Often claimed to be the world’s fastest-growing city, over the past four decades Dubai has metamorphosed from a small Gulf trading centre to become one of the world’s most glamorous, spectacular and futuristic urban destinations, fuelled by visionary leadership and ambitious commercial acumen. Dubai’s ability to dream the impossible has ripped up expectations and rewritten the record books, as evidenced by stunning developments such as the soaring Burj Khalifa, the beautiful Burj al Arab and the vast Palm Jumeirah Island – testament to the ruler’s determination to make it one of the world’s essential destinations for the twenty-first century.
Bur Dubai and the South Bank:
This area is a tightly packed residential and trading district. Most of Dubai's important historical attractions are located along the south bank, just a stone's throw from the creek. Fortifications, mansions, and the city's last remaining historic quarter are within easy reach of one another, and the largest downtown park is also on the south side. Bur Dubai is home to several busy souks, or markets, and bustling bazaars where you cannot miss the city's multicultural mix.
Extending north of Dubai Creek—to the border of neighboring Sharjah—is a patchwork of tightly packed districts known by the name of its oldest area, Deira. The district, the historic core of Dubai, has been a commercial hub for rice, spice, and gold trading for more than a century. The traditional souks here, just as important as the city's modern malls, make quite the contrast as customers haggle over merchandise and barrow-toting warehousemen weave through the crowds. In the Al Ras region, which abuts Deira to the west, one will find some of Dubai's oldest historic buildings amongst the shops and commodity warehouses.
As the world's largest man-made marina and waterfront development, Dubai Marina's 50 million square feet changed the face of the southern end of Jumeirah Beach and started a real-estate boom that has yet to peak. It was the first venture in which freehold real estate could be bought by anyone from anywhere around the globe. The Marina is home to 200 high-rise towers that have become an entertainment, leisure, and business hub, which locals call ‘New Dubai.’ In addition, a series of specialized free-zone ‘cities’ and ‘villages’ have sprung up around the Marina since the turn of the millennium, as part of Dubai's long-term plan to become one of the world's foremost investment, research, and enterprise zones.
Rising imperiously skywards at the southern end of Sheikh Zayed Road, the needle-thin Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building. It opened in early 2010 after five years’ intensive construction, finally topping out at a staggering 828 meters and comprehensively smashing all existing records for the world’s tallest man-made structures, past and present.
The building consists of a slender central square core, surrounded by three tiers arranged in a Y-shaped plan. These tiers are gradually stepped back as the building rises, forming a series of 27 terraces, before the central core emerges to form the culminating spire – a plan which makes the optimum use of available natural light, as well as providing the best outward views.
The astonishing scale of the Burj is difficult to fully comprehend – the building is best appreciated at a distance, from where you can properly appreciate the tower’s jaw-dropping height and the degree to which it reduces even the elevated high-rises that surround it.
Dubai's beach strip runs 11 miles south from Bur Dubai to the new developments around Dubai Marina. For years this stretch of sand was an unappreciated treasure used only by fishermen, but it became a major weapon in Dubai's arsenal when the emirate started luring tourists.
Commonly known in the brochures as Jumeirah due to its northernmost district, the strip has lengthened over time to include neighboring Umm Suqeim and Al Sufouh to the south, and the newest and largest hotels are located at the southern end, farthest away from downtown. Jumeirah's large resort hotels are a huge tourist draw, with high-quality restaurants, exciting nightlife and private beach clubs that have first-rate sports facilities on and off the water.
Dubai aquarium and underwater zoo:
Dubai Mall’s most mesmerizing sight is this gargantuan aquarium where thousands of beasties flit and dart amid artificial coral. Sharks and rays are top attractions, but other popular denizens include sumo-sized groupers and massive schools of pelagic fish.
This dancing fountain is spectacularly set in the middle of a giant lake against the backdrop of the glittering Burj Khalifa. Water undulates as gracefully as a belly dancer, arcs like a dolphin and surges as high as 150 meters; all synced to stirring classical Arabic and worldmusic soundtracks. There are plenty of great vantage points, including from some of the restaurants at Souk Al Bahar, the bridge linking Souk Al Bahar with Dubai Mall and the Dubai Mall waterfront terrace.
Dubai shopping festival:
A world class, internationally acclaimed festival, the DSF as it is popularly known, is the place for pious shoppers, a new world of discovery for adept of taste, Garden of Eden for family and Disney World brought down to Dubai for children. Aside from the heavily discounted, tax free shopping that this festival is most known for, DSF is also packed with lots of entertaining programs and events for its guests.