Currency is the Emirati dirham (AED). Dubai is four hours ahead of GMT. Dubai is a seven-hour flight from London.
British Airways (0870 850 9850, ba.com) flies to Dubai from London and Manchester.
Emirates (0844 800 2777, emirates.com) flies regularly from London and Manchester direct to Dubai.
Dubai Tourist board (dubaitourism.ae) has extensive resources for planning your visit to Dubai including accommodation and entertainment.
UAE Interact (uaeinteract.com) has information about when best to travel to the Emirates, information on food, visas and travel tips for visitors.
This humble Bedouin trading settlement has rocketed up in the glitz stakes over the past decade, its development turbo-boosted thanks to the discovery of oil in the 1970s. Get your historic bearings by starting from the heart of ‘old’ Dubai, alongside the creek. To the north is fragrant Deira, home to the atmospheric but touristy gold, spice and perfume souks. Hop on an abra (water taxi) and cross over to Bur Dubai to peruse the textile souk and Indian Meena bazaar. The Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Fort (built in 1787, the oldest structure of the city) is also located there along with the Heritage Village at Al Shindagha. Head south on Sheikh Zayed Road (a multi-lane highway that stretches from Sharjah to the north through Dubai and onto Abu Dhabi in the south) checking out the downtown Burj Khalifa area (Dubai Mall, Souk Al Bahar and the dancing fountains can all be ticked off). To your right stretches Jumeirah beach, home to iconic five-star hotels such as the Vegas-like Madinat Jumeirah and Burj-Al-Arab. Head straight on and to your right will be the Dubai Marina area. Stop before you hit Jebel Ali or you’ll find yourself on the fast track to Abu Dhabi.
What to do
Architectural aficionados will gawp at the sheer variety of structures on display. The creek-side, traditional lowrise souks give way to skyscrapers flanking Sheikh Zayed Road. The free beaches of Jumeirah Umm Suqeium and Jumeirah Beach Residence contrast with the gimmick-infused-mega-malls that boast aquariums, ice-rinks (thedubaimall.com) and indoor ski slopes (malloftheemirates.com). The Sheikh Mohamed Centre for Cultural Understanding not only offers educational tours of the beautiful Jumeirah Mosque but also the chance to partake in a traditional Emirati meal, hosted by locals, for free (cultures.ae). Culture vultures should head for the art galleries in Al Serkal, Al Quoz (ayyamgallery.com) and the Wall Street-like DIFC (difc.ae). Get a taste of desert-dwelling on the Desert Safari (arabianadventures.com) or watch sunset over dunes from the Rooftop terrace at Bab Al Shams desert resort (jumeirah.com).
Where to stay
Burj-Al-Arab (jumeirah.com) is an iconic dazzler; with its sail-shaped silhouette, it typifies for many the quintessential Dubai experience. Its bold interiors are brightly coloured and Midas-touched. It offers Rolls Royce pick-ups, a rooftop helipad and supreme, bespoke service in its gigantic duplex suites – at a hefty price. The closest Dubai gets to a boutique-style hotel, Al Manzil (almanzildubai.com) captivates with its atmospheric shisha courtyard, modern Arabic decor and personalised service. The spa-style bathrooms, with their mammoth pod baths that merge into the bedrooms, don’t put a premium on privacy, yet this is a five-star experience at four-star prices. XVA (xvahotel.com) is a tiny, six-room haven tucked away in the creekside Bastakiya area, beloved by those in search of quirkier surroundings. It’s more of a basic guesthouse than a swanky hotel so don’t expect all mod cons but art lovers will adore the fact that it triples up as a gallery and vegetarian café.
Where to eat and drink
If the open-top Big Bus Tour (bigbustour.com) of the city is not your thing, opt for the Dubai Metro (dubaimetro.eu).
Zaroob (zaroob.net) is open 24/7 with a huge menu full of the most delicious gooey cheese manakeesh, (flatbread topped with za’atar) creamy hummus topped with chicken and ful medames (slow-cooked fava beans), among other more regional specialities. For those hankering after a traditional sub-continental style experience, go for Ravi’s (00 971 4 331 5353) in Satwa: fresh food and buzzy and unpretentious road-side ambience, where sheikhs and taxi-drivers happily sit side by side and bargain over prices. The Iranian Club’s (00 971 4 336 7700) exceptional food entices Iranians and expats alike who are all too happy to don the requisite head scarf and tuck into spiced kebabs, cucumber yoghurt and a buffet of salads at a snip of a price. It’s an experience rather than simply a meal.
Time running out?
Get a bird’s eye view from the 124th-floor observation deck of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Average daily temperatures and rainfall
This article was published on 2nd February 2011 so certain details may not be up to date.