Over the years, Dubai has become a hotspot for international jet setters and trend followers including Star Jones Reynolds, who indulged in her 2004 honeymoon here.
Development in Dubai
As if to prove the tiny enclave's popularity, when we visited in 2006, all the hotels in Dubai were booked solid. But don't let that put you off; Dubai is developing minute by minute.
Approximately one fifth of the world's cranes work 24 hours a day to expand this Middle East hub that supported 6.1 million hotel guests in 2005, and man-made offshore islands as big as the island of Manhattan are under construction to host more.
The UAE is a young nation, federated in 1971, and a wealthy one. Many Emirates, who comprise 20 percent of the population, don't have to work because they receive oil profits. In Dubai they drive luxury cars, live in huge houses, and shop couture.
A Condé Nast Traveler readers' poll voted Dubai the world's safest city, and according to residents we talked to, there is virtually no crime.
Why Visit Dubai?
This metropolis on the Arabian Gulf draws travelers mainly from Europe, the Far East, and Africa. What attracts them to Dubai are tax-free, highest-end shopping, dry weather, extraordinary accommodations, gourmet food, and pristine, almost sterile, beaches that go on for miles.
Dubai is also the sports capital of the Middle East, with world-class golf, tennis, horse racing, rally car racing, power boating, rugby, and sailing.
There's also indoor snow skiing: At the Mall of Emirates, one of the world's largest shopping centers, visitors to Dubai can swoosh down five slopes on a "mountain" the size of three football fields.
While some foreigners come strictly for the mall experience - there are dozens of them, offering every designer label you can name - the souks are worth a visit. These outdoor markets sell everything from exotic spices to gold and pashminas at fair prices.
Keep in mind that bargaining is key: Start at half of what a vendor asks and negotiate up from there.
There are also plenty of expert tailors in Dubai, so bring a picture of anything you want replicated and ask your concierge for a suggestion. Fashions can be made up within days (with fabrics that you choose) at a price far below couture.
Dressing in Dubai
Most women in Dubai wear Western clothing, others wear a black abaya (robe) over their clothing. The most conservative wear black abayas, shailas (headscarves), veils, and even gloves. Most Emirati men wear the dishdasha (long robe, usually white) and ghutra (head covering) with an agal (black rope holding the ghutra in place).
There is no dress code for foreigners, but it is considered polite to cover shoulders when visiting public places other than the hotels.
In case you forget during the course of shopping at Gucci and eating some of the world's best gourmet food, Dubai is a Muslim country. In public places at throughout the day, you will hear the call to prayer over loudspeakers, a reminder that yes, you are in the Middle East. There are segregated prayer rooms in all public places, including hotels.
History and Culture in Dubai
Even though Dubai is considered a cultural mecca, movies and magazines, CDs and books are censored.
What little culture there is in this growing city can be found at the Heritage and Diving Village and the Dubai Museum, which shows life in the UAE before oil, when camels were transportation and people were pearl divers, fishermen, camel herders, and date farmers.
The Heritage Village on the Creek is where locals and expats hang at cafés, watch the abras (small water taxis), and smoke shishas, ornate glass pipes that filter flavored tobacco through water. The Heritage Village also offers camel and horse rides in the cooler evening.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary transportation, accommodation and meals for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.