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Discover the meeting place of Arabian heritage and futuristic luxury
One of the world’s fastest-growing cities, Dubai has come a long way since its 19th-century origins as a fishing village and pearl-diving port. Today it is synonymous with cosmopolitan luxury, and has earned a reputation as the destination in the Middle East for world-class shopping, dining and recreation.
Ambitious architecture is a Dubai trademark. The skyline is dominated by the glittering spire of Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world at over 828 meters (2,716.5 feet). Ride all the way to the 148th-floor observation deck for dizzying views across the city to the shores of Iran. You’ll also be able to spot another unrivaled landmark: Palm Jumeirah, a collection of artificial islands populated by luxury hotels, restaurants, beach clubs and spas, all on the shores of the Arabian Gulf.
Dubai is a shopper’s paradise. The superlative Dubai Mall spans an area equivalent to 200 football pitches and has 1,200 luxury stores, making it the largest commercial center in the world. Don’t miss the fountains outside, which pair 150-meter spouts of water with choreographed music and lighting. Themed malls are a Dubai specialty, with two of our favorites being the Egyptian-inspired Wafi City and Ibn Battuta Mall, whose six courts reflect the travels of the famous Maghrebi explorer.
In between shopping trips, be sure to catch one of the myriad cultural shows on offer. Theater, ballet and opera extravaganzas impress audiences at the stunning Dubai Opera building. And Coca-Cola Arena is the largest concert venue in the Middle East with a roster of world-famous artists playing all year round.
When you need a respite from the fast-paced glamour of the modern city, explore the heritage districts of Old Dubai, located on the banks of the dhow-dotted Dubai Creek. Highlights include the gypsum-and-coral houses of Al Fahidi and the legendary Deira souks. Look for artisan jewelry in the Gold Souk, exotic spices in the Spice Souk, and oud – the fragrance known as liquid gold – in the Perfume Souk.
Relaxation comes naturally on the golden sands of Dubai’s beaches, where kitesurfers harness Gulf breezes and families play in clear waters. We also love the Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk for its stunning skyline views and many food trucks, as well as the flamingo-lined shores of Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. The desert awaits the intrepid explorer, offering everything from falconry experiences to safaris by camel or quad bike.