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CityTips Guide to Dubai

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Dubai is the exotic jewel of the United Arab Emirates. Bordered by deserts and beaches, Dubai provides stark contrasts, offering the intriguing Islamic culture of Arabia, side-by-side with the ultra-modern, high-tech metropolis of the 21st century.

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Local Overview

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.

Dubai Creek

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.

Bur Dubai

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.

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