The emirate within the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai is located south east of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi. Although the earliest settlement known as Dubai town, dates from 1799, it was only formally established in 1833 by Sheikh Maktoum bin Buti al Maktoum – this happened when he persuaded 800 members of the Bani Yas tribe, living in what is now part of Saudi Arabia, to follow him to the Dubai Creek by the Al Abu Falasa clan of Bani Yas.
It became the biggest exporter of oil when, in 1966, oil was discovered in the region, and the emirate of Qatar set up a new monetary unit to replace the Gulf Rupee. The oil economy led to a massive influx of foreign workers, quickly expanding the city by 300% and bringing in international oil interests, making it known as the oil centre of the world.
Today, Dubai City has emerged as a global city and a business hub, and although Dubai’s economy was built on the oil industry, the emirate’s model of business drives its economy, with the effect that its main revenues are now from tourism, real estate, and financial services, similar to that of Western countries.
Deira Clock tower
Sometimes referred to as the Dubai Clock tower, the Deira Clock tower is a roundabout in Dubai that incorporates a clock tower in the middle.
The Clock Tower is Dubai’s oldest monument and was built over 40 years ago, constructed by Overseas AST in around 1964.
The Clock Tower was erected as a symbol of Dubai and located in Deira because that was where major routes into Dubai converged prior to the building of Dubai.
Its location in Deira was chosen because back then, it was an important access point to Dubai and the first significant structure seen by travellers and traders arriving overland.
It’s a great place to take photographs.
Burj Al Arab
At 1,053 feet, the Burj Al Arab is the fourth tallest hotel in the world. It stands on an artificial island 280 metres out from Jumeirah beach and is connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge.
The shape of the structure is designed to mimic the sail of a ship and was designed by architect Tom Wright of WS Atkins PLC.
The Burj Al Arab’s seven-star rating may be an urban myth that got out of hand, but nothing dominates the Dubai skyline and tourists’ imagination quite like it.
This Rolls Royce of hotels looks even more beautiful at night, illuminated by hundred of lights, glowing in the Dubai night.
The only way to get inside without paying for a room is to book a table at one of the hotel’s costly eateries. Al Muntaha is on the top floor but its bright interior prevents you from seeing the views outside though.
Al Mahara is an expensive fish restaurant with an aquarium larger than most people’s apartments and Sahn Eddar serves afternoon tea. The best of them is the beach-based Majlis Al Bahar, as from here you can admire the Burj’s impressive structural excellence and where you can gaze at the city’s garishness.
- Metro: from Ibn Battuta Metro Station 2, red line to Rashidiya Metro Station. Stop at Sharaf DG Metro Station. Then bus 81 to The Dubai Mall, stop at Burj Al Arab Hotel 2
- Bus: from Al Ghubaiba Bus Station take bus n° 8 to Ibn Battuta Metro, stop at Burj Al Arab Hotel 1.
The Palm Jumeirah is an artificial archipelago created using land reclamation and is one of three islands called the Palm Islands, with the other two being Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira.
The Palm Jumeirah extends into the Persian Gulf, increasing Dubai’s shoreline and is the smallest and the original of the three Palm Islands under development by Nakheel.
It is in the shape of a palm tree and consists of a trunk, a crown with 16 fronds, and a surrounding crescent island that forms an 11 kilometres long breakwater.
You can enjoy its view while cruising from a rented motorboat, visit The Lost Chambers aquarium or simply take in the view from the fronds.
- Monorail: The Palm Jumeirah Monorail is a monorail running down the trunk of the Palm Ju. The route is 3 miles long and runs from the Gateway Station in Al Sufouh to the Atlantis hotel and Acquaventure waterpark
- NOTE: there is no direct connection between the Dubai Metro and Pal Jumeirah Monorail
- Single trip: 15 dirhams
- Return trip: 25 dirhams
- NOTE: Children who are under 90cm tall travel free on the Palm Monorail so it is height based and not based on age.
The easiest way to get to the dunes outside the city is on a Dubai desert safari where the tours are incredibly popular.
Take the Blue Banana tour, which has a number of expeditions on offer. The same outfit also has hot-air balloon flights over the sand at sunrise that gives you a statelier desert experience.
If you just want to see some sand without vertigo or nausea, then head out to the plush desert escape Bab Al Shams, where you can sit on the rooftop and enjoy a cocktail as the sun dips below the dunes.
It will definitely give you a “Lawrence of Arabia” feeling to it.
Visit Ski Dubai
Whilst it’s true that an indoor ski dome certainly cannot rival the world-class ski resorts in France – it’s much easier to find quality ski schools in Courchevel than in Dubai, nevertheless having the opportunity to go skiing in the Middle East while surrounded by desert is one that you can’t refuse!
Ski Dubai has runs of up to 400 metres and uses real snow so at times it really does feel like you’re actually skiing outside!
Everything is taken care of for you – you don’t have to worry about bringing any outfit or skiing gear, as that is all provided for you.
If the heat of Dubai is getting too much for you, then cooling down at Ski Dubai is a great way to spend an afternoon!
Even though a common misconception of Dubai is that it’s a land only for the rich, a visit to this beautifully enchanting city will show you that it’s not all glitz and glamour in this city of the emirates.
[Images credits: maxiimuz/Flickr, chant3/Flickr, nasamarshall/Flickr]
Things to do in Dubai - Review