Dubai is an oil-rich emirate that grew into an international business and tourism hub after discovering natural gas in the 1960s. Once known as a pearl-diving centre, the city’s business-savvy ruling family reduced taxes and welcomed foreign merchants to help drive its economy. Today, Dubai’s main industries are luxury tourism, real estate and financial services. The cosmopolitan metropolis is home to the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and has numerous glitzy malls with endless shopping and dining options.

It’s no surprise that opulent Dubai is also a playground for children and adults of all ages. There are a number of fun water and theme parks, including the biggest man-made lagoon on Earth, Wild Wadi, which offers thrill rides and a beach area. Aquaventure, located next to the luxurious Atlantis hotel, is another top choice, with hundreds of slides, including one that takes you underwater in a shark tank.

While it’s a great place to relax on a sunny beach, don’t be fooled by the city’s pristine appearance. Air quality is a major issue in Dubai, and the city’s high PM2.5 levels have been deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups, especially young children, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals.

Unless you’re a hard-core luxury shopping enthusiast, it’s best to avoid the malls in favour of the more traditional souk areas. There are several of these scattered throughout the city, where visitors can shop and haggle with local artisans and traders.

The centre of the city is dominated by skyscrapers, with many built in the 1990s and 2000s. A highlight is the Burj Khalifa, which was once the world’s tallest building and is named after Abu Dhabi’s ruler and president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa ibn Zayed Al Nahyan.

A thriving art scene features galleries and exhibitions throughout the city. The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Arts Centre is a particularly impressive space, with an ornately decorated hall and several modern art installations.

While the UAE is generally a tolerant society and private life is respected, homosexual activity has been punished in the past. Visitors should respect conservative dress codes and refrain from photography near military sites, government buildings and airports.

Although the majority of the population are Emirati citizens, expatriates from various nations fill key positions in the city’s economy. South Asian and Filipino workers make up the largest groups. While most of them work in the construction industry, some also hold professional jobs in banking, retail and healthcare.

Guns, ammunition and body protection are prohibited in the UAE, and bringing any of these items may lead to arrest and a jail sentence. Bail is not available for non-residents who are arrested for financial crimes, and assets (including bank accounts) can be frozen. For this reason, it’s a good idea to leave all weapons at home. While the UAE is considered a safe destination for travellers, visitors should be aware that some criminals may target Western tourists. Travellers should always be vigilant and stay in well-lit areas when out at night.

Share this blog post: