Written by Valerie Tkaczyk.
Dubai is an over-the-top modern city on the Persian Gulf. This city has grown so quickly that many of the things you see there today did not exist even ten years ago. Dubai is becoming a major tourist destination and for good reason as it has much of what you would want from a big city vacation with the added layer of Middle Eastern traditions and culture.
1. Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall is the largest shopping mall in the world and is located at the base of the largest building in the world. If you’re not careful, you may spend all your time here exploring the over 1,200 shops from high-end designer clothing to specialty shops and everything in between. Be sure to check out the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo inside the mall and see the largest acrylic panel in the world. Additionally, outside the mall is a fountain that comes to life daily for a world-class water and light show, choreographed by the same creators of the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.
2. Burj Khalifa
At the time of this writing, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, standing at 2,716.5 feet and more than 160 stories. This building breaks a few other records including having the highest outdoor observation deck in the world, the At the Top SKY located on level 148. For a lower price, you can purchase a ticket to At the Top, the observation deck on level 124. From either level, you can see the Dubai Fountain at the base of the building, many of Dubai’s smaller skyscrapers, and on a clear day, the World Islands and Burj Al Arab in the distance.
3. Desert Safari
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Dubai is in the desert, which leaves travelers with the perfect opportunity to take a desert safari. You’re picked up at your hotel in a 4×4 vehicle and driven to a desert camp where you’ll enjoy camel riding, falconry, sand boarding, henna tattoos, and after the sun sets, an Arabian dinner with entertainment. Getting to the camp is part of the fun where your driver will take you “dune bashing”.
4. Dubai Creek
A one-hour dhow cruise of Dubai Creek was included with our Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour and was a great way to take in the cityscape. You can also take an abra water taxi from the Bur Dubai side of the creek to the Deira side (where the souks are located) and vice versa for one dirham per person, which is about 27 cents at today’s exchange rate.
5. Gold and Spice Souks
A trip to Dubai would not be complete without visiting the souk markets in the Deira area of Dubai. In addition to gold and spices, you will find scarves, lamps, and other trinkets that are great as souvenirs and gifts. Bargaining is expected, so go prepared with your game face and an idea of the conversion rate from Emirati Dirhams to US Dollars.
6. Burj Al Arab
The Burj Al Arab is an iconic sail-shaped self-proclaimed 7-star hotel on the beach in Dubai. That round platform you see is a helipad which also has served as a mini golf course for Tiger Woods. The going rate for a lead-in room category is around $1,000 per night. If you want to go inside, but don’t want to pay for a room, you can experience afternoon tea for around $170 per person where you’ll get unrivaled views of The Palm Jumeirah and World Islands while enjoying tea, coffee, sandwiches, pastries, and cakes.
7. The Palm Jumeirah / Atlantis, The Palm
The Palm Jumeirah is one of Dubai’s palm-shaped artificial islands. It houses many hotels, the most notable being Atlantis, The Palm, located at the apex of the island. You can’t go into the Atlantis unless you’re staying there, but I would recommend visiting The Lost Chambers Aquarium located in The Avenues, a shopping district on Atlantis, The Palm property. Entrance into the aquarium was included with our Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour.
8. Mall of the Emirates / Ski Dubai
Mall of the Emirates is another huge mall in Dubai, probably best known for Ski Dubai, which is the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort. You can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, as well as other winter activities.
9. Dubai Museum
The Dubai Museum is housed in an old fort and is an interesting look into Arabian history and culture and how the United Arab Emirates came to be. Entrance into the museum was included with our Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour.
10. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi, which is approximately 80 miles southwest of Dubai and easy to get to from Dubai via taxi or bus. The mosque is open to visitors most days with limited hours on Fridays and during Ramadan. Free guided “walk-in” tours are available throughout the day for individuals and groups of eight or less. Visit www.szgmc.ae/en for up-to-date information.