Time difference: GMT +3 hours
Currency: United Arab Emirates Dirham
Flight time: 7 hours
Dubai is often thought of as the capital but it’s actually the UAE’s second city – the fishing village done good. The bright lights and big cities of the UAE are underpinned by a long and fascinating history of trade, and Dubai itself started out as a prosperous fishing town, gaining its fortune from fishing and pearling: hard to believe now, but you’ll still find the traditional dhow boats plying the waters of the Dubai Creek.
Everything about the continually developing city has to be the biggest and the boldest, from the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, to the first snow park in the desert. From a distance the city glitters, the dazzling in the almost ever-present sunlight that reflects from the soaring skyscrapers that hem the city from the desert and the sea. The city has erupted from its desert foundations in recent years, and every few weeks there seems to be another supertall tower being topped out, or a luxury resort opening its doors to guests. Megamalls sit alongside centuries-old souks, Bedouin tribes inhabit the desert dunes mere miles from the most modern of luxurious towers and traditional camel racing exists alongside the planet’s richest race track. In this city of juxtaposition, anything goes.
While trade was once played out in bustling souks, big business has now transferred to the glittering skyscrapers that pierce the skylines and attract workers from all over the world. This means a huge melting pot of different cultures that make up Dubai’s diverse population, and in turn a wide variety of international cuisine to sample – the Middle East is famous for its sumptuous Friday buffets, which last all day and include dishes from around the world. Whether you want to flop on a beach, navigate the desert dunes in a four-wheel drive or enjoy a taste of Bedouin culture in the city’s traditional quarters, Dubai holds a treasure trove of places to discover, including a souk dedicated to gold.