Dubai is famous for sightseeing attractions such as the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building) and shopping malls that come complete with mammoth aquariums and indoor ski slopes.But this city has many cultural highlights and things to do as well as all the glamorous modern add-ons. Take a wander around the Bastakia district, and you'll discover the Dubai of old, then cruise along Dubai Creek in a traditional dhow, and you'll soon realize there's more to this city than its flashy veneer.
Dubai's landmark building is the Burj Khalifa, which at 829.8 meters is the tallest building in the world and the most famous of the city's points of interest. For most visitors, a trip to the observation deck on the 124th floor here is a must-do while in the city. The views across the city skyline from this bird's-eye perspective are simply staggering. The slick observation deck experience includes a multimedia presentation on both Dubai and the building of the Burj Khalifa (completed in 2010) before a high-speed elevator whizzes you up to the observation deck for those 360-degree views out across the skyscrapers to the desert on one side and the ocean on the other. Nighttime visits are particularly popular with photographers due to Dubai's famous city-lights panoramas. Buy your Burj Khalifa "At the Top" Entrance Ticket in advance to avoid long line-ups, especially if you are planning to visit on a weekend. including the Dubai Fountain, the world's tallest performing fountain, Back on the ground, wrapping around the Burj Khalifa, are the building's beautifully designed gardens, with winding walkways. There are plenty of water features modeled on the famous Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Location: Entry from Dubai Mall, Sheikh Zayed Road, Downtown
Official site: www.burjkhalifa.ae
Dubai Mall is the city's premier mall and provides entry to the Burj Khalifa as well as the Dubai Aquarium. There is also an ice-skating rink, gaming zone and cinema complex if you're looking for more entertainment options. The shopping and eating is endless and there are nearly always special events such as live music and fashion shows within the mall. The most famous of these are the annual Dubai Shopping Festival in January and February and the Dubai Summer Surprises Festival in July and August.
Location: Doha Road, just off Sheikh Zayed Road
Official site: http://www.thedubaimall.com
Dubai's excellent museum is housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 to defend Dubai Creek. The fort's walls are built out of traditional coral-blocks and held together with lime. The upper floor is supported by wooden poles, and the ceiling is constructed from palm fronds, mud, and plaster. In its history, the fort has served as a residence for the ruling family, a seat of government, garrison, and prison. Restored in 1971 (and again extensively in 1995), it is now the city's premier museum. The entrance has a fascinating exhibition of old maps of the Emirates and Dubai, showing the mammoth expansion that hit the region after the oil boom.The courtyard is home to several traditional boats and a palm-leaf house with an Emirati wind-tower. The right-hand hall features weaponry, and the left-hand hallshowcases Emirati musical instruments. Below the ground floor are display halls with exhibits and dioramas covering various aspects of traditional Emirati life (including pearl fishing and Bedouin desert life) as well as artifacts from the 3,000- to 4,000-year-old graves at Al Qusais archaeological site.
Address: Al-Fahidi Street, Al-Fahidi
Bastakia (Old Dubai)
The Bastakia Quarter (sometimes also called Al-Fahidi neighborhood) was built in the late 19th century to be the home of wealthy Persian merchants who dealt mainly in pearls and textiles, and were lured to Dubai because of the tax-free trading and access to Dubai Creek. Bastakia occupies the eastern portion of Bur Dubai along the creek, and the coral and limestone buildings here, many with walls topped with wind-towers, have been excellently preserved. Wind-towers provided the homes here with an early form of air conditioning - the wind trapped in the towers was funneled down into the houses. Persian merchants likely transplanted this architectural element (common in Iranian coastal houses) from their home country to the Gulf.Lined with distinct Arabian architecture, the narrow lanes are highly evocative of a bygone, and much slower, age in Dubai's history. Inside the district, you'll find the Majlis Gallery, with its collection of traditional Arab ceramics and furniture (housed in a wind-tower) and the XVA Gallery, with a contemporary art collection (located in one of the historic buildings).
on: Al-Fahidi, Bur Dubai
Jumeirah Mosque is considered by many to be the most beautiful of Dubai's mosques. An exact copy of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque that is eight times its size, the Jumeirah Mosque is a fine example of Islamic architecture. This stone structure is built in the medieval Fatimid tradition, with two minarets that display the subtle details in the stonework. It is particularly attractive in the evening when lit with floodlights. The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (which also runs a program of tours, lectures, Arabic classes, and cultural meals) organizes guided tours of the mosque designed to try to foster a better understanding of the Muslim faith. Tours begin at 10am daily, except Fridays.
Address: Jumeirah Road
Official site: www.cultures.ae
One of the city's top tourist attractions, the Dubai Aquarium houses 140 species of sea life in the huge suspended tank on the ground floor of the Dubai Mall. As well as free viewing from the mall, if you enter the Underwater Zoo, you can walk through the aquarium tunnels.Different activities help you get a closer look at the sea life. Glass bottom boat tours (on top of the tank) are particularly popular. Cage snorkeling and shark diving activities are also on offer.
Location: Dubai Mall, Sheikh Zayed Road
Official site: http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com
The Burj Al-Arab is the world's tallest hotel, standing 321 meters high on its own artificial island on the Dubai coastline. Designed to resemble a billowing dhow sail, the exterior of the building is lit up by a choreographed colored lighting show at night. Decadent in every way possible, the Burj Al-Arab is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, with the most luxurious suites costing more than $15,000 for one night.For those without unlimited credit, the way to experience the over-the-top opulence is to go for dinner at the underwater Al-Mahara restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling glass panels in the dining room walls allow you to view sea life while you eat, or you can enjoy lunch at California-style fusion restaurant Scape. For the ultimate panoramic views over the city, book afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar (a minimum spend is required) on the 27th floor.
Address: Jumeirah Road
This strip of sandy white bliss is the number one beach destination for Dubai visitors. Hotels are strung out all along its length, with this being one of the most popular places to stay for tourists. The beach has excellent facilities, with plenty of sun loungers, restaurants, and water-sport operators offering jet skiing.While in the area, brush off the sand for an hour and visit the Majlis Ghorfat Um Al-Sheef, just a short hop from the beach. Built in 1955, this was the summer residence of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum. The residence, made out of gypsum and coral-block, has been restored and maintains much of the original beautiful decor, giving you a better understanding of the opulent lifestyle of Dubai's rulers. The Majlis Gardens feature a reproduction of an impressive Arab irrigation system and many shady date palms.
Location: Jumeirah Beach Road