It’s not a mirage. But as the futuristic metropolis of Dubai explodes from the desert, you’d be forgiven for believing so.
Luxury oozes from its mammoth shopping malls and extravagant high-rises all the way to the exclusive beach clubs that line the everwarm waters of the Persian Gulf. But culture-philes shouldn’t be put off. Skip around the parked Lamborghinis and there’s an unexpected treasure of civilizations long gone, Islamic heritage, and astonishing natural beauty.
Believe what you want, but the glamor of Dubai is culture in itself. The monumental Burj Khalifa that towers over its SciFi cityscape is a statement piece — a beacon to the world that this mind-bending oasis is very much here to stay.
مرحبا بكم في دبي
Welcome to Dubai.
5 things you can’t miss in Dubai
At the top of your Dubai to-do list should be the top of the Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest building towers over the city, reaching a staggering 828 meters (Freedom Tower in NYC is only 541m).
Depending on the ticket, visitors can access the viewing decks on the 125th or 148th floor. Both offer insane views of the city and the desert beyond. The 148th option gives you personalized tours of the skyscraper and some time in an exclusive lounge where you can grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the views.
For the ultimate experience, try booking tickets first thing in the morning or at sunset. Tickets aren’t cheap – you’ll be looking at around $42 minimum for a basic ticket. To skip the line, grab a meal or a tour, and be prepared to fork out a bit more.
To save a little, you can purchase combos that combine a visit to the Burj Khalifa with other attractions like the aquarium.
Get a desert adrenaline rush
Dubai’s exuberance extends to its tourist attractions in the most unique ways possible. One of the most popular thrills in Dubai is a skydive over the city. It’s the best way to check out the astonishing manmade archipelagos if you can ignore the fact you’ve just jumped out of a plane.
For a different experience, try scuba diving in the world’s deepest swimming pool. Fourteen million liters of freshwater allow divers to go as deep as 60m, depending on ability. Deep Dive features an underwater city, 56 cameras to film your adventure, and underwater viewing windows so friends and family can see you.
And frankly, the size of the malls in Dubai means they’re an adventure in themselves.
Get to grips with the sands of time
Dubai is a symbol of modern city development, and the big-ticket draws are amazing. But there are still some amazing cultural experiences to be had. The Middle East is an unbelievable region, and if you’re willing to explore a little more, your Dubai experience could be exceptional.
Maybe head out to the Dubai Race Track to catch a camel race. The sport has been a part of life in the region for centuries, and the early morning races are a fantastic way to experience an intimate piece of Arab culture.
For an understanding of a pre-oil UAE, visit the Dubai Museum, situated in the oldest standing building in the city. The old fort housing the exhibits is worth checking out, as it harbors the remnants of a Dubai that most now couldn’t imagine.
Marvel at the mosques
Visiting a mosque in the city is another excellent way to delve into the inner social workings of the city. While some mosques are not open to visitors or non-Muslims, many of Dubai’s mosques have opened their doors so that tourists can relish in their striking architecture too.
Jumeirah Mosque is the only one open for visitors to go on guided tours. While there are plenty of strikes views from the outside, you definitely don’t want to miss catching a glimpse of the ceiling. The inside is a marvel with intricately designed tiling that creates a colorful mosaic of shapes.
The Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque is another mesmerizing site. With four piercing minarets, 21 domes, and 124 stained glass windows, it’s one of the largest mosques in the United Arab Emirates.
Smell the flowers
Dubai is known for bringing some of the most fantastical and (almost) unbelievable structures to life and their Miracle Garden is no exception.
All of your senses will be consumed by the explosion of colors and scents in this garden. Flowers are used to construct cottages, heart-shaped archways, and even gargantuan jungle felines.
Keep in mind that the garden is not open year-round, but it’s definitely worth planning a trip around. At the end of each season, they close the premise to bring fresh displays in.