City Guides / Dubai
It is the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and the capital of the Emirate of Dubai. The UAE is a country made up of seven emirates, each ruled by a dynastic Islamic monarch style emir, emirate also means principality. he ruler of the emirate of Dubai is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in January 1968, as a young man, he was present when Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Zayed first met in the desert between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to agree to the formation of a union of emirates following British withdrawal from the region. It was that meeting that created the new nation of the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai is now known for luxury hotels and shopping, ultramodern architecture and a lively social scene. Dubai was originally a small trading port mainly reliant on the Pearl trade, when that industry collapsed in the Great Depression of the 1930s many residents starved or migrated to other parts of the Persan Gulf. Oil was not discovered in Dubai till 1966, although the ruler Sheikh Rashid had already been investing massively in infrastructure the previous decade in what many considered an overly ambitious and imprudent manner. Yet it was that building which set the tone for Dubai’s future.
It is now considered to be one of the world’s most important airport hubs and trade centres. Today less than 5% of the emirate’s economy comes from oil revenue. In 2014 Dubai’s hotel rooms were rated as the second most expensive in the world, after Geneva.
Jumeirah Al Naseem – the latest hotel creation from the Jumeirah Hotel Group – has a very modern feel with a successful design mix between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean styling. Situated in the massive Madinat Jumeirah resort, facing the Burj al Arab with 2km of private beach it is pure luxury. Ideal for families as well as couples, it truly is a bonkers place, if the kids get bored of the amazing children’s clubs then there’s the Wild Wadi Water Park just next door. It also caters to cyclists with a good relationship with the local cycling scene, the Dubai Roadsters.
EATING & DRINKING
You really are spoilt for dining options in Dubai, and publications such as Time Out and What’s On, are always a good reference to what’s ‘hot’ currently in Dubai. As a visitor, you have the options of the high-end restaurant experiences, through to sharwamas from arabic style fast food vendors. Just remember, that Dubai is a muslim country and alcohol is only allowed in licensed restaurants which are normally within hotels. Also, be prepared to pay about four times the cost for an alcoholic drink as you would in some Western countries.
For that really special occasion visit the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) which over recent years has become the destination of choice for that special occasion, with numerous high-end restaurants from some very well known chefs.
For the sixth year in a row, Dubai has been ranked as the second most popular shopping destination in the world, beating tourist favourites like Tokyo, Singapore, Paris and New York. Something of a national pastime, you can literally go shopping at any time of the day or night, it's deciding where to go shopping that is the issue.
Home to some of the largest malls in the world, such as Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates, visitors are spoilt for choice with all the major international brands represented. In addition, the ‘mega malls’ have been designed to capture and entertain shoppers all day long, with multiplex cinemas, indoors ski slopes and dining (and fast food) options to suit all palates and budgets.
If you are lucky enough to visit Dubai during the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) at the beginning of every year, or during the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) promotion, you are in for two month long shopping extravaganzas, with a focus on family fun and bargains to be had on everything from electronics through to toys and clothes.
Away from the ultra modern malls, Karama is a must visit destination, for those wishing to experience the hustle and bustle of bartering. From souvenirs, gifts and ‘genuine’ fake items, Karama is an experience. The traders and shop owners aren’t as aggressive in their sales tactics as you might experience in other far-eastern countries, and walking the streets and alleys is safe and gives a real flavour to the ‘trading based’ heritage upon which Dubai was built.
Now if you have just bought that bike of your dreams and feel that the (flesh and blood) love of your life, desires a little treat and jewellery is your thing, then the Dubai Gold Souk should be top of your visit list. The market is filled with endless rows of shops showcasing a dazzling array of everything that sparkles. Don’t buy the first thing you see, and the key to getting a good deal, is to barter, barter, barter. Be prepared to go to different shops to get a better deal and go back at different times of the day, when they may be prepared to lower their prices. Just be aware, that nothing has a price tag and prices are calculated on the spot price of gold on the day you visit.
Over the last few years, all the major international bicycle brands have entered the market and set-up shop in Dubai. However, the man behind the impressive cycling scene in Dubai is Wolfgang Hohmann, who 15 years ago came to Dubai on a one-way ticket with the vision to establish a bike shop. Today, the ‘godfather’ of UAE cycling has created possibly one of the coolest shops in the world and an enviable Aladdin’s cave of cycling bling. Wolfi’s Bike Shop truly is a sight to behold, stocked full of the best in well-known brands from Europe, the US and beyond. A knowledgeable team of over 30 staff are always on hand to offer advice and assistance, and it's generally considered to be ‘the place’ to hang-out if you are into cycling. Wolfi’s offers a small stock of top-end rental bikes and of course are more than happy to assist with CHPT3 apparel.