Jumeirah is one of the wealthiest and most exclusive districts of the city. This cosmopolitan corner is where most expats live and play. Foreign nationals who have come to Dubai for vacation prefer to book their accommodation in the hotels lining the beachfront.
Here in Jumeirah, you will find Wild Wadi, a large waterpark that features several slides of different heights. It also has a wave pool capable of generating waves as big as those found in some of the world’s best surf sites.
There is also Burj Al Arab, which prides itself on being the only seven-star hotel in the world. Constructed on a man-made island off the coast, the hotel was inspired by the sails attached to the mast of the dhow
For those who would like to learn more about the culture and religion of the Emirati, you could visit the Jumeirah Mosque, the only mosque in the city that opens its doors to non-Muslims. Constructed with the Fatimid Tradition in mind, the mosque is home to the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, which arranges tours and promotes learning and understanding of Islam to non-Muslims.
To join the tour, you must be at the mosque’s entrance at around 9:45 in the morning. The tour lasts a little more than an hour.
Although the Jumeirah Mosque is open to the public, guests are advised to dress modestly. If necessary, guests may borrow traditional attire for covering up while inside the mosque.
One of the most popular sights in downtown Dubai is the Dubai fountain, a record-setting dancing fountain that is set in the man-made Burj Khalifa Lake. This fountain system extends 275 meter (902 feet) and features 6,600 lights. It shoots water 150 meters (490 feet) up into the air and “dances” to the rhythm of both classical and contemporary Arab music.
The Dubai Fountain is found right outside the Dubai Mall, one of the largest malls in Dubai. Performances run from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday. From Thursday to Saturday, there is a one-hour extension, with the 6 p.m. performance extending up to 11 p.m.
The enclave of Hatta is far removed from the crazy life in downtown Dubai. This quiet town at the foot of the Hajjar Mountains offers few glittery attractions to visitors, but the tranquil vistas, mild climate, and picture-perfect scenery are enough reasons for tourists to come here.
Hatta was once a popular stopover for merchants who plied their trade in Muscat, Oman. These centuries of tradition dictate that the road going to Hatta stays open to visitors.
The roadside market of Mezereh along the Omani border sells cheap carpets, pots, and incense holders. A heritage village preserved at the capital town has a mosque, dozens of 18th century houses made of ancient materials, and military guard towers that once protected the town from desert bandits.
Al Bastakiya is one of the two remaining old districts of Dubai. Constructed in 1890 to house Arabs returning from Iran, the residential area was home to rich families before it was abandoned upon the discovery of oil in Dubai. The families living in Al Bastakiya simply moved to the wealthier areas of the city.
The old district has been renovated and is now inhabited by new immigrants. Situated along Dubai Creek, it features narrow streets, hollow wind towers, and eclectic art galleries and cafes.
Here, too, you can find Al Fahidi Fort, the home of the Dubai Museum. Located at the outskirts of the district, the fort is said to be the oldest building in Dubai.
Within the fort’s walls, artifacts from Dubai’s past are carefully preserved. Boats, weapons such as swords and cannons, and musical instruments form part of the collection. There is also a model city of Dubai in the 1800s, to give visitors an idea of how much Dubai has changed.
Long before the massive shopping malls reigned over the commercial life of Dubai, merchants off-loaded and carted their goods at the souqs. A visit to the Spice Souq and Gold Souq at the mouth of Dubai Creek will give you a glimpse of how trade was done in the olden days.
Feel free to haggle like the locals do and reward yourself with a 22K gold necklace at a bargain price. Spices may be available at the supermarket, but the fragrant odors of freshly picked cinnamon and nutmeg wafting in the air as you walk along narrow alleys will tempt you nonetheless as you explore these markets
The market opposite the Satwa Mosque is known for its rows of textile shops. Raw silk and pashmina are sometimes offered at discount prices; you can always practice your haggling skills until the shop owner agrees to your price.
Tailors also ply their trade within this souq. The story of buying your fabric and wearing it a few hours later will be a good one to tell your friends after your excursion.
Mall of the Emirates
With a retail space of around 220,000 square meters (2.4 million square feet), the Mall of the Emirates is one of the largest malls in the Middle East. It has 520 international stores – including the largest Carrefour hypermarket in all of Dubai – plus 14 multiplex cinemas, a 500-seater community theater, and three hotels to accommodate visitors.
While many of these amenities are also available in other Dubai malls, what really makes the Mall of the Emirates a unique tourist destination is Ski Dubai, the largest indoor ski resort in the world.
Ski Dubai features the Ice Park where real (albeit man-made) snow falls. Children and adults can build snowmen, explore icy caverns, and ride on a bobsled all year round.
Overlooking the park are man-made slopes of different heights and gradients, with five runs, the longest of which extends up to 400 meters. The summit is 85 meters above the ground.
Ski Dubai is perfect for skiers and snowboarders eager to try their skills in this man-made mountain resort.
Palm Jumeirah Islands
The Palm Jumeirah is an engineering marvel. Out of the sea, the rocks and sand were used to create an island that resembles a palm tree with 16 fronds.
Today, the Palm Jumeirah is the largest artificial island in the world. The island is not only seen as a Dubai icon but also a real estate venture of grand proportions. Although the private homes in the island are off-limits to tourists – unless, of course, you are invited by a homeowner – you can always book at one of the hotels in the island and experience stepping foot on one of the greatest man-made wonders of the modern age.
Burj Al Khalifa
A desert gem of a city such as Dubai requires a fitting landmark. Neither a seven-star hotel inspired by a sailboat nor the biggest artificial island patterned from a palm tree will suffice. No, it has to be the most attention-catching monolith imaginable.
To fulfill this requirement, Dubai created Burj Khalifa. Completed in 2010, it is now the tallest man-made structure in the world.
Standing at 2,717 feet, Burj Khalifa has 163 floors used for homes and offices. It also features a state-of-the-art Las Vegas-inspired fountain that shoots jets of water to the sound of music.
One of the main attractions of Burj Khalifa is its observation deck. Located on the skyscraper’s 124th floor, the deck is currently to be the highest in the world. It is often jampacked with tourists, so advanced online reservations must be made for a timed, panoramic view of the city.
Deira is the old city center of Dubai. Largely ignored after the building boom near the coast, attractions in Deira are few and far between.
Nonetheless, it is here where you will find the Al Ahmadiya School. Built in 1912, it is the first school in Dubai and is considered a cultural site. Al Ahmadiya School doesn’t accept students anymore, but it displays a rich exhibit of reed pens, diplomas, and images from Dubai’s not-so-distant-but-oh-so-different past.
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