United Arab Emirates
Dubai is a city that draws millions upon millions of visitors each year, and it's no wonder why. The city, once a tiny, slightly desolate port of call for traders in the region, today is one of the world's most important global cities. The place dazzles like a glittering diamond in the desert, radiating charm, beauty and mystery in a rainbow of colours, all greeting you from the moment you step off the plane. Imagine turquoise blue waters with palm trees swaying softly in the breeze on a hot day. Picture warm nights spent on the edge of the Arabian Desert, admiring the endless splendour this destination has to offer, something to suit every visitor's taste. While planning my trip I was told by many that a visit here would not disappoint; they couldn't have been more spot on. This city is nothing short of breathtaking.
A nice relaxing way to see some of the city is to hop on any one of the many tours that are offered throughout town. While many rushed tours of cities around the world leave visitors with the feeling of having seen 'just another city', the tours in Dubai are different. This place is amazing, with surprises hidden everywhere, like those lying in a trinket box just waiting to be discovered. One of the first jewels to help you ease into this city of amazements is the not-to-be-missed tour offered up by the Madinat Jumeirah. Here you can take a ride on a little riverboat, drinking in the sites as you meander along the tranquil green glassy waterways of the resort, with each turn bringing out delights and ‘ooh’s and aah’s’ as the opulent architecture marvels on and on. To say that the whole panorama is breathtaking is to put it blandly, indeed.
The fringed beaches await - the final latticework on the cake so to speak - as one nears the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, which resembles a giant wave in uncanny imagery from a distance. The turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf provide yet another glimpse into the exotic and simply incredible beauty of this paradise, glittering in all its adornments on the coast of the Emirate regions. Lazily cruising the waterways of the canals, listening to the tour guides and taking endless photos is an amazing to while away a relaxing day.
Dubai is the ultimate destination in terms of shopping. It seems there is nothing on this planet that you cannot buy in this consumer-centric city. Those looking to lay down a few dirhams on any number of international products can head to Dubai Mall, one of the world's largest, and enjoy the amazing amenities inside, which include an ice skating rink and an aquarium you can walk through. The joy and amazement of watching fish every colour of the rainbow - not to mention a few sharks! - swimming up, seemingly, to meet us at the glass kept us enthralled and wanting more, which was certainly delivered. Watching the live divers feeding the sharks, unafraid, was truly a site to behold. Although we went to the mall to look at all the chic array of glitzy shops and boutiques from London, Paris and Milan, we found ourselves drawn almost magnetically back to the aquarium.
The mall truly is an amazing place to shop and people watch, but those looking to purchase more traditional or unique items will want to head to a souk, or local market. The souks offer a cool respite against the glaring midday heat, especially lovely in the summer when temperatures soar well into the fifties.
We visited a souk that was a myriad of interweaving walkways and passageways built in a stone coloured style with cool flooring. Inside there were many little shops and boutiques offering souvenirs and artisan crafts for shoppers of every taste and budget. I particularly enjoyed the store that offered up the finest Persian carpets, beautifully woven to be the very best aesthetically but on a smaller scale. We were enthralled, too, to watch a different kind of art: bottled sand in a range of rainbow colours were being created for us, much to the entertainment of amazed onlookers. The artist filled a small bottle of our choosing with layers of sand, which was beautiful in its own right, but took it even further by creating three camels using different colour sand to round out his 'desert scent in a bottle'. What a brilliant talent that would provide us with an amazing conversation piece and a poetic reminder of the beauty and mystery of Arabia, today and yesterday.
A cultural must for any visitor is to visit anywhere offering up live Arabian music, which will provide yet another example of cultural ties to the old amidst the new. We witnessed such a performance and the memory of the music's rhythm coupled with the traditional dance - made all the more amazing with the use of a complicated display of sticks and tricks - will stay in our memories forever. I felt honoured to be standing there and enjoying the traditions they kept alive with pride and style.
A piece on a trip to Dubai simply must include a note, however brief, on the Burj Khalifa, the very impressive if slightly intimidating tallest manmade structure in the world. Standing incredulously at nearly 830 m, the building can be seen from just about anywhere in the city and is an amazing sight to see both flying and out of the country. From top to bottom, this magnificent creation offers visitors splendours not on offer anywhere else. From musical fountains of water and coloured lights that delight and dazzle spectators, sometimes for hours on end, to the view from the top, which some say on a clear day includes a touch of Iran almost 100 km away, the Burj Khalifa leaves very little to be desired.
Back at our cool accommodation where air conditioning welcomed us into the quiet building we enjoyed talking about this city that remains one of the highlights in our world travels. There is plenty to see and do in this incredible destination, no matter what a visitor's lifestyle and taste. In addition to everything we got to enjoy on our whirlwind tour, this phenomenal destination includes water-based fun such as the Wild Wadi and Atlantis theme parks, not to mention the vast stretches of white, sandy beaches. Restaurants, too, abound and run the gastronomical gamut, again offering everything from cheap not-so-local-Indian fare to five star posh cuisines.
Dubai signals a world of beauty and tradition, and is a city that offers more than one can ever dream of. It's really worth a visit even if only for a weekend, though such a small taste - or even a bigger one - would serve to tease and leave most wanting for more. Returning again and again will not only allow visitors to bear witness to the ever-changing cityscape of this 'diamond in the desert', but it will also offer up the opportunity to find something new you missed the time before, as surely you will.
About the Author Rosemary Ferraro grew up in the Karoo, in the South African countryside, and has lived in a number of places since, including New Zealand, South Korea and the UK. An English teacher by trade, she is a writer and traveller at heart and plans to enjoy this beautiful planet for years to come.
About the Author
Rosemary Ferraro grew up in the Karoo, in the South African countryside, and has lived in a number of places since, including New Zealand, South Korea and the UK. An English teacher by trade, she is a writer and traveller at heart and plans to enjoy this beautiful planet for years to come.