Like a woman who stuns everyone with her newfound beauty after a radical makeover, Dubai’s rise as one of the world’s most lavish tourist destinations seems to have happened as if by magic, overnight.
Sure, Dubai has long been one of the world’s wealthiest cities (thanks to its massive oil industry), but in recent years, it has increasingly become the favorite playground of the ridiculously rich. Out of all the seven emirates in the UAE, Dubai is currently the most visited by tourists. Its over-the-top construction projects seem to be largely responsible. “Over the top” are three words that can adequately describe Dubai. It’s a city that doesn’t feel shy about being ostentatious. If you want to forget real life for a while and step into a world where everything glitters, Dubai is the place to be.
Undoubtedly, the Burj Al Arab is the best hotel in the city. Anyone who’s ever heard of Burj Al Arab dreams of staying in one of its tremendously luxurious suites. Shaped after the sail of a dhow (a traditional Arabic sailing vessel), the Burj Al Arab stands tall at more than 1,000 feet. It’s easily one of the tallest buildings in the world. While it’s officially recognized as a Five-Star Deluxe hotel, it’s often dubbed as “the world’s only seven-star hotel”—a testament to just how opulent the Burj Al Arab truly is.
Another architectural wonder that has to be seen to be believed are The Palm Islands—a group of man-made islands built on reclaimed land. Each of the three islands—Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali, and the Palm Deira—is shaped like (what else but) a palm tree. This artificial archipelago was built to make space for more high-end hotels, villas, shopping centers, residential constructions, and practically anything else you can imagine. Of all three settlements, Palm Jumeirah is the most complete and has been occupied since 2007.
Dubai, with all its glitz and glamour, also has a quiet side that never forgets its past. One trip to the historic district of Al Bastakiya will show you. It’s so different from the rest of the city that walking through its streets almost feels like you’re no longer in Dubai. Here, mazes and courtyards are plenty. Everything is quiet and unhurried. Instead of high-rise buildings and glossy shopping malls, your eyes will feast on historic edifices and old homes that look impressive in their own soulful way. An afternoon in one of its museums or coffee shops is truly a nice break from Dubai’s fast and noisy pace.
Dubai may be popular for its swanky hotels and excessive array of hedonistic treats—but dig a little deeper and you’re sure to make surprising discoveries hidden beneath its glittering façade.
Main attractions: Al Bastakiya, The Palm Islands, Burj Al Arab, Dubai Zoo, Dubai Marina, Khor Fakkan, Wild Wadi Park, Dubai Creek, Jumeirah Mosque, Bastakiya District
Budget for one week: €1,000
Taxes and gratuity: Tipping is recommended
Official language: Arabic
Area: 1,588 sq mi
- Voltage: 220-240 Volts (U.S./Canada are 110-120 Volts)
- Primary Socket Types: Euro, British, Indian
- Multi-voltage appliances (laptops, etc.): Plug adapter
- 110-120V electronics: Plug adapter + step-down transformer
- Hair dryers, curling irons, etc.: Plug adapter + voltage converter
Visas: Tourists from EU countries, the USA, Canada and Switzerland don’t need a visa.
Medical recommendations: No vaccinations are required to enter the country. Tap water is drinkable in the United Arab Emirates.