Dubai is the gem of the Middle East where tradition intersects with modernism and opulence; and where the city’s energy is palpable. Dubai is extremely diverse with local “Emiratis” making up only a fraction of the population; leaving the city as a veritable melting pot of various cultures and cuisine. Home to idyllic views, indulgent food and colorful souks, Dubai is welcoming to newcomers and makes it seamless to navigate its culture. If heading to Dubai for the first time, consider this your quick guide to the must-visit places in this unforgettable city.
A Visit to the World’s Tallest Building, the Burj Khalifa
Hailed as the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa stands tall at 828m (about seven times the height of Big Ben, according to Lonely Planet). Heading to the 124th and 125th floor observation decks is a coveted experience that offers unparalleled views of Dubai and the surrounding areas.
Wandering the Many Souks of Dubai
Fragrant, colorful, eclectic and exotic are just a few of the words that come to mind when imagining Dubai’s many souks. “Souk” is an Arabic word that roughly translates to “market,” where visitors and locals alike can peruse stalls of goods and spices, perfumes and textiles. While Dubai has a variety of souks selling anything from fruits to ornaments, most notable is the opulent “Gold Souk” where winding streets and cluttered stands sell ornaments made of 22 and 24 carat gold. Shopping at the souks is an adventure in itself, as visitors will need to haggle over price (as customary) and take their time (it’s recommended at least 2-3 hours) to fully appreciate and explore Dubai’s numerous markets.
A Trip to the Desert & a Desert Camp
When you picture Dubai, immediately images of soft sand, silly-looking camels and vast sunsets over the desert come to mind. Offering unparalleled sunsets that cast a glow over the warm sand, visiting the desert in Dubai is a must-have experience for any traveler. Many tour operators offer trips to the desert–either by camel or 4×4 vehicles–that will sweep guests away to the dunes to spend time at a desert camp. Imagine henna designers, belly dancers, camels, large desert vistas, a barbecue of traditional Arabian fare and sweets and you’ll get an idea of why visiting the desert in Dubai is unforgettable.
Indulging in Dubai’s Global Food Scene
Dubai is said to be the culinary capital of the Middle East whose fare is a melting pot of various cultures and their flavors. From delectable French meals to street curry, Dubai offers a food scene that meets every traveler’s palate and budget. The La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie is a brilliant example of worldly fare living alongside this Middle Eastern cosmopolitan city. Nestled in downtown Dubai, La Serre is a Parisian-style cafe with a grandiose staircase leading upstairs to a bistro featuring a marble cocktail bar. La Serre serves up French fare–from beef tartar to apple tart tatin–effortlessly blending the classic tastes of Paris with the exotic surroundings of Dubai.
A Visit (or Stay) at the Burj Al Arab
The Burj al Arab has become the symbol of Dubai with its iconic sail shape that is set on a triangular man-made island right on the shore. Considered one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, the Burj al Arab includes an underwater restaurant that is reached by a simulated submarine trip, warm hospitality and (in case you weren’t already aware of its glamour) a fleet of Rolls Royces.
It’s your turn! What are your favorite places to visit in Dubai? Share your comments, questions and stories below!
*This post was contributed to The Pin the Map Project by La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie.