The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) ultra-modern capital, Dubai’s most well-known landmark and international icon of the modern age – the Burj Khalifa (Khalifa Tower) soars 830 meters into the sky, making the world’s tallest building freestanding structure. Visitors can check out the world’s highest observation deck, which at 452 meters offers dizzying views of the city and surrounding desert beyond from nearly a half-kilometer up!
Serving as a retail-paradise gateway to the Burj’, Dubai Mall is the city’s premier shop-til-you-drop venue, with branches of just about every imaginable name-brand outlet along with the fascinating Dubai Aquarium, plus family-friendly attractions like an ice-skating rink, gaming zone and cinema complex.
Another modern architectural and cultural wonder, the Sheikh Ziyeed Grand Mosque seamlessly blends contemporary design and traditional craftsmanship. The massive scale and stunning beauty is achieved through the use of gold, masterful mosaic and glasswork along with gigantically proportioned marble features, which also create a visually dramatic contrasting effect of white stone set against deep blue desert sky.
A great place to cool off amid Dubai’s unceasingly arid climate, Aquaventure Waterpark is a 5-star quality water resort that offers a slew of pulse-pumping rides along with hotels, dining and plenty of languish-worthy chill-out areas.
Intrepid travelers seeking day-trip ideas will want to head for the Hajar Mountains. These jagged, sub-baked hills slice dramatically through the desert, dotted with tiny villages connected by twisting, roller-coaster roads lined with the spectacular desert scenery. The many small wadis (valleys) found throughout the range are a paradise for hikers keen on exploring this geographically unique region.
One of the last things one would expect to find in the sun-scorched country, Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort housed in the sprawling Mall of the Emirates. The 22,500 square meter space features tonnes of man-made snow spread over an 85-meter-high indoor mountain, with five slopes including one 400-meter piste which has earned the distinction of world’s first and only indoor ‘black diamond’ run. There’s a huge snow park with sled and toboggan slopes, climbing towers, giant snowballs, an ice cave and even a troupe of resident penguins who waddle out to greet delighted visitors.
The Dhow is the traditional Arab watercraft widely used by many Gulf coast nations. Visitors can hop aboard one of these smallish wooden vessels for a cruise along the Dubai Creek, which cuts right through the heart of the city.
Located on the waterway’s northern bank, the village of Deira is a microcosmic melting pot of the various nationalities that make Dubai their home. With the downtown’s towering skyline playing backdrop, Deira is best known to travelers for its timelessly rustic souks (marketplaces) that teem with shoppers hunting for gold, spices, fresh fish, textiles, traditional fragrances and more. The district is also home to Heritage House, the former home of a wealthy merchant. Built in 1890, the beautifully restored residence is worth a visit.
While it’s not quite following in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, visitors to Dubai can enjoy an exotic desert excursion along the empty stretch of sand hugging the coastline outside the city. The pristine-smooth dunes are ideal for activities that include off-road truck excursions, sand-buggy driving, sand boarding, hiking and camel treks, or treat yourself to a Bedouin-style feast under the starry desert sky.