Some years ago the then Ruler Of Dubai embarked on an ambitious path to transform Dubai into a world class tourist destination and advanced business hub. The intent was to protect the future of the Emirate from reliance on oil for its future. To change it in the space of a few decades from a backwater trading post to a world class tourist destination.
The result was a seemingly overnight growth of one stunning development after another, each one outdoing its predecessor.
Dubai's attractions multiplied to keep pace, ensuring the East meets West destination cemented its place on the 'must visit' tourist and vacation map. With up to two thirds of the world population living within eight hours flying time, its perfect position as a transport hub for travelers across many regions served to increase its desirability as a vacation visit and stopover point.
Those attractions of Dubai have played their part in attracting year on year record numbers of visitors, and ensure that those visitors will need to know as much as possible about Dubai before any planned visit.
Towards The 2020 World Expo - Connecting Minds, Creating The Future
In late 2013 it was announced that in 2020 Dubai would be hosting the 160 year old World Expo, an event entrenched in history to such an extent that its roots go right back to the Great Exhibition of England in the reign of Queen Victoria - 1851 to be exact.
Of course, the 2020 Expo is some way off, but this achievement marks yet another forward leap for the Emirate which will celebrate only its 50th anniversary in 2021.
It's almost inconceivable how far the Emirate has come in those 50 years, with the explosive developments of the last few years now set to scale new heights in preparation for the exhibition.
But how can Dubai top those recent developments?
The answer would appear to be by investing $8 billion in infrastructure projects to support it. It's an astronomical figure, but actually only serves to illustrate how wealthy the country is. In fact, with the prestige that hosting the event attracts, the figure may well turn out to be a drop in the ocean.
The Emirate needs to continue its growth and develop in such away that it proves - in the eyes of the world - that it meets the 'sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity' themes of the Expo.
It needs to present itself to the world as if it's one with these themes. Already the first steps are being taken to build a 'smart' city. In downtown Dubai, along a 3.5 km stretch of Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, local visitors and residents get free wireless connectivity. This is only the first step in a 'Smart City' project which will give everyone free internet in public areas all over Dubai. Even the taxis are already offering free Wi-Fi.
The future looks very bright for Dubai indeed, but how did we get to this point? Just how did the attractions of Dubai get to take prime position in the world of high class tourism.
A Ruler's Vision
It's an amazing story. One which can be attributed to the vision of one man - Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. You could argue that anything can be built with the right amount of money, and we may not know the whole story, but his original quest to build a nation with no future reliance on oil for its fortunes looks to have succeeded in a big way.
There's no doubt that Dubai and its attractions are founded on its own wealth. And what's wrong with that? We could draw analogies with major football teams. Money counts for everything in some circles.
The mantle for that success has rested on the shoulders of the current Sheikh in recent years - HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
You need leaders to succeed, Dubai clearly has one who's vision - both in the past and for the future - is a committed one. Sheikh Hamdan has been instrumental in directing Dubai's development so that he has built something to be proud of. He has enabled its growth. That pride will be displayed fervently over the coming years by Dubai's residents.
The Sheikh's Mohammed's visions and desires for his country were aptly demonstrated in a recent tweet: “The vision is clear, infrastructure is ready and confidence in our human resources is high. The future does not wait for those who hesitate.
“We’ll achieve this through three key areas of focus: family tourism, global events and attractions, and Dubai’s status as a business destination.”
The Sheikh announced the release of his own website in February 2014 - Hamdan.ae - it's well worth a look to get a feeling for the man, his beliefs, and his contributions to Dubai's continuing growth. The website is designed to give a first class experience, as you'd expect! It will connect you to his social network accounts too.
As we enter the early months of 2014, the Sheikh can proudly contemplate his achievements - the Burj Khalifa, World Central Airport, Meydan Racecourse, The Metro, the Palm Islands, the astounding growth of Emirates Airlines, and of course the World Expo win. There will be more to come.
And the other Emirates of the UAE share the same intent, each with its own - but collective - vision for the future. Much of this vision is based around the pillars of tourism, a contented society, an economy which is committed to the green principles of sustainability, respect for the environment, plus a target of using natural resources wisely and intelligently. You can add to this a spirit of union between the 'ordinary' people and the rulers. In the Emirates, the lines between the two really do seem to be blurred.
Promoting The Emirate - The #MyDubai Project
In January 2014 the Sheikh introduced a year long project plan to build on that pride and give everyone in Dubai an opportunity to display it. The message went out to the world to share videos and images on various social sharing sites using the hashtage #MyDubai.
The #mydubai project plan is stunningly simple but likely to be amazingly effective, and is already proving to be a promotional masterstroke. By harnessing the power of social media - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed has given the Emirate its own chance to create a social-media autobiography which will be written by its residents and visitors. In fact, by March 2014 there had been around a quarter of a million Instagram posts, and over 50000 mentions on Twitter.
The autobiography gives the power to those people who will represent it best to develop a lasting advertisement for the Emirate and its attractions. The result is surely going to be even greater world exposure for a city which is already heavily featured in global development news.
And it's no secret that the Emirate needs that exposure. It needs to build upon its reputation - by reinforcing its image with those in the know, and spreading that image to those who haven't yet had the chance to sample its delights.
#mydubai is just one initiative in the promotional efforts of the Department Of Tourism And Commerce. They know that in its well connected position there are many visitors that are just in transit. That's a problem (and an opportunity) to be worked on. There will be plenty of thought going into how to encourage in-transit visitors to spend more time outside of the airport.
And in a big wide world there are a whole range of other potential promotional activities to spread the word further a-field. Increased efforts in different forms of tourism - adventure, health-care, business - are on the cards - all supported by heavy investment in new building and transport infrastructure, and focus on green and smart initiatives.
Where Is Dubai?Dubai is situated on the Persian Gulf, sharing borders to its south with Abu Dhabi, to its south-east with Oman, and Sharjah on its Northern border. Dubai itself originally covered an area of roughly 4000 square km, though with the infrastructure development that's been completed so far this area has now risen by a few hundred square km.
When To Visit
The best time of the year to visit is between November and April, when the weather in Dubai and the UAE is at its best. The rest of the year you're more likely to be running from one air-conditioned environment to the next instead of getting out and about and exploring.
Ramadan, the muslim month of fasting, is strictly adhered to in the UAE; that means no eating, drinking or smoking in public from sunrise to sunset. Places that normally serve alcohol stop serving it during this month. Ramadan is normally in December-January.
Many of the sporting and leisure events take place in the cooler months, but not all and there is still plenty to do and see even when the sun is at its fiercest.
If you're in a position to plan well ahead, 2020 is the year to aim for. During this year, the Emirate will play host to the World Expo - a 6 month long series of events and exhibitions that promise to stun a watching world.
Dubai has two major international airports, with the newest being at Dubai World Central. These are vying with other well trafficked global airports for becoming known as the busiest in the world. Your flight to Dubai will arrive at one of these two airports which are served by around 200 airlines, while those travelers arriving by cruise ship will dock at Port Rashid which shows on the schedules of around 120 different shipping lines.
British citizens and nationals of most Gulf countries do not require visas; Gulf citizens can stay as long as they want, Britons for up to three months. Many other visitors from major European countries do not need visas, and this is being widened to include a number of other European countries in 2014.
All other visitors are required to have visas. Your hotel can sponsor you for a 15-day, nonrenewable transit visa or a one-month renewable visit visa. Note that if your passport shows evidence of travel to Israel you will be denied entry to the UAE.
Where To Stay
If there's one thing you can say about accommodation in Dubai - there's plenty of it. Four and five star hotels abound, and you'll even find a clutch of six star properties. Prices vary and you can expect to pay reasonably high prices, with the cheaper options obviously in the older and slightly less desirable areas.
Occupancy rates are high with perhaps the easiest time to find a room being in the hotter summer months
Useful Local Facts
- The official language of the UAE is Arabic, though English is commonly spoke and understood. With such a cosmopolitan mix of residents and visitors it's likely to hear just about every language and dialect in the world over a relatively short space of time
Currency, Money Changing, Paying - The monetary unit is the dirham (Dhs.), which is divided into 100 fils, also known as AED (Arab Emirate Dirham). Changing money in Dubai is as easy as it is in any other modern city - there are currency exchange services in all malls and large shopping districts. All major credit cards will be widely accepted almost anywhere you go.
Phone Numbers in Dubai
Landline to mobile number starts with 050
Mobile to landline number starts with 04
Mobile to mobile just enter number
Landlines to landline just enter number
Phoning outside of the UAE 00 44 drop the 0 on the dialing code
Phoning from the outside of the UAE 00971 drop the 0 on the dialing code
Phone cards can be purchased from most supermarkets, petrol stations and phone shops in denominations of Dhs 25, 30, and 40.
For minor ailments the pharmacists are fully qualified and are used in Dubai as an effective doctor. They will not take temperatures, look at sore throats but with a list of symptoms they can prescribe the correct antibiotics etc.
There are two types of healthcare on offer in Dubai government and private. Read more about Dubai hospitals and healthcare.
Codeine is illegal in Dubai unless supported by a doctor’s note stating it has been prescribed to you.
24 hour pharmacy - Life pharmacy (344 1122). They also offer a delivery service.
There are several supermarkets in Dubai ranging in price, quality and products.
Spinneys - Very much the Expat supermarket. Quite small but offers a wide variety of UK brands. Its own brand is Waitrose so prices reflect this somewhat. Good quality but pricey!
Choitrams - Slightly cheaper than Spinneys and offers very similar products.
Carrefour and Geant - Found in the big shopping malls. French based companies that are more in line with hypermarkets, like Asda or Tesco’s. Definitely cheaper and offer a variety of UK brands.
Mosque shops - Most mosques will have a shop selling your basic sundries such as bread and milk.
Local Transport Services
As you'd expect, there are plenty of different options for getting from A to B in the Emirate. The Government have put strong focus on building a transport system to be proud of, with further improvement initiatives already under way:
All Car Hire companies will require basic documentation (passport, your driving license plastic and paper parts, an international license * if you wish to drive outside of Dubai e.g. to Oman and a credit card number as a deposit).
* If you do not have an international license and you wish to drive outside of Dubai you can obtain a temporary local license for the UAE from the traffic department. All the above documents will be required a long with plenty of passport photographs, money for the fee and patience for the time it may take to process this. (An eye test will also be conducted at the traffic department). If you wish to drive into Oman you will also need to take out extra car insurance.
Read more about Dubai Car Rental...
Driving in Dubai
Driving in Dubai is definitely not for the fainthearted. There is no such thing as lane discipline here or giving way. Many find routes that are not entirely legal around traffic, and there are times when even the most competent of drivers may need to get out of a sticky situation quickly. Horns are used as a reminder to move when the traffic lights turn green and as a warning that “I am here so don’t pull out”.
Flashing lights are not a kind gesture to pull out. Again they should be seen as a warning sign that I am coming through. DO NOT PULL OUT IF SOMEONE FLASHES YOU.
Whatever you do you must remain calm, and if necessary only use your horn as a sign of your annoyance at someone pulling out on you. DO NOT engage in an abusive road rage situation where obscene language or gestures are used. You may find yourself in a worse situation when the police are called, especially if the other party is a local emiratee.
There is no rush hour as such in Dubai. However, it is worth noting that if you are driving into Dubai early morning or mid to late afternoon you will most definitely hit bad traffic. This increases 10 fold early evening so it is best to avoid these times. Most taxi drivers will be honest with you when you say where you want to go at these times as they have no wish to spend over an hour getting into Dubai city.
The three main roads that run parallel to each other in Dubai are the Beach Road, Al Wasl Road and Sheikh Zayed Road. A bad accident on any one of these is enough to congest the other two considerably. Dubai has two main bridges over the creek and a tunnel. ALL are heavily congested in the evening.
If you're not keen on hiring your own car and wish to avoid any worries about navigating Dubai's roads, the public transport system is among the most modern, comfortable, and affordable in the world.
Take your pick from:
• The Tramway
• The Dubai Metro
For a step back in time and a great experience thrown in alongside, try the water taxis across Dubai Creek. These are known as Abra's, and only found here in these waters.
The Districts Of Dubai
The city can be broken down into different regions or districts to help get your bearings. At its core lies the centre of the city itself, split by a stretch of water known as Dubai Creek. From the city centre which encompasses Deira and Bur Dubai, development extends outwards towards the Emirate of Sharjah to the North, and South and West along the Gulf taking in the districts of Jumeirah, Satwa, and Umm Suqeim.
Dubai City - Having experienced significant expansion over the last 10-15 years along both banks of the Dubai Creek, the central business district is divided into two halves - Deira on the northern bank and Bur Dubai to the south......More
Dubai Creek - If you step back in time you'll find that modern day Dubai emanated from the Creek area - it's very much the historical centre-point of the region. The Creek is an inlet of the sea which cuts like a knife through the city centre.....More on Dubai Creek
Bordered by the Persian Gulf, Dubai Creek, and Sharjah( another Emirate of the United Arab Emirates), Deira was historically the commercial center of Dubai. As modern progress has made its way through Dubai......More
Located on the western side of Dubai Creek, Bur Dubai definitely lives up to its name of being a historic district in Dubai. Home to the Grand Mosque as well as several other mosques.....More
While most people today would think of the Burj Khalifa when discussing the modern center of Dubai, the Al Shindagha neighborhood sits amongst the modern skyscrapers and bustling Emirate as a testament....More
Sheikh Zayed Road & Downtown
While some would not necessarily consider Sheikh Zayed Road a district in itself, it most certainly can be considered an attraction due to its length and access to many of Dubai’s famous buildings and attractions,. Downtown Dubai is a large scale, mixed use complex that is home to some of Dubai’s most important landmarks. Among these are the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Fountains, and the Dubai Mall....More....
The area of Jumeirah is now known as one of the most exclusive parts of Dubai. A coastal residential area that is administratively divided into three neighborhoods.....More
Outside the City
In a single day in Dubai you can relax on a beach, have lunch in a high class restaurant, drive over desert dunes, and enjoy the peaceful beauty of the mountains. Of these you'll need to leave ....More
This Wikipedia article on the Emirate examines the districts in some depth and offers plenty of additional information about Dubai too. Elsewhere on Dubaiattractions.com we've covered the different districts of Dubai in more depth.
Beaches and Parks
Dubai boasts many gorgeous beaches and parks. Most of the public beaches however have ladies only days. At these times teenage boys and men are not allowed. Most parks and beaches will display signs stating the ladies only day. Bear in mind also that if you are dressed in a bikini, or have a young child with blonde hair you are likely to be starred at! This does not mean that your safety is in question and tends to be an action undertaken through curiosity. If this makes you feel uncomfortable then you can use most of the hotel beaches and facilities at a cost. These vary in price dependant upon the resort.
For the use of some public beaches and parks a fee is charged. Friday is the main day off in Dubai so be warned that the public parks and beaches will probably be very busy on this day.
Read more on Dubai's beaches and parks.
The basic ‘Don’ts in Dubai
Do not use abusive language or hand gestures.
Do not wear T-shirts in public places with obscenities on them.
Do not go into a mall/restaurant or bar in swimwear.
Do not consume alcohol in a public park or public beach.
Do not drink and drive.
Do not use a mobile phone whilst driving.
Aim to always protection from strong sunlight - bream, sunglasses, head wear
In general, always give consideration to ensuring you wear appropriate clothing for any situation you're likely to be in. Away from the beach areas, that means covering up swimwear with appropriate length trousers or skirts, and definitely avoiding anything which might be considered to be too revealing.
Consumption of Alcohol and Pork in Dubai
Alcohol consumption in Dubai is restricted to your hotel, apartment, and certain restaurants or within the confines of a resort. A license is required to buy alcohol in Dubai from an off license; this requires a residency visa in the main to obtain. Clubs and most restaurants that are attached to hotels do offer alcohol. It doesn’t however go hand in hand with restaurants that they serve alcohol. For instance the Marina as it stands at the moment does not serve alcohol in any of its restaurants. To avoid disappointment ask before you order. Alcohol cannot be purchased in supermarkets.
It’s worth noting that although you can consume alcohol in Dubai if you are found intoxicated and asleep in the back of a taxi, on the street or causing trouble it WILL be frowned upon and you may very well find yourself at the local police station.
Pork products can be bought from the supermarket in special areas for non-Muslims (Expect to pay almost double in some cases for pork products). It is also served at restaurants to non-Muslims.
Of course, to understand a city - and especially one like Dubai where its growth history seems to be compressed into a short burst of development - you need to understand some of its history. What its foundation is, and who or what made it into the country, or Emirate to be precise, that it is today.
Dubai's history goes back much further than the 20 or 30 years that its recent past suggests, and.....read more on the history of Dubai...
Want To Know More?
Take a look at the video below. It's a watchable length at only 10 minutes or so long, but gives some fantastic insights into everyday life in Dubai.
Videos are of course a great way to learn about any destination, and learning about Dubai is no different. There are some valuable video guides at the top of the page, but of course there are plenty more about Dubai on the Youtube channel.
For news and updates on developments in the Emirate you can visit the excellent news agency site at Wam.org.ae.
Copyright Dubaiattractions.com 2013-2014
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Whether you're staying long term, on a short break, or taking an extended holiday, it's useful to know as much about any destination as possible. This page about Dubai is designed to guide you through everyday information you might need.
Outside of the leisure attractions that everyone wants to visit, the stunning architecture, the weather, the mesmerising sights and sounds of the souks, the old city, and the future development promises, Dubai at its core is a city like any other. It offers something for everyone.
Of course, there are many elements that set it apart from other cities, that celebrate its uniqueness - but it has a history, it has local traditions, it has regions and districts, it has weather patterns, it has all the elements of daily life and more - all playing their part in forming the Emirate into the glowing example of city life that it represents today.
In essence though, Dubai is not easy to define. The best of Eastern and Western comforts exist alongside the culture of the desert and an olden Arab - Islamic history.
You'll find hectic souks and modern malls, dry desert landscapes and emerald green golf courses, timeless Bedouin villages and multiple 5 star and higher hotels.
In just one day you can experience all of these and more, including many of Dubai's top ten attractions.
If you're planning a vacation or business visit, or in fact even intending to relocate, you'll want to know as much about Dubai as possible before you go. Traveling to Dubai is just a first step on what could be a journey of a lifetime, and when you step outside of either on the international airports, there's so much to learn, see, and do, that forward planning will pay strong dividends.
On this page I'll be aiming to give you a good grounding in what everyday life is all about in Dubai......
The videos to the right present beautifully filmed representations of life in the city, for further reading about Dubai click on any of the links below:
Revealing The Top Ten & More............
Introducing The Emirate