Dubai is the land of overstatement; just think gold Rolls-Royces, goldplated buildings and twinkling fairy lights everywhere. Dubai tries its best to make sure that it has the largest, the tallest, and the most expensive of everything in the world. For the most part, it succeeds. Dubai’s over the top attractions are well enough done to make it all enjoyable. Here are 10 great reasons you should visit Dubai, the land of excess.
1. The shopping mallsThe merchandise available for sale at Dubai’s many shopping malls isn’t anything you couldn’t get at home for less money. What makes shopping in Dubai an experience that’s worth the trip is the way the country builds its malls up into unrestrained fantasy lands. The Souk Madinat, for instance, is a mall with no corridors – it only has Venice-like indoor canals to take you from one store to the next. Dubai is also home to the Mall of the Emirates, a mall with a massive ski slope, and the Mall of Arabia, a place with a spectacular animatronic Jurassic Park.
2. The gold marketsShopping in Dubai for gold makes sense because it’s cheaper, and you get to haggle. Emiratis love gold. They do their shopping in gold souks, entire swanky shopping malls dedicated to jewelry of gold, silver, platinum and diamond, where you go in with a shopping cart. You simply need to remember to haggle hard and shop smart.
3. The Burj al ArabThe Burj al Arab, the massive beach skyscraper in the shape of a sail, has been an icon of Dubai for more than a decade. Dubai is so over-the-top that it’s managed to get every media outlet (even the local Discovery Channel) to call the Burj al Arab a 7-star hotel, even if star ratings don’t officially go over five. The Burj al Arab is the world’s tallest hotel and possibly the only one that’s gold-plated. If you’re willing to book one of the hotel’s most expensive suites ($20,000 a night for a palatial, 8,000 square-foot place), the hotel breaks out a fireworks display when you check in.
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4. The Palm JumeirahThe largest man-made palm-shaped archipelago is Dubai’s current calling card. While you can’t see the palm-shape from land, it’s visible when you fly into Dubai. Although it’s not a cheap experience, it’s really worth the money. There are wonderful resorts, hotels, and hotel residences. Do a little research to find the best one for you.
5. Go dune bashingEmiratis love their massive 4 x 4 trucks. It’s a popular activity to take these vehicles out to the desert past Abu Dhabi and to drive them hard all over the massive dunes. It’s not for everyone, so think twice before you try it. However, if you need some adrenaline in your life, this activity is right for you.
6. Over-the-top golfAs a way to bring in the golf-loving rich of the world, Dubai has built up some of the best golf courses anywhere. With the Dubai Desert Classic tournament with a $2.5 million purse and the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, the country is a draw for its golf alone. For added glitz, Dubai regularly brings in the world’s top golfers to play at its golf courses, for legitimacy.
7. Dubai’s beachesWhile Dubai is too hot for outdoor activities in summer, the other seasons are much better. The Jumeirah neighborhood has Dubai’s best beaches. This area is completely owned by the top hotels, though. For anyone who isn’t in a hotel on the strip, the Kite Beach and the Jumeirah Beach Park are beautiful and popular alternatives.
8. The champagneIslamic countries don’t usually allow alcohol. As a country dedicated to hedonism, though, Dubai can’t afford to keep alcohol out. They have a compromise – alcohol is allowed, but only within the confines of hotel restaurants. Dubai’s restaurants have a curious Friday custom – champagne brunch. When you order a meal, you get unlimited refills of Laurent Perrier and Moët.
9. There’s plenty of cheap eatingWhile Dubai does have an endless list of glitzy Michelin-starred restaurants, its underpaid immigrants make up most of its population. They need cheaper ways to eat. For them, Al Dhiyafah Road is the place to go to. For authentic cuisine from every part of Asia at $15 a person or less, this is the place to come to.
10. Hatta PoolsA 90-minute drive outside Dubai, the Hatta Mountains of Oman have naturally occurring freshwater rock pools that are a great attraction. Fresh spring water rises out of the ground, makes its way through the gorges in the mountain and collects in large pools that you can have fun in. If you are in Dubai in fall, the Hatta Pools are a must-see.
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If you’d like to see what traditional Dubai was like before the money started coming in, you need to visit the quiet fishing village of Bastakia Quarter. It can be a refreshing change after the relentless excess of the rest of the city. Although Dubai is an expensive city, it’s still possible to visit it on a budget. Have you ever visited Dubai?