24 Hours in Dubai

Sometimes you find yourself traveling to a new place but in the unfortunate position of having very little time to explore the new destination. Recently, on a trip Dubai we found ourselves in just that situation. Of course, being there at all is a treat so we won't go on about how short our visit was and we certainly made the most of our time while we were there.

They say that everything is possible in Dubai and by the look of it we'd say that's true. From the world's tallest gleaming buildings to an indoor ski resort, only your lack of imagination will limit you in Dubai.

First off, the time of year you're visiting Dubai is important.  We were there during the summer - and in a word, it's hot. Very hot, and very humid. The good news is that there's plenty to do inside and plenty of taxis willing to take you whereever you'd like to go. If you're there any other time the comfort level will be much better for outdoor activities.

The fastest way to get a good taste of the city is to hire a car or taxi to drive you to all the hot spots. This article will not be a comprehensive list of highlights but rather some suggestions to make your short time in Dubai memorable.

The first thing we noticed about Dubai when we arrived was the spectacular architecture. On your car tour be sure to check out the most famous gleaming skyscrapers, including the world's tallest - Burj Khalifa. 


 Burj Khalifa                                                                       Sleek & Modern Dubai

Another architectural gem is the Burj Al Arab, not only the "symbol" of Dubai as it is seen on every website, postcard, anything that even mentions Dubai, but it is also touted as the world's only 7 star hotel.  Fortunate guests are picked up at the Dubai Airport in a Rolls-Royce and taken directly to the hotel, which is situated on its own island. Those not fortunate enough to lodge at the Burj Al Arab can still visit, but only by making a reservation for tea, cocktails, lunch or dinner. Also be aware that prices for any of these visits are not inexpensive, but do promise a great view and a visit to one of the premier hotels in the world.


                      Burj Al Arab                                            Jemeirah Beach Hotel

While near the Burj Al Arab, you should stop by the Jumeirah Beach, a great spot for taking pictures of both the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Also nearby is the Madinat Jumeirah, a huge entertainment complex including several hotels, many restaurants, bars, Venice-like waterways and, of course, shopping.

Canals of Madinat Jumeirah


Jumeirah Marketplace replicates old Dubai

Another nearby location is Atlantis. This beach front resort is located on The Palms, a palm-shaped island, one of the largest man-made developments that is visible from outer space. Along with Atlantis, The Palms is home to thousands of villas and luxury aparments. Atlantis is a resort that boasts many family activities such as swimming with the dolphins, waterpark, aquariums and diving. There is also ample shopping, and several first-class restaurants lie within the large upscale complex.

Another ambitious Dubai development is The World, an artificial archipelago constructed to resemble the shape of the world. Owners purchase one of the islands that form "the world."  Rumors abound about which celebrities have purchased or plan to purchase these islands. None have been confirmed.




Atlantis Aquarium                                               Atlantis Lobby

Shopping borders on the ridiculous in Dubai.  Since the weather often makes it ideal to stay indoors, the Dubai malls make those indoor adventures much different from your average mall. No trip to Dubai is complete without visiting at least one of these vast shopping malls. The Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates are both fine examples and worth stopping in. But be warned, if you're a shopper you may want to save these till the last or you may not feel like leaving or seeing anything else in Dubai!

If you are looking for activities and the beaches are not your scene, you may want to check out Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates. Billed as the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, Ski Dubai has 5 different runs with varying degrees of difficulty and length. A day at the slopes includes gear and clothing in the ticket price. For an additional cost you can also get ski instruction from their professional staff. It's quite amusing to see the skiers and kids having snowball fights from the the comfort of a cozy chair inside the mall sipping your favorite beverage. If you don't go to ski you should at least enjoy a drink, snack or meal in one of the many restaurants or ski chalets that surround the enclosed ski structure.

                                                       Ski Dubai                                                                   Winter gear in Dubai?


Great way to watch the skiing                                           Mall of the Emirates


Fun for kids                                                                 And toys for adults, too


The mall also has 450 stores, including high-end favorites like Roberto Cavalli, Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs. More middle-of-the-road offerings like H&M and Zara can be found as well. Magic Planet is the largest indoor amusement park in the region and includes bowling, pool, bumper cars, rides, and many amusement machines and games.  The mall also includes an extremely expansive supermarket which, for foodies and food-loving shoppers, is well worth a quick look.

Dubai Mall

If you're still in the mood for shopping you can also check out the Dubai Mall. Over 1,200 stores (yes, 1200!) and many attractions make this a popular tourist destination. Indoor ice-skating, world class aquarium, SEGA indoor theme park and beautiful outdoor lighted fountain display are just a few of the activities and attractions available at the vast Dubai Mall.

Another great mall stop is the IBN Battuta Mall. Inspired by a scholar and world traveler the mall is divided into six regions - Andalusia, Tunisia, Egypt, Persia, India and China. Each region is reflected by architecture and theme. The unique multicultural atmosphere makes this an unusual yet inviting experience. IBN is also located right on the waterway, which makes for a pleasant evening stroll.

If you desire a more authentic Middle Eastern shopping experience you will want to visit Old Dubai's market district and the Dubai Souqs. "Souqs" or shops are located in Old Dubai. Some of the most popular are the Gold, Spice, Perfume, and Carpet Souqs. The markets are lively and busy. Be prepared to bargain with shop owners; it is not uncommon or insulting to start negotiating at 50% off the first asked price. Have fun and negotiate, but only if you mean to buy something.  Also be aware that many vendors on side streets and alleys will approach tourists with offers to buy counterfeit bags and watches. Buyer beware - this practice is illegal in Dubai (and elsewhere), so don't be enticed.


Entrance to Gold Souq                                    Dubai is known as "the city of gold"

From the Souqs, take an "abra" or small river boat across the Dubai creek to the Dubai Museum and the Bastakiya. The Dubai Museum offers a quick history of Dubai and its Bedouin "inhabitants of the desert" traditions. Long steeped in a strong honor code and famous hospitality, the Bedouin culture is rich, unique and interesting.


Dubai Museum                            Replica of a fishing boat in front of the Dubai Museum

After the museum move on to the Bastakiya district a few blocks away. The buildings in the area have been restored to their original state and provide a sharp architectural contrast to modern Dubai.  The district is home to many art galleries, museums and lively cafes.


Entrance to Khan Murjan                                       Lots of shopping

A terrific way to get a great sampling of Middle Eastern food in a relaxed and beautiful setting is to visit the Khan Murjan at the WAFI Shopping Mall, home of the Raffles Dubai Hotel. The elaborate setting, including Egyptian sculptures and fountains, features a marketplace with over 150 stores with items from across the Arab world. After enjoying the shops, visit the restaurant, which features an open-air marble courtyard that of course is air-conditioned and extremely comfortable. Live Arabic music is provided every evening. The patrons relax with their hookahs, fresh juices and exquisitely prepared traditional food selections from Lebonan, Morroco, Turkey, Syria, Egyptian as well as local cuisine. The food is delicious and there are choices to please every palate.


Wonderful Arabic food                                            Lots of tasty vegaritarian choices                                    


The music really sets the mood                                    Dramatic sculptures outside

One other actvity that you may want to consider during your visit to Dubai is a desert safari that will take about 6 hours. The tour takes you into the desert for a rather raucous, lively ride and falconry displays. The ride stops for a Middle Eastern buffet at which you are also entertained by belly-dancers. Please do keep in mind that this is an outdoor activity so if it is very warm day, stay hydrated or consider going in the evening to prevent putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation.  

Yes, Dubai is truly the city where anything you dream can happen, even if you're only there for 24 hours. The question is how will you choose to explore all the possibilities?