One of the world's most dynamic economies with strong international trade links, Dubai transformed itself into the region's leading travel destination. In record time, the sleepy settlements in the desert gave way to skyscrapers, trendy shopping centers, state-of-the-art theme parks, championship golf courses, cultural centers, first-rate educational institutions and even artificial islands.
Dubai caters for every tourism niche including business, cultural, adventure tourism and the growing meetings, incentive travel, conferences, exhibitions and events market.
Dubai has a sub-tropical, arid climate and blue skies can be expected most of the year. Rain is infrequent, falling mainly in winter.
The monetary unit is the dirham (Dhs /AED), which is divided into 100 fils. The dirham is linked to the Special Drawing Right of the International Monetary Fund and has been held constant against the US dollar since the end of 1980 at a mid-rate of approximately US$1 = Dhs3.67.
The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and understood, with both languages being commonly used in business and commerce.
Taxis are the most common way of getting around Dubai. Thera are more than 7,000 cabs operating in the emirate, all of which are regulated by the Government. There is a minimum fare of Dhs10 for passengers travelling within Dubai. The starting fare from the airport to any destination in the emirate is Dhs20.
Dubai Taxi corporation provides an around the clock direct booking service for taxis on the phone number +971 4 208 0808.
Ladies taxi or cab driven by women drivers are easily recognized by their pink-colored roof, seats and interiors.
Self-drive cars are available from a range of local and internationally renowned car rental companies. Customers must produce their passport together with a valid international driving license. Visitors without an international driving license may obtain a temporary local license as long as they hold a valid national license.
To increase Dubai's bus usage, the RTA has equipped its modern bus fleets including its double decker buses with new technologies to ensure passenger comfort. The emirate's bus fleets are equipped with a modern air-conditioning system. An electronic destination and route display system has also been installed in the buses. Special seats have also been allotted for women, children and elderly passengers.
Airport shuttle buses run between terminals and the city bus service also stops outside each terminal. Dubai International Airport Buses are custom-built and air-conditioned with ample baggage hold.
The first phase of the Dubai Metro was inaugurated on 9 September 2009 with the launch of the 52km Red Line, which runs along Sheikh Zayed Road. The second phase of the project involves the 23.9km Green Line, which will be inaugurated in 2010.
An interesting way to travel between Dubai and Deira, for a nominal sum, is by abra across the Creek or by water bus. For just Dhs25, visitors can enjoy a 45-minute trip along Dubai Creek. The journey begins at Al Shindagha Station, by the Heritage Village and concludes at Al Seef station, opposite the British Embassy.
One of the largest and most exciting waterparks in the world, Aqua venture is overflowing with 42 fun-filled acres featuring Master Blasters, speed slides, rivers, rapids, Splashers, children's play area, lush tropical landscapes and a private beach.
Providing outstanding family entertainment in Dubai, the Dubai dolphinarium is famous for its Dolphins and Seals Live Show and its Swim with Dolphins activity.
Covered with snow all year round. Ski Dubai is a vast indoor entertainment Centre where fun-seekers can go skiing and tobogganing to their hearts' content. Seasoned skiers may test their skills on the world's first indoor black run while beginners may practice their turns on Ski Dubai's gentle slopes.
One of the most popular water parks in the Middle East, Wild Wadi is themed around the tale of Juha, a popular character from Arabian folklore. Wild Wadi offers 30 rides and attractions including Wipeout and Riptide Flow-riders, which offer the ultimate surfing experience.
Housed within the beautifully restored Al Fahidi Fort, which was built around 1787 to defend the city against invasion, the museum's diverse collection of exhibits offers a fascinating insight into the rich history and cultural heritage of Dubai. Renovated in 1971 for use as museums, its life-sized dioramas vividly depict everyday life in the days before the discovery of oil.
For a true taste of Dubai, visitors should explore the emirate's traditional markets known as souks. Here, shops are stocked with consumer electronics, fabrics and authentic regional crafts. Travelers can find authentic souvenirs in Dubai's souks including dallah or traditional Arabic coffee pots, framed khanjars or traditional daggers, prayer beads, soapstone figures, trinket boxes, marble goblets, antique silver jewellery, brass items, Omani silver, Persian carpets, cotton dhurries or double faced woven rugs, oil-based fragrances, coffee table books on Dubai, bed spreads and sequined slippers.
Al Ghurair City
This mall has combined the culture and tradition of the city of Dubai with a modern shopping experience. Located on Al Rigga Road in the heart of Deira, the mall is a short taxi ride from historical attractions in the area such as the Dubai Museum and the Gold Souk.
This mall offers more than 300,000sqft of retail space. It has 340 luxury brands including Shanghai Tang, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Escada, Hugo Boss, Celine and DKNY as well as popular high street brands.
Deira City Centre
One of the first shopping Centre to open in Dubai, Deira City Centre has over 1.2 million square feet of retail space, with over 300 shops and 6,000 parking spaces. Deira City Centre can easily be accessed via Dubai Metro's Red Line.
More than a shopping Centre, the sleek and opulent Dubai Mall is a place worth exploring. It is also the upscale mall to beat in terms of location. It counts the Burj Khalifa among its neighbors, the world's tallest building.
Dubai Outlet Mall
Permanently on sale, Dubai Outlet Mall offers more than 800 of the world's premium and top fashion brands. Most of the products sold in the mall's 240 stores carry price tags that are 30 to 90 percent off regular prices.
Launched in 2007, the Festival Centre at Dubai Festival City is a retail hub featuring more than 600 shops including 25 international flagship stores, more than 100 restaurants, cafes and bistros, a 12-screen Grand Festival Cinemas complex and parking for 13,000 cars.
Mall of the Emirates
Mall of the Emirates is a 223,000sqm Centre that offers a full range of shopping, leisure and entertainment facilities. It also boasts a Magic Planet leisure facility, a 14-screen cinema; Ski Dubai; the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre; and close to a hundred coffee shops and restaurants.