Dubai is fast becoming a tourist mecca, and is the most visited of the United Arab Emirates seven emirates. This desert city is packed with tourist amenities and is a great spot for shopping, dining, partying and sunbathing. The combination of old and new makes it an interesting place for sightseeing, and the beaches here have some of the whitest sand in the world. Dubai is a favorite among families, couples and groups of friends, thanks to the easy access to the desert sand dunes and amusement parks.
Dubai is always hot, making it a year-round holiday spot; May to September can be unbearable for some, while October to January is the most favored period. The world's three largest man-made islands, the Palm Islands, featuring upscale shopping, high-end resorts and an impressive marina, are just off the coast of the city. Many visitors tour around by car, although the public transport system here is great.
Dubai: Tourism Highlights
Dubai is the second largest emirate within the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and also the most cosmpolitan and liberal. Although its economy was originally based on oil exports, Dubai managed to invest its "pretro dollars" to create a diversified and active market where tourism plays a central role. Bordering the Arabian Sea, Dubai is in a dry and warm area with highs of 108 degrees Fahrenheit (July and August) and lows of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (December and January). Summer months heat up quickly. So, if you want to travel in a more temperate season, consider traveling December through March.
You'll need a passport when traveling to Dubai. A visa is unnecessary for stays of less than a month for citizens of the Netherlands, the U.S., the U.K., Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.
Traveler tips about Dubai
If you want to enjoy a beer or alcoholic drink, remember that only hotel bars and restaurants may legally serve alcohol. If you visit other establishments, plan to drink non-alcoholic offerings.
Drinking, smoking and eating in public are offensive during Ramadan. Also, remember that you may not take photographs of any military members, government buildings or military structures. In addition, photographing Muslim women is not okay. You can take pictures of men, but you should always ask for permission before doing so.
The sun is strong. Bring sunglasses, a shady hat and plenty of sunscreen.
Dubai's crime rate is low, so tourists generally needn't worry about pickpockets. Driving in Dubai is a different story. Many consider Dubai to be home of the world's most deadly roadways. If you opt to drive, be extremely cautious of your surroundings and always obey speed limits. Pedestrians need to be just as alert. Being in a pedestrian crossing does not mean cars will stop to let you cross.
As Dubai is a port, you'll find incredible retail deals. Many cities offer thriving open-air markets called Souks where you can haggle for the best prices. Traditional shopping malls provide shopping opportunities in the larger cities like that found in the Karama District. Gold, Indian silks and Arabic coffee cost very little in Dubai. Soon, Dubai's Mall of Arabia will open and become the world's largest shopping mall.
While in Dubai, visit the Al Fahidi Fort, home of the Dubai Museum. Established in 1787, the Al Fahidi Fort offers amazing architecture and artifacts from past centuries. The museum is open year round. From the fort, walk to the Souq Al Bastakiya. This ancient district highlights historic courtyard houses.
Golfers take note. Dubai is home to a few golf courses. The Montgomerie is a professional course designed by Scotland's Colin Montgomerie. Abu Dhabi Golf Course is the area's most popular and great for taking in the sights while enjoying a challenging round.
You can enjoy many countries' traditional foods in Dubai. Dubai is home to excellent Asian, Italian, Mediterranean and European restaurants. However, if you want to enjoy traditional fare, visit Bin Eid. This is one of the few restaurants offering camel.
Dubai's cuisine is a mix of African, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culinary styles. Dates thrive in this region. Typical Dubai appetizers, desserts and entrees include:
- Balaleet: A dessert made from vermicelli, sugar, eggs and cardamom.
- Chibab: Saffron bread formed into pancakes.
- Harees: A stew of lamb and cracked wheat berries.
- Hammour: A fish from the grouper family.
- Luquaimat: Fried dumplings dipped in date syrup.
- Machboos: Chicken or lamb mixed with lemon, rice and onion and slowly cooked over low heat.
- Muttabal: A dip made from roasted eggplant, yogurt, garlic, lemon and tahini.
Arabic coffee is a staple. Mango juice is extremely popular in Dubai.
Dubai is home to large resorts, global hotel chains and uniquely exclusive hotels. Though expensive, Al Qasr at Madinat Jumeirah is one of the country's top-rated establishments. Huge outdoor pools provide soothing relief from the hot sun. The hotel offers free parking, six onsite restaurants and amenities that make the hotel feel like a home away from home.