"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

I've built two Travelogues called "You absolutely must see..." on what I consider to be the absolute 'must do' tour of Dubai.

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.

Geina and I lived in Dubai from 1977 to 1984. In fact it's where we met - we'd both gone there to work, me from the UK and Geina from Singapore. We holidayed here in 1987, again in 2000, and we spent March 2005 here too. Finally we bought an apartment, as foreigners are now allowed to own property, moved back here in October '05 where we spent six years and went back to Terrigal in August 2011, having witnessed the unbelievable construction boom...and the global financial crisis' effect on the Emirates. We kept our apartment so we'll be visiting regularly.

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.

  • Last visit to Dubai: May 2015
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (136)

Comments (59)

  • myriam_c's Profile Photo
    Nov 8, 2015 at 3:22 AM

    WOW! I have been reading for more than two hours and still haven't read all of your tips. Such a wealth of information! Added several tips to my Trip Planner for our upcoming (second) visit to this amazing city.

  • TheAndos's Profile Photo
    May 31, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    Thanks Colin. We are stopping off for 36 hours on way to Europe (14 June) and again on way back (26 July, Ramadan!!) but were lucky enough to have a couple of days there on way back from Egypt 4 years ago. We had friends living there who ensured we went everywhere!!!

  • adema29's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2014 at 1:35 AM

    Great page! Beautiful photos and really useful tips! Impressive!

  • elpariente's Profile Photo
    Jan 29, 2013 at 6:12 AM

    You worked very hard . The photos are very good and the tips very interesting . Now I must study them in detail to prepare my quick visit
    Gracias !!!

    • colin_bramso's Profile Photo
      Jan 29, 2013 at 6:37 PM

      Gracias Juan. I hope the info has been helpful - have a great time in Dubai even though it's only a few hours. I'm sure you'll find it interesting.

  • nyperose's Profile Photo
    Aug 26, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    Great Dubai -page. Better than any tourist guide!

  • JessH's Profile Photo
    Apr 10, 2012 at 3:32 AM

    Hi there Colin! Hope you're having a good time here. I see you've also discovered Carluccio's in Dubai Mall... we absolutely love it there :-) They have another branch in Mirdif City Centre as well... yum yum.

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Oct 9, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    Our daughter and new husband are on honeymoon there now, so I thought I would see what others say. YOu did an excellent job of describing the culture and sites to view, as well as the pictures are very helpful.

  • Mikebb's Profile Photo
    Jun 15, 2010 at 11:51 PM

    Hi Colin, Enjoyed your travelogues, exactly what every tourist should know before they arrive. We definately will do the old town alks and accommodation by the Creek would be ideal.

  • gonnabeatravelbug's Profile Photo
    Mar 9, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Hi Colin, Thank you for your assistance regarding my upcoming Dubai trip. Your traveloges are so interesting! Thanks heaps!!

  • plas19's Profile Photo
    Jan 31, 2010 at 6:57 PM

    Hi Colin, Your pages are a wealth of information. Thanks!!

colin_bramso Used To Live Here!


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