Dubai has worked hard to earn the reputation of having the biggest, richest, and best of everything. For building buffs there's the world's tallest tower, the Burj Dubai, and the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab, the world's first 7-star hotel. For shoppers there's the Dubai Mall, the largest in the world, parked in front of the Dubai Fountain, the biggest dancing waterworks in the world. Inside the Dubai Mall there's the world's largest aquarium viewing panel, with a built-in tunnel for 360 degree views of a shark tank. If you're going to visit this unique place, follow these simple do's and don'ts.
DO: Get over the beach and out to the desert. Dubai's desert sports offerings are world class and unique. Hit the dunes for a day of sandboarding, go on a camel ride, get behind the wheel for some desert off-roading in a 4x4, or enjoy a peaceful night of camping in the sands. The desert weather can actually be a pleasant break from the humidity of the coast, especially at night. So while you're here take a day or two to explore the sands beyond the beach.
DO: Check out "old" Dubai. Put the skyscrapers, shopping malls, and beaches aside for a day to explore old Dubai, the area around Dubai Creek. Just 1 dirham (roughly 30 cents) will buy you a scenic cross-creek ride along Dubai's historical district. This area is rich with traditional architecture, complete with wind towers and houses restored in traditional style. Creekside attractions include the Gold and Spice Souks, the old quarter of Bastakiya, and the Dubai Museum (admission is 3 dirhams – less than $1).
DO: Take in local culture. At first glance one might miss it, but Dubai has some serious culture. At the mouth of Dubai Creek you'll find Heritage Village, with its potters, weavers, and pearl divers. In the industrial Al Quoz district you'll find a trove of trendy art galleries (see especially The Third Line and Ayyam Gallery ). If you have the time, take a short trip up to Sharjah, the next-door Emirate and seat of more than a dozen worthwhile museums.
DO: Sample Dubai's wide and wonderful ethnic mix. Cheesy as it sounds, Dubai is indeed a crossroad of cultures. What that means for your vacation is a lively set of options for food and entertainment. Whether it's salsa at Malecon, the Russian Cabaret at Troyka or Bhangra at Café Bollywood, a sense of adventure and an open mind will get you half way around the world. Some of our favorites on the food side are Thai at the Smiling BKK; Lebanese at Karam Beirut, overlooking Ski Dubai; Pasta at Carluccio's near the Dubai Fountain; Pars Iranian Kitchen in Satwa; and Indego Restaurant for Indian (or Ravi Restaurant for a less elegant, but outstanding Pakistani food at half the price).