Following the discovery of oil in the region in the 1960s, the ruling Maktoum family quickly realised that trade and tourism were the way forward, bringing about a flood of investment and an unprecedented building boom.
Dubai quickly grew into the commercial hub and prime tourist destination we see today. Today, the city is divided by Dubai Creek into the north and south regions, Deira and Bur Dubai.
The modern city is on the Deira side of the creek and is both cosmopolitan and lively, with many attractive gardens and excellent shopping facilities ranging from Western-style shops to the ancient souks, where spices, perfumes, clothing, antiques, handicrafts and jewels are available.
There’s no better place to begin your Dubai sightseeing than from Level 124 of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. On a visit to this revolutionary building you’ll be whisked up 124 floors in a high-speed lift to the highest outdoor observation deck in the world - at 1,483 feet, this deck offers unparalleled 360-degree views from the Gulf to the Arabian Desert.
On your way out of the Burj Khalifa, why not pop into the nearby Dubai Mall? Dubai is known as the “shopping capital of the Middle East” and with 70 malls it’s not difficult to see why. Dubai Mall is the world’s largest mall, and along with 1,200 shops, it also has an aquarium and ice rink.
One of Dubai’s most iconic images remains the Burj Al Arab hotel, designed to resemble a billowing sail. Located on a manmade island in the Persian Gulf, about 300 yards from the mainland, the hotel, at 1,053 feet in height, is by far the tallest in use today, and is a popular destination for afternoon tea.
The easiest way to see Old Dubai is to head down the Creek aboard a traditional Dhow, sailing through the calm waters of the creek along which the early trading community built their houses and business establishments. The perfect time to do this is at sunset, when the reflection of the steel-and-glass buildings in the water is a sight to behold.
The original town, Bur Dubai, has substantial areas of old buildings and atmospheric alleyways. This area offers a more Arabian flavour of the region: discover elegant mosques, unspoilt beaches, desert oases and traditional souks (markets) including the famous Gold Souk.
Outside the city
Beyond Dubai city lie sweeping desert landscapes and you can join exciting evening excursions which enable you to experience the magical quality of the dunes beneath the stars.
Four-wheel-drive vehicles take tourists out on a journey to traditional Bedouin settlements and Arabian camp. There may be opportunities learn how to ride a camel and see how henna artists create distinctive designs typical of the Arab world. And don’t be surprised if you’re treated to a display of authentic belly dancing.