Dubai

Destination Guide  : Middle East : Dubai

About Biman Dubai is ostentatious confidence and it shows little sign of redeveloping any modesty. Otherworldly architecture, shopping, beaches and nightlife are the headliners here and cater to a multinational population. Dubai is the UAE's major transit hub – even though Abu Dhabi is the capital. Regardless of where you've flown from for your Dubai holiday, just stepping outside the airport into a serious wave of heat is enough to reorient the senses pretty quickly. The record high is 48 degrees Celsius but there are generally 2 seasons in this desert city: hot and hotter.

Top Attractions

You can see the world's tallest building – Burj Khalifa – from anywhere in the city but the real fun is taking the super-fast lift to the viewing platform on its 124th level. It reveals an unprecedented vista of Dubai and the lift entrance is in Dubai Mall. The much-photographed landmark, Jumeirah Mosque is the only one non-Muslims can enter. Of course skiing is on your mind in the desert, right? Try the 5 runs at the massive indoor Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates. With all the glistening modernity here, it's easy to forget there's an old town. Explore the Bastakiya district to see distinctive Arabian archways and original homes. And don't forget the Deira Gold Souk.

Where to Eat and Drink

The multinational population of Dubai bodes well for variety on the palate and the plate. Here you'll find any cuisine you wish from Afghani to Vietnamese. Dining venues also come in multiple flavours, from rooftops to terraces and by the beach. Grab a business brunch or formal lunch. Take your cocktails with tunes or on tour amid the dunes. Noteworthy restaurants in 2012 included: Gaucho, the glam Argentinean steakhouse; 1762, with its globally-inspired menu; and Hakkasan, for choice Chinese. If you want your drinks by the beach go to Wavebreaker at the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah; White X Lounge or Bliss Lounge.

Where to Stay

Wonder how the 'other half' live? You could rub shoulders with them by booking a room at the Burj al-Arab hotel – the self-proclaimed 7-star property that's the epitome of all-suite luxury. If your budget is a rung lower you will be well-housed at hotels in Dubai such as the Hyatt, Hilton, InterContinental, Radisson Blu or Raffles; and more of their ilk. Don't despair if your budget is 'budget' – such properties do exist – but note the high season across all accommodation types is September to May so it's worth booking in advance if you anticipate visiting Dubai during these times.

Shopping

This is a shopper's paradise. Almost a destination itself, the Dubai Mall's 1,200 shops can't be covered in 1 day if you have a serious consumerist appetite to sate. But it's not just in the air-conditioned modern mall you'll find a bargain; haggling over textiles, gold and spices in the old souks is all part of the allure. Even if you don't haggle, the maze-like souks are an experience in themselves. Shopping is such a focus in Dubai the city holds an annual shopping festival (usually mid-January to end of February) with special events to keep visitors entertained.

Dubai like a Local

The weekend in Dubai is Friday and Saturday and brunching is a favourite pastime here. Many eateries offer Friday feast deals and are worth looking out for if you're in town at the end of the week. Locals tend to hop in and out of taxis and the metro, instead of driving themselves – navigating the roads, other drivers and the signage takes a special sort of skill!