"Dynamic, ever-changing, friendly, exciting..." Top 5 Page for this destination Dubai by colin_bramso
Dubai Travel Guide: 4,085 reviews and 12,063 photos
Helping you understand the layout of Dubai and where to stay is at "There are two Dubais".
Moving to Dubai? The answers to many of the questions we're regularly asked in the Forum are in the Travelogue called "Moving to Dubai FAQs".
Scroll down to find them and click on the links.
Dubai is a dynamic modern city so a huge amount has changed, and the construction boom of the first part of the century is truly mind-boggling. July 21, 2007 was the day Burj Khalifa became the tallest tower in the world, for example. But there is still enough of the 'old' Dubai that we remember from the seventies for us to enjoy.
Dubai now is two distinct parts, the quite small original city and the expanse of New Dubai, and you really should explore both.
It's a friendly, cosmopolitan, safe, bustling city with a long history of trading with other countries, especially Iran across the Gulf and the sub-continent. As a result the people are more welcoming to foreigners, more open in their attitude than many in the area. The local indiginous people make up only about 10% of the total population, so it is a true international city rather than being typically Arab.
The city is divided into two by the Creek, Al Khor in Arabic, actually a wide inlet from the Arabian Gulf, which is the major reason for Dubai's trading success over the years.
Many of the modern buildings are stunning examples of modern architecture, in contrast to the older parts of the original city which have bustling narrow lanes running through the old souk area and the 'local' shops.
A few traditional buildings still exist right in the heart of the city, examples of the pre-airconditioning system of windtowers which kept the houses cool in the searing summer heat.
New Dubai is where the new developments which received such huge world-wide publicity are located. New Dubai stretches from the outskirts of the city to Jebel Ali and the border with Abu Dhabi, and inland across the desert. The beaches are also in New Dubai.
Some of the best hotels in the world are in Dubai, each with bars and restaurants, many with a disco. The choice is difficult - in the heart of the city on the Creek or a beach resort. Maybe you could split your time between the two.
Shopping is a delight. From the most modern shopping malls you'll find anywhere in the world to the old souks and local shopping areas. Products come in from literally all over the world, so you'll see many things you won't see at home.
There are many more photos and more information about Dubai on my United Arab Emirates page.
Dubai was originally a small village set on the banks of the Creek - an inlet from the Gulf which runs a few kilometres then sinks into the desert. There's a wetland at the end which is a bird sancturay where there are big flocks of flamingoes to be seen. Part of the construction boom saw the Creek extended so that it now is much longer than it was naturally. Work is currently under way to extend it all the way back out to the Gulf in Jumeirah, the Dubai Canal project. When complete, that will effectively make Bur Dubai an island.
The Creek was safe haven for the dhows which traded around the Gulf and as far as India and Pakistan and down into Africa. Pearl diving was big business, fish were caught, dates grown, then trade in gold became big business. Then came oil, and in the early 1970s oil prices rocketed. This coincided with Beirut, which had been the staging post for most Middle East business, being caught up in war. As a result Dubai, already famous as a trading port, became the centre for Middle East business. The growth was phenomenal and it became, to my mind, one of the world's great cities.
The Creek is still the focal point of the city. Traditional dhows still tie up to load and unload an amazing variety of cargo. The abras, small ferries, still give a cheap, fascinating method of crossing from Deira-side to Bur Dubai, in spite of there being a tunnel and two bridges. The abras can be hired for a personal trip along the creek too. And dhows converted into restaurants now cruise the creek for sunset dinner tours.
Just a word to the people who complain that the 'old Dubai' has been destroyed to make way for the new city. It's not true. Dubai was a very small town built around the bend in the creek, consisting of small clusters of buildings in Shindagha, Bur Dubai and Deira. It was founded only in 1833, so it has a very short history. Nearly all of the new buildings are on what was empty desert.
Just behind the ultra-modern buildings on Deira-side is the older Dubai, which is my favourite part. This is where you'll find the rows of little local shops, the souks, the old buildings.
The windtowers on top of the buildings were designed before electricity and air-conditioning were around. A square chimney-type structure, the breeze was drawn down the four channels to the rooms below. Wet sacking was often hung in the towers to cool the breeze as it moved through.
The souks are largely in clusters - the gold shops all together, the spice merchants side-by-side, the fabric traders all together. Fascinating places to spend time in because they give the essence of the 'real' Dubai.
Away from the city you'll find some of the best beaches, the clearest and warmest water you'll ever find. There are various public beaches or hotels with beach clubs, so choose whichever you prefer.
This is a place I can confidently recommend for a holiday. So many people transit Dubai and don't spend time here, and they're missing a wonderful destination.
You'll find that many malls - not just in Dubai but around the world - have the same shops, the international brand... more travel advice
If you are staying in an apartment, or apartment hotel, and planning to prepare at least some of your meals yourself,... more travel advice
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