Set against the backdrop of the Arabian Desert, Dubai has grown rapidly into a futuristic landscape of skyscrapers, man-made islands, shopping malls and beach resorts. There is a sense of outlandish possibility about this modern and progressive city.
Dubai has become a truly global city and influential business hub, growing particularly fast in areas such as aviation, tourism and real estate. Standing as testament to its success are architectural marvels like the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, the Burj Al Arab, widely billed as the world's only seven star hotel, and the iconic Palm Jumeirah island, to name just a few.
Dubai is a city of superlatives, home to the highest skyscrapers, the fastest cars, the most luxurious hotels and the biggest shopping malls. The enormous expatriate population, as well as millions of tourists each year, can enjoy shopping, partying, sunbathing and fine dining. From within these high standards of luxury, visitors can also experience exotic Arabia in the bustling souks of the Deira district, or a night in a Bedouin tent with belly-dancing under the starlit desert skies.
Dubai's attraction lies in the contrast between the ultra modern and the enchantingly traditional, which gives the city a personality like no other. From desert oases and unspoiled beaches, camel races and old wind towers, to top-class shopping opportunities and the finest international cuisine, Dubai has more than enough depth to satisfy even the most seasoned of explorers.
The natural seawater inlet that cuts through the centre of the city is the historical part of Dubai where visitors can take an abra (small water taxi) and view the old trading port and the dhows from the water. A cruise to Al-Maktoum Bridge will pass many of the city's historic, as well as modern, landmarks. A stroll around the wharf offers a picturesque glimpse of Dubai's trading heritage, where dhows bound for distant places dock to unload their goods.
The old Bastakiya district is a step back in time to the days before electricity and air-conditioning, where traditional courtyard houses were cooled by wind towers. Old Dubai was famous for its wind towers that lined the Creek on both sides, and today the narrow lanes festooned with the distinctively Arabian architecture are a popular historical attraction marked for tourist development.
The souks, or traditional markets, are popular with bargain hunters as well as sightseers and photographers. The most famous is the Gold Souk, where the narrow streets are lined with shops selling everything golden, from 24-carat bars to rings and elaborate necklaces, and all at low prices. The tiny lanes of the traditional spice souk are scented with sacks of cinnamon, incense, spices, and dried fruit, while the modern fish souk bustles with activity and is redolent with smells of a more unpleasant nature. At the heart of the Bur Dubai souk lies Al Fahidi Street, selling the latest electronics, photographic equipment and home appliances at competitive prices. Other streets sell everything from materials and carpets to traditional coffee pots, loaves of unleavened bread and hubble-bubble pipes.
Boasting the city's tallest minaret at 230 feet (70m), the Grand Mosque is a notable landmark with its multi-domed style and impressive size. It is an important place of worship and can accommodate up to 1,200 worshippers inside. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the Mosque.
One of the most advanced water theme parks ever designed, the five-hectare (12-acre) water park at Wild Wadi offers families and thrill seekers hours of fun, relaxation and adrenalin-pumping action. Designed like an Arabian wadi (oasis), the park has an Arabian folklore theme and features some of the highest and fastest water rides outside of North America with 24 state of the art, high-adrenaline rides and slides. Rides for thrill seekers include Jumeirah Sceirah, a 108ft (33m) free-fall at 50 miles per hour (80km/hr), Master Blaster slides that are water roller coasters propelled uphill by high-powered jets, the white-knuckle ride at Rushdown Ravine or the high waves at Breakers Bay.
The Jumeirah Mosque is one of the most photographed sights in Dubai. A fine example of modern Islamic architecture, this beautiful mosque is also one of the city's largest, with a majestic dome and twin minarets, and is one of the few mosques open to non-Muslims for tours. Non-Muslims may only enter the Jumeirah Mosque on an organised tour. Modest dress is preferred, however traditional attire can be borrowed from the Mosque.
The imposing 19th-century Al Faheidi Fort houses the Dubai Museum, which has an impressive collection of military and cultural artefacts, as well as working models and life-size displays depicting various aspects of Dubai life such as the markets, an Islamic school, the desert, Arab houses and Gulf marine life. One of the most interesting exhibits shows the underwater world of pearl-diving. The fort was built in 1799 to guard Dubai from landward approaches, and was once the residence of the city's rulers as well as the seat of government until 1971.
One of the city's newest and most interesting attractions is the region's first indoor ski resort, with real snow and five runs catering to both beginner and expert skiers and snowboarders. The monumental indoor snowdome can host up to 1,500 people. The longest run is 1,312 feet (400m), dropping 197 feet (60m), while a freestyle zone and quarter pipe cater specifically for snowboarders. Ski lifts, snow patrols and professional instructors help to create an authentic environment. A Snow Park at the bottom is ideal for children to play in the snow. Slope passes include all equipment and ski clothing except hats and gloves. Guests need to pass a minimum skills test to access the main slopes, and those who don't pass can take lessons.
Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum's house dates back to the 19th century, and was built for Dubai's ruler with commanding views over the sea. It is one of the oldest residences in the city and has been restored as a museum exhibiting historical photographs and artefacts showcasing Dubai's history and development. Its architecture is also a fine example of the regional style with its wind towers and central courtyard, teak wood doors and windows and wooden lattice screens.
No visit to Dubai would be complete without a trip to the races - the camel races. This is a traditional sport in the UAE and hugely popular among local Emiratis who head to the race tracks early in the morning to watch these magnificent animals. The racing season runs from September to March and race tracks can be found in various locations around the Emirate and on the way to Abu Dhabi.
One of the main reasons holidaymakers flock to Dubai is to take advantage of the stunning beaches. If visitors aren't staying somewhere with access to the sand and sea, and don't want to pay AED 100 or more to use a hotel's facilities, then Jumeirah Beach Park is a brilliant alternative. The beaches are clean and safe, and unlike some of the other public areas in Dubai, are not populated with 'gawkers'. There are even designated 'women only' sessions. The park section of the beach is equipped with barbecue facilities and seating areas. There are also showers and toilets on the beach, and lifeguards on duty at all times.
The Bateaux Dubai Dinner Cruise provides visitors to the Emirate with a unique and memorable way in which to view the older part of Dubai. The two and a half hour cruise departs from just beyond the Al Maktoum Bridge and makes its way along the Creek past many of the city's most famous landmarks. Guests can take advantage of unobstructed views thanks to the non-reflective glass surround and extensive outside deck area.
A four course a-la-carte meal is served during the cruise (diners with specific dietary requirements are requested to arrange at the time of booking) and alcohol is available to purchase on board. Musical entertainment is provided care of the Bateaux Dubai musicians and DJ. Booking is required in advance through the reservation line.
Opened in November 2008, the Dubai Mall is the world's largest shopping centre and is home to around twelve hundred retailers. It is the size of more than fifty football pitches and features an ice rink, movie theatres, playground, aquarium, hotel, and is the gateway to the Burj Dubai: the tallest building in the world. The mall is home to a number of the world's best known stores including Bloomingdales, Marks and Spencer and Montblanc. Designers such as Stella McCartney also have outlets in the complex and world famous jewellers Tiffany & Co. have a branch located there. The mall also has a number of restaurants ranging from fast food to fine dining. No trip to Dubai would be complete without an outing to Dubai's latest shopping spectacular.
Located in the enormous Dubai Mall, the recently-opened Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is fast becoming one of the Emirates' most popular attractions. Featuring the largest viewing panel and one of the biggest tanks in the world, visitors have the opportunity to experience the incredible underwater domain of thousands of creatures of the deep. Highlights include feeding time for the enormous Sand Tiger Sharks and the majestic Stingrays. The aquarium and zoo is home to over thirty-thousand types of sea life and provides an exciting, educational day out for adults and children alike.
With a variety of sports to choose from, Al Nasr Leisureland offers facilities to cater to just about every sport under the sun. From an ice rink to swimming pools, tennis courts and a bowling alley, children will have a great time trying their hand at everything. There is even an amusement park with bumper cars, rollercoasters, go-karting and much more.
This 82,890-square-foot (7,700 sq-metre) education park is located in Dubai Creek Park and offers a wide range of activities geared towards kids, making the educational process fun. Children can learn all about the human body, science and space and the park also features a theatre, café, souvenir shop and wonderful views of the creek.
Wonderland Theme and Water Park in Dubai Creek Park is a must for children struggling with the heat in this scorching city. The Caribbean-themed park offers thrilling rides and slides such as the Red Baron, the spinning-coaster, the Action Arm, Lazy River and Surf Hill. The attached water park is low-tech, but provides cool entertainment for the whole family. Wonderland is a great way to spend the day with the family and a must for children of all ages.
The Dubai Dolphinarium offers guests the chance to interact with these gentle aquatic mammals and watch them perform tricks with their trainers. The Dolphinarium is home to four Black Sea Bottlenose dolphins as well as four Northern Fur Seals. The dolphinarium allows visitors to swim with the dolphins in a pre-arranged session, and also features a restaurant and gift shop.
With what seems like an endless lawn, Creekside Park is a great place for families and kids to enjoy while on holiday in Dubai. Boasting botanical gardens, an 18-hole mini golf course, an amphitheatre, picnic locations with barbecue equipment and a mini train and children's play areas, kids will be beside themselves with the endless amount of activities to enjoy here.
The heart of cosmopolitan Dubai is the slick and modern Dubai Marina, a development that continues to add new attractions each year. World-class hotels and shopping malls dominate the distinctive skyline, while the waterline is taken over by luxury yachts. Some of the best restaurants in Dubai are also located here. Dubai Marina has two walkways (The Walk and Marina Walk) that make pleasant places to stroll in the evening, and there are open markets on weekends between October and May. Although it is known as a beacon of over-the-top consumerism, the Dubai Marina transforms during Ramadan, when locals celebrate in song and dance in Heritage Village.
With a reputation for being a millionaire's playground and one of the shopping capitals of the world, Dubai may not seem like an ideal place to take the children on holiday. However family holiday-makers will find that there is, in fact, plenty to keep their little tykes entertained. From water parks and theme parks to playgrounds and parks, Dubai will cater to just about any child. The beaches in Dubai are also fantastic, but visitors should take care what time of year they choose to travel - the temperatures can be searing and children will wilt in the heat. Dubai has endless parks to choose for a fun day out, all with something different to offer, from picnic tables and mini golf to fishing, amusement rides and rollerblading. It's unlikely that the weather will be too cold to go outdoors, but when it's scorching hot and over 113°F (45°C), parents will do well to stay indoors, where the air conditioning is cranked on full, and perhaps even attempt a spot of shopping. Most shopping malls in Dubai have children's play areas and nurseries and the world's largest shopping mall, the Dubai Mall has an indoor SEGA theme park and children's 'edu-tainment' centre, KidZania.
Dubai enjoys an arid subtropical climate, with blue skies and sunshine all year round. The hottest months are between June and September, when temperatures can soar to 113°F (45°C) and more during the day and humidity levels are very high. Even the sea temperature touches on 104°F (40°C) during the summer months, and swimming pools at hotels are usually cooled to be refreshing. Temperatures are only slightly more moderate the rest of the year, the coolest time being between December and March with temperatures between 57°F (14°C) and 77°F (25°C). There is very little rainfall in Dubai, but when showers do fall it is mainly in the cooler months.
Few places on earth are as compactly cosmopolitan as Dubai - and that translates into an astonishingly varied cuisine for diners. Visitors can find everything from shawarma joints serving delicious kebabs for under US$1, to 7-course tasting menus prepared by Michelin-starred chefs. Seafood is typically good value and the sushi frequently excellent.
Those keen for an aperitif or wine with their meal will need to eat at one the big hotels as no independent restaurants can serve alcohol. Friday brunch has become something of a ritual for both expats and locals, so booking ahead is essential. During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan only the big hotels will serve food between sunrise and sunset. However once the cannon fires to signal the official sundown people flood into the cafés and restaurants to break their fast. A festive and convivial atmosphere prevails making this a great time to meet the locals.
Voted Best Thai Restaurant by Time Out Dubai, The Lemongrass in Oud Metha serves up traditional Thai food in a relaxed, modern setting. Decor is subtle and calming and seems designed to keep the chi flowing while visitors savour delicious Thai fare. Seafood features heavily on the menu and the grilled Red Snapper in red curry sauce is an alternative to the traditional Thai Green Curry. Also worth sampling is the interesting take on the Pad Thai Noodles. The Lemongrass is a 'dry' venue; however try the freshly squeezed juices and smoothies instead. The peppermint smoothie is popular among return visitors. The Lemongrass offers affordable, appetizing, authentic Asian food. Visitors arriving by taxi, should direct the driver to Lamcy Plaza.
Located within the Le Méridien complex, Casa Mia is thought by many to be the best Italian restaurant in the city, known for its home-cooked Italian cuisine. The menu also includes delicious wood-fired pizzas, and in 2007 the restaurant was also honoured with an 'Award of Excellence' for its unique and extensive wine list. Open for lunch and dinner daily.
This laid-back venue offers delicious, contemporary South East Asian fare at surprisingly affordable prices. Diners sit at long communal tables and don't need to wait very long for the region's usual favourites to appear, such as spring rolls, noodle soup, or vegetable, chicken and meat dishes served with noodles or rice. The open show kitchen allows diners to watch the food being prepared. Reservations are not accepted, and the place is busy, but the turnover of diners is high so the wait shouldn't be long. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
The signature restaurant of the Burj Al Arab, one of the top 10 hotel restaurants in the world, gives diners a unique experience. A mock submarine ride takes guests to the dining area, where tables are situated around a huge floor-to-ceiling aquarium full of fish. Al Mahara specialises in unforgettable first impressions and fresh seafood and was voted one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Dinner guests will also be serenaded by harpists, adding to the underwater atmosphere. Jackets are required for men, and reservations essential. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Situated on the 25th floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Al Dawaar Revolving Restaurant boasts the best views in the city while you dine. The restaurant revolves giving diners spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf, the Creek and the city of Dubai while enjoying a variety of international cuisines. The buffet is the most popular option, including Chinese stir-fries, spring rolls, sushi and local dishes. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
The award-winning steakhouse is the finest in Dubai with steaks that 'cut like butter' and the freshest Maine lobsters, Dungeness crabs and oysters in town. It is popular for business entertaining as well as for romantic dinners. Begin with lobster bisque or seafood chowder, enjoy steaks, chops or seafood as a main, and finish with New York cheesecake or apple pie. Décor is New York style with lots of wood and leather, and the service is excellent.
The Meat Co. at the Madinat Jumeirah is place to go for top quality steak in Dubai. So far this South-African chain has just the one restaurant in the Emirate but it's never short of patrons and booking is essential on Friday and Saturday evenings.The restaurant prides itself on delivering A Grade Angus beef, 'wet-aged to perfection' and basted to create succulent melt in the mouth steak. The menu doesn't cater solely for meat lovers, other highlights include the skewered grilled salmon and flame-grilled king prawns. In winter the best tables are outside alongside the Madinat's man-made canals, where diners can watch the boats transporting guests along the water.
The Friday Brunch has become synonymous with the ex-pat lifestyle in Dubai in the last few years. Endless platters of seafood, meat, salads and deserts are offered at restaurants across the Emirate but, for really exclusive dining you can't beat the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel. On Friday 10.00 to 14.30, (Please be informed that the buffet is open until 16:00 hrs) guests can dine two hundred metres above sea level in the Al Muntaha restaurant whilst taking in the stunning view of the coastline. With spectacular views over the new Palm Islands and a plethora of mouth-watering dishes 'Brunch at the Burj' is fast becoming the most sought after venue. The dress code in the restaurant is Smart casual. Gentlemen are requested to wear a shirt with collar, long trousers or smart jeans and closed shoes (no trainers). UAE national dress is welcomed. Guests are advised to book well in advance.
For shisha and cocktails QD's (Quarterdeck's) at Dubai Golf & Yacht Club is place to be seen. This super chilled out, funky venue is hugely popular, particularly with young Emiratis who flock here on Friday and Saturday night to enjoy the vibe. Guests can choose to sit on the raised deck by the waters edge or, to occupy their own personal shisha tent, complete with couches and beanbags, and order their favourite flavoured 'hubbly bubbly' from the menu. Flavours include apple, grape, strawberry and mint. Shisha waiters are constantly on hand with more hot coals to keep the pipes bubbling and the air filled with the sweet smoky smell that has become synonymous with Dubai at night. Guests can also buy shisha pipes and tobaccos to take home as a memento
Trader Vic's has become something of an institution among expats in Dubai. The vibrant atmosphere, exotic menu and interesting cocktails remain popular with diners making 'TV's' one of the Emirates best-loved eateries. Guests can feast on a wide variety of dishes including the famous Trader Vic's fish and chips, succulent duck wantons and delicious platters. The potent TV Mai Tai is also something of a legend in Dubai. There are currently two Trader Vic's outlets in Dubai the original branch at the Crowne Plaza and the immensely popular Souk Madinat Jumeriah location.
One of the best-loved restaurants at the Wafi Mall, Carters offers diners great food, in a relaxed cosmopolitan atmosphere whilst enjoying fantastic, friendly service. Decor is classic and stylish, reminiscent of a smoking lounge, and in winter months the ambience extends out onto the large terrace. The menu features old standards such as Chicken Caesar salad, Chargrilled US Angus Rib Eye steak and hand cut fries, alongside alternatives to traditional dishes; marinated duck satay with honey glaze. The mouth watering Mars bar cheesecake is a firm favourite. Carters also offers a good selection of wines.
For Asian tapas with a twist the popular choice in Dubai is Ginseng at Wafi City Mall. Nasi Goreng, Pandan Leaf Chicken and Duck Satay are firm favourites, as are the platters which are perfect to share. The speciality cocktails are hugely popular at this funky hangout thanks to the fantastic deals on offer most nights; firm favourites are the Lychee Martini, Envy Champagne Cocktail and the Gingseng Summer Punch.
This popular Pakistani restaurant in Dubai is famous for its good food and relaxed atmosphere. A cheap and cheerful takeaway with outdoor tables attracts both locals and tourists, rich and poor for its excellent slow-cooked beef nihari, lamb haleem, and fresh, buttery naan bread. There's also a family room and cafeteria. Ravi is open daily from 5am to 3am.
The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) was started in 1996 by the government to promote retail trade in the city, and has since grown into the foremost shopping event in the world, an annual extravaganza of shopping and entertainment that promotes tourism and attracts millions of people from around the world to Dubai every year. The city is already known as a shopping paradise, but for a whole month thousands of retail outlets offer further specials, with hotels, travel companies and airlines also extending special discounts to visitors during this period. Besides the shopping malls and souks, one of the most popular shopping spots is the Carpet Oasis, showcasing thousands of exclusive carpets from around the world. Other events include nightly fireworks, laser/light shows, international fashion shows, street performances, music concerts and many cultural events. Daily raffle draws offer very attractive prizes of money, gold, cars and 4x4s. The festival also coincides with the richest horse race in the world, the Dubai World Cup (US$15,250,000 in prize money).
Part of the European PGA tour, the Dubai Desert Classic takes place at what was the first grass golf course in the Middle East, which was entitled in 1988. The tournament attracts prestigious international players to compete for the trophy and US$2.5 million in prize money.
The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens heralds the opening of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, featuring 16 of the best international rugby sevens teams each year. The event has grown rapidly over the last few years, attracting over 70,000 fans from around the world. Its carnival-like atmosphere makes it one of the most popular events in the Middle East.
Tens of thousands of jazz lovers flock to see some of the finest international acts in the world performing in a variety of genres including rocket-fuelled funk and bluegrass, pop, blues, rock, reggae, and afro-centric music. The increasing number of fans has helped secure it an award for the Best Festival in the UAE.
The Dubai World Cup is the richest horse race in the world, offering a purse of US$10 million, with US$3.6 million going to the winner of the mile-and-a-quarter race. The event attracts the best horses and jockeys from around the world every year. A visit to the state-of-the-art racecourse is an event in itself with its floodlit sand and dirt track and television monitors in all areas. The competition is almost as fierce off the track among the style conscious who compete for title of the best dressed.
The Global Village is a shopping, eating, and entertainment extravaganza that runs throughout the winter months in Dubai. Bringing together traditions from across the globe, thousands flock each year to sample the exotic foods and international goods.
Visitors experience the sights, sounds, and smells of hundreds of diverse cultures. They are many countries represented, with each housed in its own enormous pavilion decorated in accordance with the country's heritage.
Organisers strive to make the annual attractions and pavilions at the Global Village bigger and better. In recent years, attractions have included a five hundred metre manmade canal and a forty metre Ferris wheel overlooking the desert.
UAE National Day is celebrated on 2 December every year to mark the day in 1971 when the seven emirates first joined together to form the United Arab Emirates. It's a day to abandon reserve and party hard, as parades and fireworks erupt around town.
Flags wave all around, including the world's biggest flag which was unfurled in 2009 in Sharjah. The best spot to watch the festival parades is Beach Road, while the fireworks are best appreciated on the Burj Khalifa observation deck or at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.
Thanks to its large and international population of expats, Dubai has an incredibly vibrant nightlife, but finding the best parties entails tapping local knowledge and planning the evening with care. Party-goers can check out the local newspaper listings and Timeout Dubai for concert and party news. Dubai's clubs and bars are found mostly in the large 4- and 5-star hotels because of the emirate's strict liquor laws. The legal drinking age is 21, although patrons must be 25 to enter a nightclub. For this reason it is wise to carry some form of identification when heading out at night. Some good options for a night out include the Parisian-style Boudoir, ever-trendy Zinc, and Kasbar, in the opulent One & Only Royal Mirage Hotel. Buddha Bar, in the Grosvenor House Hotel complex at Dubai Marina, has great open-air views of the Arabian Gulf and two levels, a restaurant, a bar and a lounge. Of the few areas outside of hotels that sell alcohol, the Irish Village next to the Aviation Club of Dubai is a favourite watering hole with tourists and non-Muslim residents. For an alcohol-free option, Dubai Creek Park is a popular place to spend an evening. The atmosphere at night is wonderful and very festive and the park is never crowded due its sheer size. It is worth noting that in Dubai homosexuality, public displays of sexuality, and drugs are strictly forbidden and penalties are enforced against those transgressing. It is also illegal to be publicly intoxicated so those who have overindugled are strongly advised to catch a taxi home.
Dubai's shopping malls have become iconic destinations. Visitors are greeted by hundreds of designer fashion brands, as well as everything from ski slopes to aquariums. Dubai Mall, the second largest shopping mall in the world, houses over 1,200 shops selling luxury items and high end fashion. The Mall of the Emirates is a shopping resort, offering visitors a mix of international brands and independent designers alongside a ski slope and a collection of top restaurants. New additions to the shopping circuit such as the Italian-themed Outlet Village are also starting to make their mark.
For a more alternative shopping experience, tourists can visit the vibrant, colourful Box Park, an outdoor shopping area constructed out of disused shipping containers. Stores such as Urbanista Boutique sell contemporary brands like Comme Des Garcons and Kenzo, as well as championing local designers. The Beach at JBR offers a maze of chic boutiques for beach goers, selling brands such as River Island and Victoria's Secret.
Shoppers will find an entirely different world in Dubai's traditional souks (markets). The Deira district plays host to the intricate jewellry of the Gold Souk, the fragrances of the Perfume Souk, and the aromas of the Spice Souk. Tourists can also lose themselves in the colourful stores of Satwa, where they will be greeted by an explosion of fabrics and textures. Karama Road is the destination for those looking to purchase souvenirs.
Dubai has zero sales tax and low import duties so certain items, such as electronic goods and gold jewellery, are priced very competitively. Shops tend to open from 8am to 1pm, reopening after the heat of the day at around 4.30pm until 8pm or even later. Malls will remain open from 10am until 10pm. Shops, malls and souks usually close on Friday mornings.
The most common way of getting around Dubai is by taxi; they are cheap and easy to find. The Dubai Metro system opened in 2009 and now covers the length of Dubai from Jebel Ali in the south, all the way to the airport, then inland to Al Rashidiya. Most of the malls are connected on the central portion of the route. There is a Gold Class cabin and special carriages for women and children.
Many hotels offer shuttle bus services for guests as well. Metered taxis are cream coloured, with uniformed drivers. The public bus service covers most areas of the city and its beaches; a monthly period pass as well as a discounted purse pass are available. Routes and bus numbers are posted in both Arabic and English.
Small wooden motorboats (abras) cross the creek every few minutes between Bur Dubai and Deira.
Cars are the most popular method of transport for locals in the city, and although roads are well-marked and car hire cheap, visitors should think twice about hiring one, as driving standards are erratic and accidents frequent. All accidents must be reported to the police, and chances are good that a visit to the police station will be necessary. Outside the city, signposts are rare.
Visitors to Dubai will quickly discover the city has an incredible wealth of attractions on offer. The best place to start is with a sunset boat trip one of the traditional dhows on Dubai Creek. With the iconic skyline as a backdrop, this is an unforgettable experience.
Dubai is renowned for its modern, progressive architecture. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city from the dizzying heights of the observation deck on the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. From here visitors will be able to see the man made Palm Jumeirah, spread out like a palm tree into the Persian Gulf and covered with high end hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Many hotels, such as the ultra-luxurious Burj Al Arab, have their own private beaches, and there are numerous dedicated beach resorts for sun-bathers and water sports enthusiasts to enjoy. Those seeking an escape from the fierce sun can disappear into the colossal shopping malls and traditional markets for which the city is so well known.
For all its modern luxury, Dubai has not forgotten its roots. The quiet, narrow lanes of the old Bastakia quarter are lined with well-preserved examples of traditional Arabian architecture. For the more adventurous, the desert beckons. Explorers can enjoy 4x4 safaris and camel rides, and get a taste of the Bedouin lifestyle with desert sleep outs, traditional dinners, and belly-dancing shows.
Dubai is also a sought-after destination for world sport, hosting enthusiastic fans for rugby sevens, tennis tournaments, and horse racing events. There truly is something for everyone on one of the world's premier tourist cities.
While Musandam is technically part of Oman, the tiny peninsula is all but surrounded by the United Arab Emirates. The barren mountains that make up most of Musandam are home to a few isolated villages; Khasab is the largest, with a few cultural attractions like prehistoric rock paintings and a 17th-century castle.
But tourists don't come to Musandam for nightlife, they come for the spectacular views and quiet beauty of nature. The coastline of the peninsula is made up of stunning fjord-like inlets, and dhow and boat trips along the coast are a popular activity in Musandam (and a good way to spot dolphis frolicking in the sea). Scuba diving is also popular, especially from the dive centre at the Golden Tulip Hotel, the only major hotel in the region.
For a real taste of Arabia, visitors can take a trip into the desert with any number of tour operators into the rolling sand dunes surrounding Dubai. Tours usually include a thrilling 4x4 drive over the dunes, camel riding, a visit to a local Bedouin village, and end with a traditional Arabian barbeque under the stars with a show of belly dancing.
An ancient village positioned in the foothills of the Hajjar Mountains, Hatta is located about 71 miles (115km) east of Dubai. A popular weekend getaway for residents of the city, Hatta has a mild climate that makes it ideal for escaping the heat of Dubai. The town itself is basic, with an ATM and roadside market being the main tourist infrastructure, which gives it an unspoiled atmosphere that makes it interesting to explore; the 16th-century fort is a must-see.
Hatta also makes a good base for exploring the surrounding region. 4x4 trips and off-road adventures are a popular way to take in the scenery, including the Wadi Hatta gorge with its magnificent waterfall, and a few picturesque rock pools.
Travellers driving to Hatta should keep in mind that the road from Dubai passes through Oman; although there are no border stations, most rental car agreements from the UAE will not cover incidents that happen in Oman.
The beautiful island of Kish is located in the Persian Gulf, off the southern shore of mainland Iran. Sometimes referred to as the 'Pearl of the Persian Gulf', Kish is home to a resort with both modern and ancient attractions.
The luxury resort of Kish offers many family attractions, including the Kish Dolphin and Crocodile Park, Mysteries of the World Zoo, and a giant bird interactive sculpture. The resort takes advantage of Kish's stunning islands to offer water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving, yachting, fishing, parasailing and water-skiing. Unfortunately, women are not allowed in some of the best snorkelling areas, however there are women-only beaches available.
Kish also has a number of historical attractions, including the underground town of Cariz, the ancient city of Harireh, and the remains of a Greek ship wrecked on the shore (a popular picnic site).
Kish is a free trade zone, meaning there are good bargains to be had in the numerous shopping malls on the island. Shoppers should be aware however, that much of the merchandise is fake.