Nestling in the Persian Gulf, Dubai is renowned for its extravagance and the sheer scale of its many attractions. And this reputation, alongside gorgeous all-year round sunshine, has turned it into one of the world’s most desirable holiday destinations. One of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai is the largest in terms of population and the second largest in terms of physical size behind only Abu Dhabi. Sitting on the Persian Gulf coast it has seen accelerated development since the 1970s, turning it into one of the world’s premier tourist destinations.
Dubai is famous around the world being extremely extravagant and over-the-top. When you arrive and see it for yourself you’ll realise there just aren’t the words to do it justice. It is grandiose on a colossal scale, and features the world’s tallest building – the stunning Burj Khalifa – and the world’s largest shopping mall – the Dubai Mall.
On that note, Dubai is a real shopper’s paradise with malls, markets, boutiques and souks offering everything from designer clothes and brand-name electronics to cheap jewellery and unique trinkets.
The original Emirati population is now a minority in the country thanks to the many expats and influx of construction workers. In fact, Dubai is a vibrant, modern place with over 100 nationalities in residence, and with the millions of tourists added to the mix, it is a wonderful cultural crossroads of visitors, expats and locals. This has created a culture that is not so much a melting pot but a collection of mezze bowls – communities divided up and holding on to their own customs and values.
Venture away from the grandeur of Dubai and you'll find two of the Emirates' hidden gems, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah. Fujairah, nestled along the east-coast, has a more relaxed ambience, with beautiful rocky coastlines and azure shallows ideal for snorkelling amongst reef sharks and turtles. Ras Al Khaimah, meanwhile, is known for its incredible blend of expansive desert and soaring mountains, all mostly untouched and home to astonishing, panoramic vistas. These areas are far less travelled by tourists, and therefore offer a more secluded and unique holiday in the Emirates.
Why visit Dubai and the Emirates?
There is a huge range of activities and things to do – everything from water-skiing and scuba diving to golf and waterparks
Dubai is a byword of luxury, the hotels and resorts here offer unparalleled indulgence and extravagance
The location is excellent, as there is a stunning white sand beach next to the city meaning you can get that fantastic combination of a sunbathing, watersports and exciting city living
Some amazing shopping experiences including the gold souk, The Dubai Mall and the many markets throughout the city
Venture out into the desert for some unique sights and experiences – try sand skiing or dune bashing, and eat a traditional Emirati meal
Discover the natural beauty of Ras Al Khaimah, with its sweeping desert and mountain-scapes
Venture from the beaten track and explore Fujairah, with crystal clear shallows perfect for snorkelling
Most new visitors are hit by the scale of the place. The Dubai Mall’s famous Dubai Fountain works on a grand scale. To give you an idea of its grandeur, it shoots water jets 150 metres in the air, and was created by the designers of the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas.
Given the sumptuous size of the Dubai Mall, it’s no surprise the emirate is a shopper’s paradise. The number of malls, markets, boutiques and souks, offering everything from designer clothes and brand-name electronics to cheap jewellery and unique trinkets, are testament to this.
Weather wise, Dubai is warm all year round, with November to March being the coolest, when the average maximum temperature is 25°C. May to September is the hottest season, when temperatures often exceed 40°C – air-conditioning mandatory!
The area surrounding Dubai Creek is perhaps the most historic part of the emirate, with souks selling spices and textiles, and the architecture dominated by mosques and authentic regional buildings in the Deira and Bur Dubai districts. Why not take a water taxi, also known as an abra, and enjoy a leisurely look around these beautiful sights?
And, of course, you can’t forget the desert. No trip to Dubai would be complete without a visit to the most unique environment on earth. You can try sand skiing or dune bashing, and eat a traditional Emirati meal, while on a desert safari. And if you like the sound of an active holiday, there is no end to the water and land-based sports you can enjoy: waterskiing, scuba diving, golf and waterparks to name just a few.
Perhaps the most famous of Dubai’s attractions is the man-made island, The Palm Jumeirah, which is now giving the traditional holiday spot of Jumeirah Beach a run for its money as the place to stay.
History and culture
The UAE is a Muslim country and mosques are dotted throughout the landscape of Dubai – five times a day the melodious prayer call or adhan will be heard.
While Dubai is most famous for its shopping, visitors should take advantage of their trip to the UAE to also learn about the local culture. The Dubai Museum is in a traditional fort, and its exhibits of weapons, national costumes, and the pearl diving industry, on which Dubai was originally founded, are supremely interesting.
The Heritage and Diving Village features displays of Dubai's maritime past –though you are never too far from a shop or restaurant. Truly, there is something for everyone in Dubai.