Dazzling Dubai

FANCY A city break that encompasses amazing beach resorts in the centre of town, and incredible high tech buildings side by side with old traditional houses and mosques? Dubai offers an extensive horizon of things to do, see, experience and learn. It is surrounded by mysterious deserts, sand dunes and the stunning Hajar Mountains, it has a six star hotel, is perfect for golf and, of course, the shopping is world famous. Here are some of the highlights of this fascinating, multi-faceted destination.

The major part of the Dubai emirate consists of rolling sand dunes lapping the foothills of the arid Hajar Mountains in the east. Until a decade or two ago, only nomadic Bedouin, roaming with their flocks and herds, inhabited the dunes. Today the nomads have all settled and Dubai has been transformed into a sleek, futuristic world of mirrored skylines, air conditioned malls and artificial islands. However, you can still catch a glimpse of old Dubai among its ancient mosques, countless souks and the city’s early housing settlements.

Explore the past

The Creek divides the city, and is essentially an inlet from the gulf that splits the commercial centre of Dubai in two. For a taste of how Dubai used to be, visit Al Bastakia Area in Bur Dubai, which dates back to the early 1900s and occupies the eastern section of the old town along the Creek. To the east of Al Fahidi Fort is the city’s largest concentration of traditional courtyard houses, complete with wind towers. In the past, the city was famous for the silhouette of these towers, which lined the creek on either side. They are not merely decorative, but served as the only means of cooling houses in pre-electricity days.

A trip to the Dubai museum will give you a more in depth glimpse into Dubai’s fascinating past. You can also visit Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s house to view a collection of old photographs. The heritage and diving village at Dubai is also a must see for traditional arts and crafts lovers. If you fancy stepping inside one of the city’s many mosques, opt for one of the largest and most beautiful – the Jumairah Mosque. It is a spectacular example of modern Islamic architecture and is built of stone in medieval Fatimid tradition. It is particularly attractive at night when subtle lighting throws its artistry into relief. You can book an organised tour every Thursday and Sunday.

Modern wonders

The Shindagha tunnel (undersea tunnel), the Al Maktoum Bridge and the Al Garhoud Bridge, connect Deira with the rest of Dubai. Deira is famous for its buildings, each of which is a modern architectural wonder – the skyline by the Creek makes for great photographs. While you’re in the area, be sure to visit the ice rink at the Galleria and the Mamzar Beach Park, both of which are perfect for family outings. Garhoud, further down the Dubai Creek, is close to the Dubai International Airport – you can’t miss the prominent sails of the Dubai Creek, Golf and Yacht club.

Shopping heaven

Dubai is rightly known as the “shopping capital of the Middle East”. With so many shopping malls and souks, there’s no better place to find products at unbeatable prices. The city’s malls are a duty free shopper’s paradise, that give you more for your money, whether you’re looking for a car, haute couture clothing, jewellery, electronics or sporting equipment. In fact, many top brand-name products are cheaper in Dubai than in their countries of origin. Products like gold and jewellery, high fashion, electronics, carpets and handicrafts can be bought for amazing deals that are unmatchable anywhere else in the world.

Over in the souks, you can find the wonders of aromatic spices and the beauty of handcrafted gold through the labyrinth of narrow, winding alleys on the Deira side of the creek. In the spice souk you will find perfumes, incense, and delicious foods piled in sacks awaiting your attention. Walk a bit further toward the gold souk and be dazzled by the glittering displays in each shop window. At the perfume souk you will find thousands of fragrances, and if you can’t find the one that you want, shopkeepers would be able to conjure up a unique concoction that suits your tastes exactly. Over in the antique market near the souks, you can buy coffee pots, Arabian chests, daggers, Bedu jewellery and carvings at excellent prices. Finally, if you are looking for textiles or silk, head for Cosmos Lane in Bur Dubai or the streets of Satwa, where numerous shops sell a vast array of colourful fabrics.

Sports paradise

Dubai is famous for its historic boat racing, using dhow, traditional wooden trading vessels. This is considered as one of the most spectacular and graceful of sports – each race involves more than 80 traditional boats, taking to the clear blue waters in precisely the same manner as it was done in the ancient past.

If golf is more your game, Dubai is a golfer’s paradise. Even for the non-golfer, Dubai’s golf clubs are worth a visit, both for the spectacular architecture of their clubhouses and as examples of the successful greening and landscaping of the desert.

High class hotels

Dubai hotels have very high standards, and many of the world’s top hotel chains run five-star hotels here, but why not splash out and stay at a six star hotel? The Burj Al Arab is located in the Jumeirah Beach area of Dubai. It is an unforgettable sight at night, surrounded by choreographed colour sculptures of water and fire. The suites offer breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf and are decorated with lavish textures and exuberant colours. The restaurants offer everything from the finest seafood to modern international cuisine, and the amenities are outstanding.

PDM verdict: Sun, shopping, culture, beaches, and fine living – Dubai is a tailor-made holiday destination that will not disappoint.


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