Travel is my driving force in life, and although I have had the privilege of visiting 30 countries so far, my heart will always remain in India...
Dubai, the second largest of the seven emirates, is ruled by the Al Maktoum family. It includes a small enclave called Hatta, situated close to Oman, amongst the Hajar Mountains. Dubai, the most famous of the seven emirates, is located along the creek, a natural harbour, which traditionally provided the basis of the trading industry. Pearling and fishing were the main sources of income for the people of Dubai. Under the leadership of its rulers, Dubai's focus on trade and industry transformed it into the leading trading port along the southern Gulf.
Dubai used to be a thriving centre for the tourism industry, with hundreds of hotels built in less than 10 years. During the 2008/9 financial crisis, however, the emirate suffered greatly with over half of its construction sites on standby. Today, building has started up again, but Dubai's economy is very far from what it used to be. It is still an impressive trip to make despite the abandoned building sites, as its superlatives are still second to none. Dubai still has the tallest building in the world, the elegant Burj Khalifa, erected in 2010, the tallest hotel in the world, the Rayhaan Rose by Rotana on the Sheikh Zayed Road in Bur Dubai, the largest choreographed fountains in the world in the Burj Khalifa complex, the world's largest shopping centre, the Dubai Mall, the only 7 star hotel in the world, the Burj al Arab and the list goes on!
The most impressive aspect of the city is however, its baffling mix of nationalities. Over 90% of Dubai citizens are expatriates. This is reflected all over the city, which adds a rich layer of much-needed depth to a city that is otherwise a hollow glass and steel clad toy town.
The best place to be is on the creek docks on the Textile Souk side at sunset, which is when an intense rush of energy, can be felt as the myriad worshippers of the various nationalities hurry to the various religious buildings for prayer. The Muslims rush to the surrounding mosque as the call to prayer lingers over the entire city. The seagulls meander above the creek in streams of white, Sikhs head to the Gudwara, Hindus and Chinese to their respective temples, Christians to church. It is the only time of the day when something meaningful can be witnessed as an outsider.
Other must-see sites include the Bastakiya quarters and its quaint cafés and art galleries like the XVA guesthouse and gallery, which also serves lunch. Also worth visiting is the legendary Burj Al Arab Hotel for tea in Jumeira, the Burj Khalifa tower in Bur Dubai, the Dubai Mall and its aquarium (much better than the one at The Atlantis Hotel on the Palm), the fish market every day after 6:00pm and the Mall of the Emirates' ski dome.
Like in Abu Dhabi, most of the action here takes place in hotels and malls. A word of warning for bar fiends: prostitution is one of the main trades in the city, so don't be surprised to see Emiratis and foreigners alike walk out of perfectly fine establishments a girl on each arm. Also be warned about behaviour in public: any demonstration of physical affection is not allowed in Dubai. There have been cases of tourists going to jail for kissing in public or being fined for holding hands. The consumption if alcohol is also banned in public spaces (closed bars, hotels, private homes and restaurants are ok) - for example, alcohol is not served on terraces.
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