Dubai is the gateway to the United Arab Emirates and a major tourist and business hub. It combines a luxury international lifestyle and seven-star hotels with traditions such as pearl diving and hunting in the desert. Dubai is also the major international sports centre of the Persian Gulf, hosting world-class golf and tennis tournaments.
The Dubai coastline was legendary even before the construction of the seven-star Burj al Arab hotel with its famous sail-like structure. It was built to resemble a dhow, the traditional sailing boat used for trading between the Persian Gulf and Africa and South Asia. One of the world's most photographed structures, its night-time illuminations represent water and fire. The hotel provides a personal butler service for guests, in-suite check in and a private Rolls Royce for transport around the emirate.
Hotels in Dubai are famous for their variety. The Palm Atlantis, as featured on X Factor, is part of a resort in the Palm Jumeirah Islands modelled on the Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Two monorails link the resort to the rest of the Jumeirah Islands.
Dubai hotels are generally of a very high standard, ranging from budget rooms at low prices to the five-star chains such as Jumeirah, Kempinski, Marriott, Intercontinental, Sheraton, Marco Polo, Hilton, Ritz Carlton and Holiday Inn. The luxury hotels command high prices compared with Europe. Many of the hotels are design led so the visitor can enjoy contemporary art as well as a holiday. If you are choosing a cheaper room, make sure that it has air conditioning during the summer months.
Shopping is a favourite activity in Dubai, with the gold and spice souk one of the top destinations. There is a treasure trove of historical and cultural sites to visit. The Jumeirah Mosque is the largest mosque in the Middle East and is open to non-Muslim visitors. The Al Fahidi Fort that houses the Dubai Museum is the oldest building in the emirate. It is easily accessible via the metro from the city centre and has a collection of artefacts, some of which date back 3,000 years.
The Heritage and Diving Centre is located just close to the mouth of Dubai Creek. It focuses on Dubai's maritime past. Dinner in the evening at one of its restaurants provides a taste of the tranquillity and charm of old Dubai. A modern version of Dubai is on display at the Dubai Mall, the main shopping mall in the centre of the city. You can skate at the ice rink or try your luck on the indoor slopes of Ski Dubai. Visit the Aquarium that is built through three floors of the mall.
See modern art from the Middle East, Africa and India at the Art Attack Gallery between the Al Wasl Road and the Jumeirah Beach Road. Anyone who fancies a flutter can visit the Meydan Racecourse just south of Dubai Creek .This is the world's richest racecourse and was opened in 2009 when the neighbouring Nad al Sheba closed. For an adventure, take a 4x4 drive on a desert safari.
The best time to visit is between November and March when daytime temperatures are about 25 degrees C.
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