Dubai – the pearl of the Middle East

Once a small fishing village, famous for its pearls, Dubai has developed at an incredible pace, carving out a dominant position in both business and tourism. Located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, is a perfect combination of east meets west. Many of us know about its white beaches, stunning shopping malls and luxury hotels but Dubai has so much more to offer.

Dubai

If you’re considering a Dubai holiday, the best time to visit is during the cooler months, between October and May, when the average daily temperature is 24C. Some potential visitors may be put off by the strict Muslim laws and restrictions. Dubai is tolerant and fairly liberal, though, and still a great place for a holiday, as long as you respect the local culture. This includes dressing appropriately and not entering mosques if you are a non-Muslim (except on organised tours). You should only drink alcohol in permitted areas, but finding one isn’t difficult. There are 450 hotels, some with up to 26 bars, restaurants and night clubs where drinking is allowed.

As well as enjoying the more traditional beach activities, holidaymakers are able to try something a little different on the sand. Desert trips in 4×4 jeeps are very popular and include off road driving, sand boarding and the chance to enjoy a sundown dinner on the dunes. If you fancy some fun in the water you should try the Wild Wadi Water Park, one of Dubai’s most popular tourist attractions and a must if you are holidaying with children.

With no taxes on anything you buy in Dubai it is definitely somewhere to indulge in a little retail therapy. The emirate’s shopping malls are extremely luxurious and worth a visit if only to marvel at the surroundings. For something totally different to the palatial malls, visitors can soak up the atmosphere at the gold and spice souks. Brush up on your haggling skills before you head off to these traditional markets as prices often fall quite dramatically for anyone bold enough to negotiate. These souks are busy and bursting with vibrant colours and smells and really immerse you in the spirit of Dubai.

One of the best ways to see Dubai is to take an Abra ride across the Dubai creek, a natural seawater inlet which runs right into the city. Abras are small water taxis that hold up to 20 people and will take you from one side of the creek to the other, meaning you get a great perspective of the city from the water. The tours usually last for an hour and are said to be particularly spectacular late at night.

Dubai Camels

If you fancy doing something unusual on your holiday, you should head to the camel racing at the specially adapted racetrack at Nad al-Sheba, just outside Dubai. Camel racing is a popular sport in Dubai and members of the public can watch free of charge. Racing takes part between October and May. Be warned though, camels are not particularly fast creatures so this may be a little different to your average day at the races!

We hope we’ve whet your appetite. Look out for our next post where we’ll be looking at the vast range of hotels in Dubai and giving you a few top tips, whatever your budget.