Dubai unabashedly aims to be the biggest, best, and most modern city on earth, and it may be getting close to claiming that title! Nothing in Dubai is done cheap, or on a scale that is anything other than world class. Whether it is the tallest building in the world, biggest shopping mall in the world, or making the impossible possible (indoor ski resort and man-made islands resembling gigantic palm trees), Dubai is willing to spend to spend what it takes to attract the international tourists.
Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates in the heart of the Middle East, just across the Persian Gulf from Iran, bordering Saudi Arabia, and not very far from Iraq and Syria. Just saying the names of those countries makes many westerners cower in fear, but in terms of Dubai, these fears are largely exaggerated. For a more detailed explanation on why you should feel comfortable visiting Dubai, see my post on, “Why you should NOT be afraid to visit Dubai.” The geography of Dubai is the desert you would expect, but what is largely missed is the fact that Dubai features world class beaches across the Persian Gulf.
If you could go back and visit Dubai 40 years ago you would find nothing but sand dunes and a small fishing village. Oil has helped fund the city’s explosive growth, but now tourism is keeping that trend going. Dubai is now the 8th most visited tourist destination in the world, but getting there hasn’t slowed down their ambitions. There are still tons of ongoing construction projects for additional attractions and mammoth skyscrapers. This glitzy city isn’t just for oil barons, but is actually affordable enough for the everyday tourist. Below are 10 of the top attractions you can’t miss on a trip to Dubai.
1. THE PALM ISLANDS
The Palm Islands
2. DUBAI MALL
4. BURJ AL ARAB HOTEL
The Burj Al Arab is the only self-proclaimed seven-star hotel in the world. Even though seven-stars isn’t really a thing, no one seems to question the Burj Al Arab because it fits the bill of ultimate luxury. This massive hotel is built on its own island in the middle of the Persian Gulf, and is every bit as opulent as it claims. While there, I was told that we were so lucky, and that we could get an incredibly deal at the Burj Al Arab, only $1,500 a night (obviously I didn’t get the experience of staying there).
5. BURJ KHALIFA
Not only is the Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world, but it is almost 1,000 feet taller than its closest competition. To get up and down, it also houses the fastest elevator in the world. Whether you go up to the observation deck, or observe from the ground, this one is impossible to miss.
6. SKI DUBAI
Yes, there is an indoor ski resort in Dubai located inside the Mall of the Emirates (different mall than the Mall of Dubai)! While it is not the biggest ski resort in the world, it is legitimate skiing and snowboarding. There are multiple runs and amazing snow (the always keep it below freezing inside, so the snow doesn’t get crunchy). You can rent all necessary equipment and even take lessons if you like. While inside I totally forgot it was 117 ° F outside. The novelty of snowboarding in the middle of the desert is unreal.
7. DESERT SAFARI
You can’t go to Dubai and not take a desert safari. Quite quickly you can leave Dubai and see nothing but blowing sand dunes for miles and miles. There are tour operators all over town selling packages. Usually they are around $50 and include a city tour, some 4×4 dune crashing, camp fire dinner, and belly dancing. There are also tours that feature camel riding, sand boarding, and so much more.
8. JUMEIRAH BEACH WALK AND DUBAI MARINA
Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk and Dubai Marina
This is the most pristine community I have ever seen in my life. Every single brick of every single building is meticulously placed and beautifully maintained. This neighborhood features tons of high rise condominiums, cafes, bars, more shopping malls, beautiful hotels, beach access, and a waterway snaking through the center. I took a water taxi down the waterway and couldn’t stop gawking at the endless amount of perfect buildings.
9. OLD DUBAI MARKET (DEIRA)
Old Dubai Market (Deira)
Not all of Dubai has sprouted up in the last 40 years. If you want to see what life was like before the skyscrapers and luxurious hotels, head down to the old markets (souks). If you want your own traditional jewelry or headscarf, this is the place to get it. The array of textiles and spices seems endless. Remember, if you want to buy anything negotiating a price is almost expected.
10. DUBAI FOUNTAINS
If you have been to the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, then you get the idea of what the Dubai fountains are, now just make that idea a lot bigger and more grand. These fountains are also located at the Mall of Dubai, and nightly shows feature the fountains spraying and dancing to a vast array of music. The best part about this show is that it is free.
What places are on your top 10 list in Dubai?
(This post was written by my husband)
Read Next: Why You should Not Be Afraid To Visit Dubai