Top 10 things to do in Dubai

Dubai's gold souk is one of the largest markets for the precious metal in the world. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Joi Ito
Dubai's gold souk is one of the largest markets for the precious metal in the world. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user Joi Ito

Dubai is like a 40-year-old man with a new red Ferrari. It can't help but show off.

It grabs every opportunity to rev its engine to dazzle and delight. Out of the hot, sprawling desert its enormous skyscrapers shoot upward like giant silver gear sticks.

Enormous, curvaceous highways weave around the buildings and on the smooth, stretched road all manner of luxury cars are driven by expats and local-born Emiratis, who make up about 12 per cent of the population.

The city, the second largest in the United Arab Emirates after Abu Dhabi, has an astonishing array of fairy-tale structures. You will have to visit yourself to decide if these creations are impressive or plain preposterous.

Here are 10 highlights that no tourist should miss:

1. Burj Khalifa

The world's tallest building pierces the Dubai sky at 828 metres. For visitors, the main attraction is the observation deck on the 124th floor. Tickets are available at the ticket office or online.

2. Burj Al Arab Hotel

The world's most luxurious and expensive hotel, the Burj Al Arab, is a remarkable building designed to resemble a billowing sail. Pop in for a drink: The hotel is home to the world's most expensive cocktail, costing AED27,321.00 (NZ$9358.00). It's made of 55-year-old whiskey, dry fruit bitters and ice cubes from the Macallan distillery and stirred with a piece of wood from the original Macallan sherry casks.

3. The World Archipelago

This vast engineering project sought to create an archipelago of 300 man-made islands off the coast of Dubai. The islands, created from sand dredged from the sea, were to be the playground of the rich, but since the global financial crisis hit the project has slowed in development.

4. Dubai Museum

This museum is a great introduction to the history of the city. It's located inside the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest existing building in Dubai (built in 1787). Renovated in the 1970s, its colourful life-size dioramas vividly depict everyday life in the days before the discovery of oil. Galleries recreate scenes from traditional Arab houses, mosques, the souk, date farms, desert and marine life. One of the more spectacular exhibits portrays pearl diving, including sets of pearl merchants' weights, scales and sieves. The museum is open every day and costs around NZ$1.20 per adult.

5. Bastakiya

A great way to begin a Dubai journey is with a tour of Bastakiya, one of the oldest traditional Emirati neighbourhoods in Bur Dubai, the old historic district. Here you can see the windtower, the earliest form of air conditioning, which was used to cool homes in the Gulf. From here wander along to the nearby Creek and board an abra, a traditional boat that now serves as a taxi, across to Deira and visit the Gold Souk.

6. Gold Souk

Dubai boasts one of the largest gold markets in the world. You have to be prepared to haggle over price here, so it's worth noting the current price of gold before you visit. Besides gold, the shops also offer platinum, diamonds and silver and the government keeps tight control over the quality of all the merchandise, so you can rest assured that your purchases will be genuine.

7. Dubai Mall

One of Dubai's greatest attraction for visitors is its superb shopping. The city offers plenty of bargains due to it being an open port with low import duties and no taxation. Dubai Mall is Dubai's largest shopping centre with around 1000 shops. It's also home to a 50m long aquarium. If you like to ski in between shopping, then head to the Mall of the Emirates, which has about 500 shops, as well as an indoor ski resort.

8. The desert

The best way to get to the desert is on an organised tour. Most of the tours include a safari dinner and belly dance. Arabian Adventures has a number of adventures on offer.

9. Golf

Dubai is obsessed with golf. The oldest and most established club among the now numerous golf clubs of Dubai is the Emirates Golf Club. This green oasis in the desert boasts two 18-hole championship courses. The clubhouse is designed to symbolise Bedouin tents.

10. Jumeirah Mosque

The mosque on Al Jumeirah Road is the only mosque in Dubai open to the public and welcoming to non-Muslim visitors. It's a stunning building and well worth a visit. Remember to dress modestly.


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