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About Dubai
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About Dubai
Dubai is the quintessential home of sand, sun and shopping. A century ago, it was a tranquil town whose coral-and-gypsum huts housed Bedouin traders and pearl divers. Today the merchants have gone international and science-fiction skyscrapers stand alongside the mosques and wind towers of Old Dubai.

The audacity of the city's rulers is breathtaking. Running out of coastline to build hotels? Build vast artificial islands with 120km (74.5mi) of new beachfront. Need better connections with the world? Build up an award-winning international airline in 15 years.

Need some publicity? Stage the world's richest horse race, million-dollar lotteries, international tennis and golf tournaments, and a month-long shopping festival. Need a few landmarks for people to recognise? Up goes the world's tallest and most lavish hotel, perched on an artificial platform, and a city skyline to boggle the eye.

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +4 (Standard Time)

Telephone Area Code: 4

When to Go

The best time of the year to visit Dubai is between November and April, when the weather is coolest. The rest of the year you're more likely to be running from one air-conditioned environment to the next instead of getting out and exploring. Ramadan, which takes place at a different time each year on the Western calendar, is the Muslim month of fasting and is strictly adhered to throughout the UAE. That means that it's illegal, not to mention rude, to eat, drink or smoke in public from sunrise to sunset at this time. On the up side, hotel rates drop up to 70%.

Dubai Attractions

Bastakia Quarter

This district, on the waterfront east of the Dubai Souq and Diwan, features a number of traditional wind-tower houses. Built in the late 1800s, the quarter was once the home of wealthy Persian merchants, most of them from the Bastak district and lured to Dubai by its relaxed trade tariffs.

Bur Dubai Souq

Bur Dubai Souq has been beautifully rebuilt to appeal to shopping-mad tourists, but mostly caters to the Indian and Pakistani expat community. It does not sell many Arabian things, but is certainly the place to purchase a custom-made sari.

Deira Gold Souq
Deira's celebrated Gold Souq attracts buyers from all over the world. Pass through its wooden lattice archways and you'll find great dazzling heaps of gold chains, rings, earrings, bracelets and every other kind of jewellery. It also sells silver.

Diera Covered Souq

This souk has more of an Indian flavour than an Arabic one. It sells just about everything, but notably textiles, clothes, kitchenware, walking sticks, and all the henna you'll ever need.

Dubai Creek
Dubai's waterfront epitomizes the city's personality. If you do only one touristy thing in Dubai, make sure to visit Dubai Creek and see the grand trading port from the water. You can book a cruise or abra (small boat) for an hour or so; ask the captain to take you to Al-Maktoum Bridge and back. It's also worth taking some time to walk around the dhow wharfage on the Deira side of Dubai Creek, to the west of the abra dock. Dhows bound for ports from Kuwait to Mumbai (Bombay) dock here to unload just about everything, including kitchen sinks.

Dubai Museum

The Dubai Museum is housed inside the Al-Fahidi Fort, which was built in the late 1790s, and is believed to be the city's oldest building. The museum has collections of everything from Arabian sailing boats to the curved daggers known as khanjars. There are multimedia and interactive displays, and all the exhibits have captions in Arabic and English.

Electronics Souq
The Electronics Souq is the place to get all the televisions, calculators, stereos, digital cameras, video games, DVD players and karaoke machines you've ever wanted. It's all almost tax free, and once the haggling is done, can be got for rock bottom prices.

Grand Mosque

This multidomed mosque boasts the city's tallest minaret. The mosque might appear to be a beautiful example of restoration work, but it was in fact built in the 1990s. As well as being the centre of Dubai's religious and cultural life, the original mosque was also home to the town's kuttab (Quranic school) where children learnt to recite the Quran from memory.

Maintaining the style of the original Grand Mosque, which dated from 1900 and was knocked down to make way for another mosque in 1960, its sand-coloured walls and wooden shutters blend in perfectly with the surrounding old quarter of Bur Dubai.

Perfume Souq

While the Perfume Souq is really just a group of shops, it sells a staggering range of Arabic and European perfumes. The European perfumes are a mixture of designer originals and copies while the Arabic perfumes are much stronger and spicier. It's worth buying some of the latter for the kitsch packaging alone.

Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House

Built in 1896, this was once the home of the ruling Al-Maktoum family. It was built using traditional methods, from coral coated with lime and plaster. Inside there's an interesting exhibition of photographs showing how little time it took for Dubai to go from a little fishing and pearling town to a big money, resort-style oil city.

Spice Souq

The Diera Old Souq is a wonderful place to wander round and take in the scents of spices and fruits. In the eastern part of the market you'll find sacks brimming with frankincense, dried lemons, ginger root, chilli and cardamom. The rest of the market is full of rugs, shoes, kitchenware, glassware and amusingly tacky little trinkets.

Dhow Building Yard

Down at the dhow building yards you'll see various kinds of Arabian sailing boats still being built by hand, using traditional tools and teak and shesham woods. However, not everything at the yard is done as it has been for centuries: sometimes, after the sails are done, the boys will pop an engine in.

Hatta Rock Pools

Hatta, an enclave of Dubai nestled in the Hajar Mountains, is a great weekend getaway. The main attractions are its relatively cool, dry climate, the mountain scenery, excellent 4WD options and the magnificent Hatta rock pools, which are great for a swim, roaring year-round with plunging waterfalls.

Jumeirah Archaeological Site

Built sometime in the 6th century AD, this township is now the biggest and perhaps the most significant archaeological site in the UAE. You'll see the remains of stone walls, a souq, several houses and what is thought to have been a governor's palace. Objects found on the site, such as pottery and coins, are on display at the Heritage Village in Diera.

Jumeirah Beach Park

This lovely grassy park adjoins Jumeirah Beach. It has walkways, kiosks, barbecue pits, picnic tables and a children's play area. The long stretch of beach is clean, lined with shady palm trees, and regularly patrolled by lifeguards. The women's only days are an opportunity for the ladies to get a tan without unwanted male attention.
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