Dubai, where skyscrapers and ultra-affluent luxury developments rise improbably from the desert of the United Arab Emirates, may not be the most historically significant Middle Eastern destination, but this global city is certainly a contemporary classic.
In the well-documented building boom of the past 20 years, Dubai has sprouted some of the most interesting architecture anywhere, and this is definitely a place to pursue comfort and luxury, with a dose of Arabic culture.
Originally a beneficiary of the oil industry, the Dubai economy now relies primarily on real estate, banking and tourism, with plenty of impressive facilities, even following the recent world financial crisis. You’ll want to see the Burj Khalifa, and you can get there via taxi (cheap) or metro (even cheaper).
In fact, I paid 24 dirhams (the currency of the United Arab Emirates) for a 30-minute transfer from my hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Financial Centre (downtown), to Port Rashid, where my ship departed. The cruise terminal, by the way, features currency exchange and complimentary internet access. Note that taxi rates departing the port are considerably higher, because of fees that drivers must pay to access the port.
The metro is clean, safe and easy to use, with announcements and signage in English. At the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, be sure to see the world’s largest “dancing” fountain at the Dubai Fountain light, music and water show, which you can preview in the short video on this page.
Shows are at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily and thereafter every 30 minutes from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. For more information, visit the Dubai Fountain website.
If you decide to go shopping, look out for the perfumes and incenses, which tend to be stronger in the Middle East than what Western women typically wear.
Also be sure to visit the Gold Suq, where a large collection of gold merchants and craftsmen ply their wares. The craftsmen are known for altering the composition of the mineral to create gold pieces that are green, pink and even white.
And Dubai is ripe with wonderful restaurants where you can get your fill of Lebanese specialties and perhaps enjoy the gyrations of a belly dancer. If you find yourself in town on a Thursday, do make a reservation at Al-Qasr for a big night of feasting.
Be sure to see Avid Cruiser Voyages: Dubai and the United Arab Emirates