Dubai is a region in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a group of states on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula’s east coast. This cosmopolitan, Islamic destination has become a popular vacation spot for Westerners. The emirate welcomes tourists with open arms, sharing both historical landmarks and an abundance of shopping opportunities.
Eat, Shop and Explore
For those who love history and culture, Dubai features numerous key destinations. Their Burj Khalifa tower stands as the tallest building in the world at 160 stories. The magnificent Jumeirah Mosque is the only Dubai mosque that allows non-Muslims to visit (though all women must wear a scarf). Take a boat ride to the beautiful Palm islands, which are being made using land-reclamation. The region also features experiences for the more adventurous tourist. You could enjoy the world’s largest indoor theme park, go on a safari excursion and even watch some camel racing.
Hungry tourists will find every type of dining, from fast food to gourmet restaurants. Expect to find international cuisines alongside local ones such as Gulf, Middle Eastern and Arabian. Make sure to try Dubai’s famous shaved meat sandwich called “Shawarma.”
As for shopping, Dubai is a mega center for bargains and indulgent buys. Americans can consider currency another bonus since $0.27 equals 1 UAE dirham. (However the emirate is home to some super-rich locals, so you might be envious of the sports cars zooming by.) Hit up both The Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates for literally hundreds of shops. Vending machines will be tempting too. You can actually buy a gold bar from a machine that updates prices according to the market.
Tips for Travelers
As with any trip to another country, research Dubai’s local laws and customs. You’re not likely to meet a native Emirati since they avoid touristy areas and are largely outnumbered by expats. Visit the Seikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding to learn more about Dubai’s lifestyle. The Islamic state is progressive but single women traveling alone are still rare. If you are a woman vacationing by yourself, it’s recommended that you dress conservatively and stay at one of the four or five-star hotels. On the other hand, you’ll receive first priority when using a bank or post office.
Local traditions include a 10% service charge in restaurants on top of a 10% municipality tax, though watch to see if these costs are “net” – or included – in the bill. When paying a taxi driver you should round up to the nearest dirham. The majority of upscale hotels have Internet access and mobile phone service options are available.