Ambitious architecture, rich diversity, and a vibrant nightlife all embody the desert city of Dubai.
With residents from all over the world, Dubai offers an exciting fusion of cultures. Whether you’re looking for shopping heaven, want to indulge in international flavours, or are interested in really experiencing the magic of a desert landscape, you’ll find something to keep you busy in this one-of-a-kind city.
Take a stroll
While first-time visitors will be blown away by Dubai’s modern skyline, the Al Fahidi historic district is well worth a visit if you’re looking for a glimpse of the city’s past. The area has been restored to reflect traditional life, and it’s easy to walk away an afternoon in the labyrinth of alleys, art galleries, and little shops. If you’re in the neighbourhood, be sure to pop into Arabian Tea House — set in a pretty courtyard, the restaurant serves up some local favourites like Arabic breakfast trays of scrambled eggs, olives, labna (a creamy cheese made from strained yoghurt), marinated aubergines and fresh bread, which are perfect for sharing.
After you’ve fuelled up, continue your stroll to the nearby textile souk (market), and then cross the Dubai Creek on an abra, a small motorised water taxi. For just 1 dirham (about R3,70), you can get a sense of the bustling creek and reach Deira, where you can explore the spice and gold souks.
Marvel at the City
No trip to Dubai would be complete without a look at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. At 828 metres high, it’s a downtown landmark, and you can’t really miss it where ever you are in the city. But, to really take in its size, go to the waterfront promenade next to Dubai Mall for the nightly fountain show. The fountain is made up of a 275-metre-long central arc of jets, which spray to heights of 150 metres in harmony with music. Illuminated by lights and colour projectors against a backdrop of the Burj, the water creates a striking show. For a really great view, consider booking a table at one of the restaurants at Dubai Mall or the nearby Souk Al Bahar.
See the Desert
The city is full of glamour, luxurious spaces, and futuristic architecture — you could certainly be forgiven for getting wrapped up in its buzz. But, for a really unique experience, consider exploring outside of the city limits and heading into the desert. There are countless companies who offer desert safaris, most of which include a drive in the dunes, as well as camel rides, sand boarding, and dinner under the stars. For a truly magical sight, try and catch the sunset as it drops below the dunes.
If you have time, consider a day trip to another of the emirates — Abu Dhabi’s beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the country’s top sights and well worth the trip, while Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain is one of the country’s highest mountains. Bordering Oman, the peak can be reached via a winding highway. For more mountain scenery, take a drive to Ras al-Khaimah, or take your time and travel to Fujairah on the east coast for a stay in a beachside resort.
FOR A CULTURAL EXPERIENCE
The Jumeirah Mosque is open six days a week to visitors of all faiths — in fact, it’s the only mosque in the city open to the public. Take a tour to learn about Islamic rituals and to have a look at the intricate detail of the building.
FOR A NIGHT ON THE TOWN
After dark, Dubai comes alive with party people, and if you’re looking for fun, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Some of the best beachside bars can be found near the Dubai Marina and surrounds — Barasti is one of the city’s best-loved spaces for drinks, live music and beach lounging.
FOR A SHOPPING SPREE WITH A DIFFERENCE
So much more than a shopping centre, Dubai Mall is an attraction in itself. With around 1 200 shops, the mall also boasts an ice rink, aquarium, indoor theme parks, and a huge selection of restaurants. If you enjoy shopping, you’ll love the choice of international labels on offer.