United Arab Emirates
Dubai sits on a golden sandy coastline in the Arabian Gulf, where the warm azure waves of the sea meet the desert. A high-rise oasis, this city is a pleasure-dome surrounded by dunes; one of the most fashionable on the planet thanks to its ability to satisfy the needs of legions of demanding vacationers. Dubai is about having fun—and it's one big adult playground. Nature plays her part here, with year-round sunshine, gorgeous beaches, dramatic arid landscapes, and warm waters, but it's the man-made attractions that make Dubai so alluring. You can launch yourself into high-adrenaline desert adventures, diving and water sports, and some of the world's best golf courses. The 5-, 6-, and 7-star hotels offer the ultimate in luxury, and the party scene is hot. Shopping malls are the biggest in the world and are packed full of high-class merchandise. And with hundreds of restaurants with cuisine from around the world, you can munch your way from Mexico to Malaysia. Dubai is an Arab country with a long history as a trading port. Traces of its traditional life, customs, and architecture can still be seen and explored, but today and tomorrow are much more important than yesterday. Almost every building in this metropolis is less than 20 years old and the most dramatic developments—groundbreaking megaprojects—have just been completed or are still under construction. The city is certainly unique. Islam is its anchor, but it has opened its doors to the rest of the world and has invited them in to work, rest, and play, which creates a truly international atmosphere. Unashamedly modern and materialistic, life here takes place at breakneck speed. The landscape is stark, the confidence is sky high, the can-do spirit is palpable, and the blingis in your face. Dubai produces strong reactions in people, but one thing is certain—love it or loathe it—you will not forget it. It is without a doubt, one of the world's true must-see destinations. Shisha: Smoke Without Fire. Emirati men love socializing, but as they don't drink alcohol they get together over coffee and shisha instead of a drink at the bar after work. The shisha, or hookah, is a smoking device, usually made of glass, that filters smoke through water before it reaches the smoker's mouth. Shisha tobaccos are aromatic and are often mixed with apple, cinnamon, or cherry, so their taste isn't as strong as other tobaccos. Smoking shisha is said to induce relaxation—but you'll have to decide if it's for you! Several distinct zones and quarters, each with its own purpose and atmosphere, make up the city of Dubai. The older districts around the mouth of Dubai Creek—Deira, Al-Rigga, and Bur Dubai—have developed over the last 150 years into a maze of narrow streets and alleyways that are often choked with traffic. However, the museums and attractions here are clustered close together, making this area the most walkable in the city. You'll need to cross the creek on the abra (boat) service, about seven or eight minutes long, to get from one bank to the other. To venture beyond this downtown core you'll need to take transportation. If you have time, buses are very cheap, new, and air-conditioned, and their routes pass by many major attractions. However, taxis are efficient, inexpensive, and metered, making them a more flexible option if you're only in Dubai for a short time and every minute counts. Sheikh Zayed Road is the multilane road that links old Dubai with the newer
Dubai districts to the south—about 15 mi to the southernmost communities. It runs 3 mi inland from the ocean and parallel with the coastline. Every well-marked intersection off Sheikh Zayed Road leads to a different district—including Dubai Marina, Emirates Hills, and Knowledge City—as well as that area's major attractions. This road is the thoroughfare for most of the traffic traveling north and south, so it's always busy. By taxi, the trip from Deira to Dubai Marina takes about 45 minutes. Dubai doesn't use building numbers in its street addresses. People navigate by referencing major hotels, roads, intersections, or other well-known landmarks. Taxi drivers know how to reach all the main attractions, but if you're looking for something off the beaten path—say, a particular specialty store—find out which hotel, mall, or other geographical marker is close to your destination. Direct your driver to that location, so he knows the general area to which you want to go.