Set between Europe and Asia, on the southern shores of the Arabian Gulf, Dubai is the jewel in the crown of the United Arab Emirates. The second largest of the seven Emirates, (the others are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujaira, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain), Dubai is an oasis in the sweeping deserts. A city of alluring contrasts, Dubai is a cosmopolitan society with a global lifestyle and a culture rooted in, and secured by, age-old Islamic traditions.
It is this unique personality of the city that draws in visitors, whether for business or for pleasure, from the four corners of the earth by land, sea and air. In fact, the Dubai International Airport, a vital link for business, commerce and tourism, is considered the busiest airport in the Middle East. Its state-of-the-art facilities sees daily departures and arrivals from all over the world.
Tourists and business travelers will find something to provoke their imagination in this busy and cosmopolitan city. The central city itself is designed with ultra-modern offices, hotels and shopping malls all set alongside the Creek. This natural sea-water inlet cuts through the middle of the city. But just around the corner, you might come upon an ancient house or other testament to the rich heritage of this city. Don't think the inhabitants of Dubai are living too lavishly with their dwindling oil supply though. They were smart enough to plan ahead economically to soften the blow, and tourism is one of their main plans for continued revenue for the city. Dubai is able to boast an Arabian experience in a protected, open-minded city. Even the desert itself holds tourist appeal.
Dubai's central business district is divided into two parts: Diera on the north side of the Creek and Bur Dubai to the south. They are connected by a tunnel and two bridges. But no matter which side you find yourself on, a stroll along its banks will remind you of the city's centuries-old trading traditions. And each side has everything you might want, from great hotels and stores to mosques and souks (bustling markets).
Diera is a district filled with banks and office buildings, showcasing Dubai's strong business sense. It can be found northeast of the Creek, and is filled with many merchants selling local goods, such as artwork, jewelry, fruits and vegetables, spices and traditional clothing. There are also fortune tellers, snake oil salesmen and street performers on every corner. You could spend all day wandering through the Diera, so don't be afraid to bargain. You never know what you'll end up going home with.
Southwest of the Creek you'll find the other half of Dubai's business district, Dur Dubai. In Dubai's early years, this district was a large fishing village that generated revenue to feed the entire town. Here you will find many important monuments that testify to Dubai's rich history. The former palace of sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, built in 1896, is a must-see. It has been completely restored, allowing guests to examine the stunning Arab architecture first-hand. The Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort is also an important historical landmark. Learn about the history of Dubai through exhibitions of period pieces ranging from jewelry to pearl diving tools. The Heritage & Diving Village is another great place to discover Dubai's early days. Explore the components of an authentic fishing village and learn how men foraged for pearls and established Dubai's successful pearl industry. For a glimpse of Old Dubai, head to the old Bastakiya district. The narrow streets will remind you of days gone by and the old wind towers are the mark of Dubai. Before electricity, the wind towers brought air into the homes to help cool them. This district is being restored to show tourists the true old Dubai. Just outside the central city to the north is the neighboring emirate of Shariah. And to the west and south are the neighborhoods of Satwa, Jumeirah, and Umm Suqeim.
The Dubai Zoo is the oldest zoo on the Arabian peninsula, containing rare Arabian as well as foreign species of animals. Bengal tigers, Arabian wolves and gorillas are all represented here. It's also the one place you can go where you'll find the most grass. Wild Wadi Waterpark is also located in Jumeirah, and is a great place for families to have fun, relax and cool off. If your interests run to Archeology, there are three main excavations that you can explore: one at Ghusais, another at Al Sufooh and a third one at Jumeirah. The first two are 2000 year old graveyards and the third dates from the 7th to 15th Century and contains artifacts and more. Visitors must obtain a permit from the Dubai Museum.
Dubai offers an incredibly diverse range of food and beverage choices in its restaurants, cafes and bars. Cuisine from all around the world is served, along with excellent service and decor. However, unlike in many other cities, your best bet might be to eat in your hotel because restaurants located outside hotel and club premises are not permitted to serve alcohol. However, the rest of the city does offer small eateries, which uphold Dubai's high standards of international cuisine. In addition to Gulf, Middle Eastern and Arabian cuisine, you'll find tasty Italian, Spanish, Swiss and Chinese food too.
You can try a wide variety of Middle Eastern food at Cafe Arabesque in the Park Hyatt Hotel. Mizaan is located in the Monarch , and has several light and healthy options on its menu, all in the local style. If you like to eat late at night, try Arcadia a cafe that's open 24 hours a day. One on One serves modern local cuisine with live jazz music. Sloane's can be found at the Grosvenor House West Marina Beach by Le Meridien , and has a colorful, seasonal menu. For Mediterranean and Turkish fusion, try Ottomans , also located in the Grosvenor House. Dining at Le Rendezvous is a truly global experience, with items on the menu from all over the world.
Al Saffa in Deira is a great place to start for local food. In addition to the traditional food, diners are separated in groups of bachelors, women and families. For European food, the most prolific types of restaurants are British, no doubt due to the 50 year-old presence of the British in this region. The Atrium Garden Club serves typical English breakfast fare and offers just what the name implies: a beautiful garden and enchanting atmosphere that comes with it.
Other European styles of food are not as abundantly available, but you will be able to satisfy most of your cravings. Seville's , a warm, earthy place where you can get paella while listening to guitarists, is the primary purveyor of Spanish food. For a more active experience, try the Bollywood Cafe , which has a dance floor and music. The Picnic Restaurant brings a unique new twist to traditional Persian cuisine. The Fareast Seafood Market sounds like a grocery store, but it's really a restaurant that serves food from Japan, China and Thailand. It's Mirchi is a pub restaurant that specializes in Indian and Asian cuisine. The owners frequently play the latest Bollywood blockbusters as you eat, and there is sometimes an in-house DJ.
In the Jumeirah area, Al Iwan is known for its various sampler plates. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Boudoir is the place to go to see and be seen while also enjoying elegant French food and atmosphere. After British, Italian is the most popular form of European food in Dubai and some of your options are Bussola , Ciro's Pomodoro and Luciano .