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Welcome to Dubai


Imagine uncrowded, clean beaches and year-round sunshine, luxury hotels and restaurants, golf and watersports, world-class shopping malls and gold & spice souks. Add in desert adventures and heritage attractions for a fascinating Arabian experience. In short, a very special holiday awaits you and your entire family ! Among Dubai’s highlights are:  the ancient Al Fahidi Fort, now a museum, picturesque Dubai Creek, lined with dhows which evoke the region’s trading heritage. Cross over the Creek by ‘Abra’, the local water taxi. In Bastakiya, see original courtyard houses with Windtowers, the earliest form of air conditioning. Jumeirah Mosque is a fine example of modern Islamic architecture. Wild Wadi on the beach is one of the world’s most advanced water theme parks, featuring the tallest and fastest water rides outside North America and much more!  Ski Dubai is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East and has real snow, 5 pistes, 3 lifts, and a vertical range of 85 metres, located at the Mall of the Emirates.  By night, you will find bars and pubs within the hotels, many with live music and some with nightclubs.

Originally a small fishing settlement that became a busy port of call on the ancient trade route between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, the emirate was rapidly transformed into an international business centre and modern tourist destination following the discovery of oil in 1966.

Today Dubai ranks as the country's foremost commercial centre, a city whose skyline is constantly being upgraded with new developments providing the infrastructure and facilities needed for a progressive society, including world-class hotels, shopping plazas and outstanding sports facilities. Dubai Creek divides the city centre into two parts: Deira on the northern side and Bur Dubai to the south and each has its fair share of souks, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and fine mosques.

One of the city's top attractions is its excellent shopping. As an open port with low import duties, Dubai can offer an incredible range of top brand names at cheaper prices due to the tax-free environment, and 'shopping tourists' are drawn from around the world to this paradise of malls, souks, boutiques and modern department stores selling everything from Paris fashions to Japanese electronics. The annual Shopping Festival attracts millions of tourists to the city for a shop-till-you-drop holiday.

Information & Facts


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. There is very little rainfall in Dubai, but when showers do fall it is mainly in the cooler months.

Eating Out

Few places on earth are as compactly cosmopolitan as Dubai - and that translates into an astonishingly varied cuisine for diners. You 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.

If you want an aperitif or wine with your meal you 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 book ahead. 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.

Sales tax of 10% is added to meal bills, and a 15% service charge may also be levied. If not, a 10% tip is generally expected.

Getting Around

The most common way of getting around Dubai is by taxi; they are cheap and easy to find. The new Dubai Metro system opened in 2009 and now has 47 stations across 46 miles (75km) of track . It covers the length of Dubai from Jebel Ali in the south, all the way to the airport, then inland to All 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. Tickets costs from AED2.

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; the monthly period pass as well as the 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. To hire a car, a credit card, valid passport and International Driving Permit are required and the minimum age is 21 (drivers must have held a full licence for one year).

Kids Attractions

With a reputation for being a millionaire's playground and known as the shopping capital of the world, Dubai may not seem like an ideal place to take the children on holiday. But after very little searching, parents 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 watch out for what time of year you choose to travel - the temperatures can be searing and children will wilt in the heat. The choices are endless in Dubai, but it mostly depends on which park you choose for the day, as they all have something different to offer, from picnic tables and mini golf, to fishing, amusement rides and rollerbloading, there is something for everyone. 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. 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.


Arabic is the official language of the Emirates, but English is widely used.


The currency of the United Arab Emirates is the Dirham (AED), which is divided into 100 fils. There are no currency regulations in the UAE and all major currencies are readily exchanged at banks and large hotels. The Dirham is fixed against the US Dollar. The best exchange rates are found at private moneychangers who operate throughout the territory, particularly in the more popular souks (markets) and shopping centres. Most major credit cards are accepted, as are travellers cheques (best carried in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling). ATMs are common throughout the UAE. Banking hours are generally Saturday to Thursday from 8am to 1pm, but some are also open between 4pm and 8.30pm.


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 your evening with care. 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 you must be 25 to enter a nightclub. For this reason it is wise to carry some form of identification with you 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. Arabic nightclubs can also be fun: a firm favourite is Kasbar Royal Mirage Hotel which has three levels of dance floors and attracts some of the best DJs. 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 catch a cab home if you've overindulged.


Shopping remains a big drawcard for Dubai as it continues to reinvent itself as a major tourist destination. Be warned though: Dubai is not the bargain centre it used to be. Prices are now comparable to any other international city, and if you want specific items you are probably better off sourcing it through an online discounter in your home country. What Dubai does offer though is incredible range and convenience, turning shopping into a recreational and fun activity. Besides, the malls are premier attractions in themselves, often food, entertainment and spectables in addition to the hundreds of stores.

Dubai has zero sales tax and low import duties so certain items, such as electronic goods and gold jewellery, prices are still quite good. Dubai International Airport is quite frankly one of the most expensive venues to shop in Dubai, although it does have the advantage of selling alcohol in every guise, making this the only place to purchase liquor by the bottle.

The Dubai Shopping Festival in late January/early February is a long-standing major attraction offering major price reductions, special offers and product launches on a huge range of premium goods. Lucrative raffles take place to further add to the excitement. There is also a smaller, but increasingly popular Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) shopping festival over June and July which alone attracts some two million visitors.

The two main shopping facilities in Dubai are the Mall of the Emirates (the largest mall outside of North America) and the Dubai Mall. Both have numerous other attractions to complement their astounding range and number of shops.

It's worth noting that warranties on high-end electronic goods may not be valid in your home country. So factor this in when calculating the amount you are saving.

Apart from the air-conditioned malls and duty-free emporia of the airport, the best shopping is to be had at the souks - traditional Arab markets - around the city. Here you can find authentic Bedouin paraphernalia, Persian-style carpets and textiles. A particularly pleasant shopping area is the Bur Dubai side of the Creek where you can find textiles, raw silks and interesting souvenirs.

Dubai's most famous bazaar is the Gold Souk at Sikkat al-Khali Street. Innumerable shops and stalls sell gold jewellery in every possible form. Bargaining is expected and prices determined according to weight.

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.


Dubai is evolving at a remarkable pace and has left its modest history as a fishing port far behind. Yet in between the ultra-modern skyscrapers and endless construction sites, there are quite a few attractions of historical interest such as the Bastakiya district and the various souks.

Other attractions center on Dubai's defining geophysical features: the desert offers adventure touring, rock climbing and photography, while the coastline offers a plethora of water sports.

Dubai is not really suitable for exploring on foot. Attractions tend to be far apart and the year-round heat - reaching inferno proportions in summer - will turn your walk into an ordeal. Better options are to hire a taxi and driver for the day, join an organised tour, or rent a car and enjoy the inexpensive local gasoline while taking in the sights.


Local time in the UAE is GMT +4.

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.

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 is a popular historical attraction that has been marked for tourist development.

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.

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. In 2007 a brand new venue was built close to Nad Al Sheba racecourse and races are held early on Thursday and Friday mornings.

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 café, souvenir shop and wonderful views of the creek.

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.

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.

The recently opened Dubai Aquarium 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.

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 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.

Opened in November 2008, 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, a 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.

No trip to Dubai would be complete without an outing to Dubai's latest shopping spectacular.

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.

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 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 100AED plus to use a hotel's facilities, then Jumeirah Beach Park is a brilliant alternative.

It cost just 2AED per person to enter the park, or 20AED per car. 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 BBQ facilities and seating areas. There are also showers and toilets on the beach, and lifeguards on duty at all times.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. Wonderland is a great way to spend the day with the family and a must for children of all ages.

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