An oasis in the desert, where bigger is always considered better, Dubai is quickly becoming the world's playground. Tourists sunbathe on the planet's largest man-made islands, swim with dolphins and cheer on their favorites at the international sporting events Dubai hosts. Despite the modern sheen of Dubai, the city has a 4,000-year-old history and is a window into Islamic and Middle Eastern culture -- a society that many Westerners only read about.
As in Las Vegas, developers designed most of Dubai's top attractions to appeal to and entertain the city's large influx of tourists. However, with its millenniums of history, Dubai is home to excellent examples of Islamic architecture, archaeological dig sites, old villages and restored ancient neighborhoods like Bastakiya. Spectator sports have recently become a major attraction; Dubai has hosted events like the Desert Classic PGA golf tournament and the UIM Class 1 Powerboat World Championship.
Dubai's nightlife takes place almost exclusively in the city's hotels and resorts, as these are the only businesses that can serve alcohol. Thursday nights tend to be the busiest, and many hotels offer "ladies' night" discounts on Tuesday and Sundays. The opulence and grandeur of Dubai is reflected in the city's clubs; most have dress codes, and some are selective about who they let in. Groups with women usually have a better chance of making it into some venues. If it seems the nightlife scene is lacking local flavor, that's because you will find most Dubai residents at shisha cafes rather than clubs and bars.
Dubai has an open port with low import duties, so shopping is one of the city's biggest attractions. Tourists can choose between modern Western-style shopping malls and traditional open-market souks. The Karama district, where bargaining is still a common practice, is the premier area for live markets, local goods and imports from Sri Lanka, India and other Middle Eastern locales. Most Dubai shops close in the afternoon hours, between 1 and 4 p.m., and stay open until 9 p.m. or later.
When to Go
For half of the year, the weather in Dubai is comfortable, ranging in the 70s and 80s; the other half of the year, Mother Nature reminds Dubai tourists the city is in the heart of the desert. From mid-April to mid-October, temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with humidity rising above 95 percent. Sandstorms occur most frequently in March and April. The high season, when resorts traditionally raise their prices, is between October and May; December and January are the busiest months. Many Dubai businesses close during Ramadan, a month-long Islamic holiday.
Getting There and AroundDubai International Airport services 110 airlines from 160 different countries. From the airport, tourists can take car rentals or taxis or use the RTA airport bus, which runs every 30 minutes to Deira or Bur Dubai. You can save money by flying into Abu Dhabi International Airport, located less than two hours from the city. Driving is the best mode of transportation in Dubai. Most people take taxis, though car rentals are available; an International Drivers License is required to drive in Dubai