Take a double-decker elevator up the Burj Khalifa, try your legs at sandboarding and... visit some penguins in the desert? See what surprises are waiting in the United Arab Emirates.
Modern, cosmopolitan Dubai offers travellers a wide range of cultural, architectural and culinary delights. Add these must-see sights and activities to your itinerary.
1. Burj Khalifa
Feel like you’re on top of the world at Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building and freestanding structure. This incredible feat of engineering stands 2,716.5 feet tall and has more than 160 storeys. It boasts the world’s highest observation deck (about 1,500 feet up), accessible via the world’s fastest double-deck elevators (10 metres per second).
Burj Khalifa – which played a starring role in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – is like a vertical city, filled with residences, offices, restaurants and more. In the evening, catch the dazzling sound-and-light show held every half-hour at the nearby Dubai Fountain.
2. Bur Dubai
Once you’ve seen the ultra-modern Burj Khalifa, take a step back in time at Bur Dubai, the oldest part of the city. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs, and the kids will enjoy a ride in a traditional dhow boat (harbour and dinner cruises are available). Bur Dubai is also where you’ll find Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort, the old quarters of Bastakiya and Shindagha, and the pretty Textile Souk.
3. Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
This 225-square-kilometre reserve was created in 2003 to protect the fragile desert ecosystem. It’s home to sand foxes, caracals, oryxes, gazelles and many other creatures. Adventurous visitors can take part in camel treks, sand boarding, camping, night safaris, falconry events, horseback riding, dune driving, archery, wildlife drives, fat biking, hot-air-balloon rides, voluntourism and more.
4. Dubai Gold Souk
Dubai’s famous Gold Souk is worth a visit just to gawk at the eye-popping amount of gold and precious gems. This government-regulated market is one of the emirate’s oldest. If you do shop, be prepared to haggle!
5. Ski Dubai
Where can you find a ski hill in the Arabian Desert? At Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates, a sprawling shopping complex that also offers dining, movies and more. Ski Dubai features skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and zip-lining. Take lessons at the Ski School, visit the resident penguin colony, and wind down over – what else? – hot chocolate.
6. Madinat Jumeirah
Dubai is home to more than 200 nationalities, so it’s no surprise that its food scene is incredibly diverse. At Madinat Jumeirah – a recreation of a traditional Middle Eastern bazaar inside a luxury resort – the options seem endless, with two dozen tempting restaurants and cafés boasting beautiful city and waterfront views.
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