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Ancient culture meets modern marvels in Dubai

Created date

March 20th, 2012

The largest and most visited of the seven states comprising the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai boasts some of the world s most spectacular examples of modern technology and architecture. But sunlit skyscrapers don t eclipse rich culture and tradition. For travelers in search of a taste of the Middle East coupled with the comforts of home and a dazzling array of indoor and outdoor entertainment options, Dubai is an excellent choice. Following a decade of building boom, Dubai has become synonymous with superlatives: Visitors can see the world s tallest building, largest mall, a manmade archipelago, and an indoor ski resort, but should also set aside time for natural wonders.

Super sights

Stacking nearly 3,000 feet tall, the Burj Khalifa is unmistakable from nearly all points of the city. Purchase tickets in advance online to experience the surreal Disney-esque journey to the 124th floor of the world s tallest building. Choose a clear day and visit just before sunset to capture the city by day and night. Below, Dubai Fountain shows begin at 6 p.m. and proceed every 30 minutes. It s worth the wait for a view of the light show from the top. Catch a later show from the ground. The Burj Khalifa is accessible from the Dubai Mall the world s largest mall with more than 1,000 stores. Like many sights in the tax-free state, spending is encouraged, but spectators can enjoy the opulence without opening their wallets. Pass by the mall s aquarium, including its ten-million-liter tank, and indoor ice rink, both visible from within the mall.

Nature and tradition

Between November and May, Dubai s weather is warm and pleasant and beaches beckon. Nature and extravagance converge at Jumeirah Road, which houses the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops. It is worth a stroll down this road, by day to a visit its public beach, and by night to people-watch. Dubai Marina is also a lovely place to have a coffee or meal, with Dubai s typical abundant food options, from Chinese to Mexican. For a quieter waterfront experience, bring a picnic to Al Sufouh beach. The white-sand beach offers an excellent view of the Burj Al Arab, the building designed to resemble the sail of a dhow, or traditional Arab boat. From the beauty of the city, visitors should also consider a trip to the desert. A number of companies, including Knight Tours, offer desert safaris for about $60. The excursion begins with a roller coaster of a ride through sand dunes from inside a Land Cruiser. For those with motion sickness, ask ahead for the journey without dune bashing. At sunset you ll arrive at a bedouin camp with opportunities to ride camels, sit for henna painting, hold a falcon, and eat freshly made Arabic pastries airy balls of fried dough dipped in syrup. A satisfying meal of Middle Eastern fare and a dizzying dance performance follow under a star-filled sky. From bedouin beginnings to a diverse population less than 20% of Dubai s residents hail from the UAE and a growing landscape of modern marvels, Dubai is a safe and welcoming destination of well-deserved fame.

Fast Facts

Language: English is spoken everywhere; official language is Arabic. 
Money: The Emirati Dirham (AED). One U.S. dollar equals about 3.7 AED.
Clothing: While many local Emiratis wear traditional clothes, a strict dress code is not enforced. Female visitors may feel more comfortable covering their shoulders in public places.
When to go: November to May.
Where to stay: Hotels are abundant. Consider the centrally located Al Barsha or quieter Greens neighborhood.
Transportation: Dubai's metro, with two central lines, is an affordable and clean option. Taxis are also easy to find.