glimpse into the social history of the Emirate and features items relating to the markets, Islamic schools, the desert and the Arabic way of life. A definite highlight among its many interesting displays is the underwater pearl diving equipment, which was once the main industry in Dubai. The museum is housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort, dating from 1799, which is one of the oldest buildings in town. It was once home of the city rulers and the seat of government.
This is one of the last remaining pockets of old traditional Dubai. It is marked by an intricate pattern of labyrinthine lanes, lined with traditional style buildings. The area possesses an evocative atmosphere and is dotted with pleasant art galleries and cafes.
Dubai is home to an international population. It boasts numerous excellent restaurants that provide a truly cosmopolitan dining experience. At its core, Dubai is a Muslim city and many restaurants do not serve alcohol. It can be found, however, in the restaurants inside the tourist and business hotels. Restaurants range from amazingly expensive to cheap street stalls.
Address: Burj Al Arab Hotel Web: www.burj-al-arab.com Telephone: +971 4 3017600 Fax: +971 4 3016076 Email: BAArestaurants@jumeirah.com Make reservations well in advance.
The finest seafood restaurant in Dubai and, arguably, in the world. Contemporary seafood cuisine is prepared by a crew of world-class chefs. Guests can enjoy the exquisite food while watching diverse exotic fish in the most beautiful aquarium in Dubai.
This is a top notch restaurant known for its classical as well as adventurous dishes and gallant service.
Local snacks include Shawarma and Falafel, both available on the streets and very cheap. Shawarma is meet grilled on a skewer, inside pita bread with dressing and vegetables, and falafel is a fried ball of chickpea or fava beans in pita bread with dressing and vegetables. Most American fast food chains, such as KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc, are available in Dubai as well.
It has been held for over a decade and is the biggest shopping event in the Middle East. This month-long festival is one of the city’s most noteworthy events and features shopping, entertainment and culture, during which time the high-profile stores offer lower prices on popular items, there is street entertainment and fireworks.
Dubai Summer Surprises Festival
Dubai’s second most popular shopping festival lasts for ten weeks and features open-air concerts, various expositions and massive discounts at shopping centers around the city.
The prestigious horse race attracts the world’s top jockeys and horses to compete for the staggering US$6 million prize.
The event is immensely popular; it attracts over 70,000 fans from near and far and 16 of the best international rugby teams each year. It also features a number of accompanying events.
The National Day Festival
Date: December 2 Location: various venues
This is one of the biggest festivals, celebrating independence from colonial rule of Great Britain with numerous patriotic events held in the city’s prominent venues.
Global Village Dubai
Date: November to February annually Location: Dubailand (Emirates Road, Exit 37) Phone: +971 4 362 4114 Hours: 4:00 pm - Midnight Web: www.globalvillage.ae
Annual festival featuring shopping, eating and entertainment held during the Dubai winter. It brings together the world’s various cultures. Countries are each represented with their own pavilion decorated in the manner of their local heritage.
Dubai is a bustling international city and while it is certainly not comparable to Berlin or Ibiza, a buzzing nightlife can be found.
Clubs are primarily located in the more popular hotels. Most are open until 3:00 am and often attract such internationally acclaimed DJs as Groove Armada, Paul van Dyke, DJ Tiesto and others. Most clubs have cover charges.
During Ramadan, however, the majority of nightclubs are closed, or their program is very limited since no live music or dancing is allowed.
Dubai has strict alcohol laws that should be taken into consideration: Drinking alcohol in public is illegal. Alcohol is available only in licensed bars and nightclubs. During holidays and Ramadan (during the day) alcohol is not sold even to non-Muslims. Do NOT drink and drive. The limit is 0 and drunken driving is severely punished: jail, deportation, loss of driving license, and insurance denied in an accident. As of March 2008 new penalties apply for drunken driving: 1 to 3 month jail sentence, deportation, a fine of 20,000 to 30,000 AED, and loss of driver’s license for a year.
The area of today’s Dubai was occupied by nomads, herding sheep, goats and cattle and later date palm cultivation was introduced. During the Bronze Age copper trade was initiated, and later, during the 7th century the region became Islamic. In the 17th century a small fishing village was established. The settlement supported itself on fishing and pearl diving.
Around the turn of the 19th century Dubai became an important trading port. In 1892 the British protectorate was established during which time the city continued to prosper. Its importance as a trade hub steadily increased and, being close to India, many Indians relocated there.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
By the early 20th century already a quarter of the population was composed of foreigners - by the 1930s the town was home to Persians, Indians, and Baluchis. World War I and the Great Depression significantly damaged Dubai’s pearl industry. People who lived there suffered lack of infrastructure and education.
Oil was discovered in 1966 which attracted thousands of newcomers to the city. By 1969 the first oil shipments were made. But oil in Dubai was not abundant, as it was, for example, in neighboring Abu Dhabi. A major turning point came in 1971, when the British withdrew and Dubai joined with Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Aiman, Umm Al Quwain, Fajairah and later Ras Al Khaimah in the federation of the United Arab Emirates.
Rapid development of Dubai was fuelled by the great profits made in oil, especially after the Persian Gulf War when oil prices sky-rocketed and the Dubai government profited greatly.
With all its accumulated wealth Dubai has built infrastructure, tourist facilities and transportation, and is still expanding exponentially today.
Dress modestly; women especially should avoid revealing cleavage, bare legs and arms. Do not wear swim wear away from the beach or poolside.
Dubai is a Muslim city and visitors should refrain from eating, dinking or smoking in public during the holy month of Ramadan during the hours of daylight.
Public displays of affection are not allowed.
Even though non-Muslims can drink and buy alcohol, do not drink and drive as it is severely punished. Also, it is an offence to drink or be drunk in public and the fines are hefty.
Men greet other men by shaking hands. Western men should not offer to shake hands with Emirati women, except if she extends her hand first.
Accept refreshments, drink and eat only with your right hand.
Do not summon people with a finger – use the whole palm and fingers if you want to use a hand gesture.
The following is considered illegal in Dubai:
Possession or use of drugs, co-habitation and sex outside marriage, having a baby out of wed-lock, adultery and homosexuality. Do not bring banned goods into Dubai. These include all drugs and narcotics, pornographic material, non Islamic religious pamphlets for missionary activities, fireworks, ivory, weapons & ammunition, chemical and organic fertilizers, laser pens, radar jammers/other unauthorized communication devices, endangered animal species, and any objects, sculptures, paintings, books or magazines which do not adhere to the religious and moral values of the UAE.
Like any major city, Dubai has its share of problems but these are by no means out of control if you are sensible and take proper precautions.
Petty crime is barely mentioned in the media, but you should nevertheless keep your eyes open when in crowded areas like Naser Square or generally anywhere in Deira. Scammers operate in Dubai; look out for the “Nigerian 419” scammers, and Dubai real estate frauds.
Islamic laws should be respected by visitors at all times. Do not criticize the ruling family or any of the seven Emirates in political conversations. Public displays of affection, trans-dressing, sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexuality are considered criminal offences and can result in jail time and deportation.
Recreational drug use and distribution is considered a serious offense, the possession of small amounts can result in several years’ jail time and there is the death penalty for distribution and trafficking. Be careful when bringing prescription drugs and even over-the-counter drugs into Dubai as many may be banned and result in jail time as well.
Passenger baggage is screened thoroughly upon entering Dubai.
Rude hand gestures and profanity can also lead to jail sentences so try to keep your cool.
The best time to visit Dubai is during the cooler months, from November to April. Otherwise, Dubai is extremely hot. Note, however, that most buildings are well air-conditioned. Dubai is also best avoided during the holy month of Ramadan if you are a non-Muslim, as strict bans apply on drinking, eating, and smoking during daylight hours.