The city of Dubai is a cosmopolitan metropolis that has become an important trade, tourism, and financial hub of the Persian Gulf region. It owes its early prosperity to pearl diving and later oil, but now its main sources of revenue are luxury tourism, real estate, and finance. Its Western-style business model and tax incentives attract foreign workers from the Arab world, Europe, and Asia. This diverse population has contributed to a robust cultural scene, including festivals and performances.
But the emirate faces many challenges. A secretive and standoffish regime often rebuffs outside attempts to discern whether kleptocrats and criminals are laundering money through the city’s banks, purchasing properties, or investing in businesses. It also lacks mechanisms that hold elites accountable, such as open elections, a free press, and civil society. And without external pressure, it is easy for Emirati leaders to resist reforms that threaten their vested interests or preferred political economic vision.
As a result, Dubai has earned a reputation for extravagant hedonism. A shopper’s paradise, it offers a dizzying array of boutiques and malls. And its food and drink scene is equally impressive, with restaurants and bars ranging from gourmet to fast-food to Middle Eastern. It is also home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Designed to be a beacon of innovation, the tower is a spectacular feat of engineering, soaring more than 2,700 feet into the sky.
Dubai is a major flight hub, with Emirates airlines offering direct flights to destinations across the world. It is also a key stop on routes between Europe and Southeast Asia. But it can be expensive, with a cost of living around the same as that in Austin, Texas.
The best way to experience the city is by staying at one of its many hotels. From the ultra-luxe Burj Khalifa to the opulent Royal Suite in the Burj Al Arab, there is no shortage of options. But you can also get a feel for the local culture by visiting the historic districts and souks (markets). There is even an indoor ski park that features a slope that goes through a mall!
Located in the heart of the UAE, Dubai is an ideal destination for adventurers looking to explore. There are several hiking and biking trails, a few ski resorts, and a range of other outdoor activities. Dubai is also known for its numerous theme and water parks, including a shark tank–filled aquarium and an amazing water slide complex that runs through the Atlantis hotel.