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Discover Dubai

Dubai is the quintessential home of sand, sun and shopping. A century ago, it was a tranquil town whose coral-and-gypsum huts housed Bedouin traders and pearl divers. Today the merchants have gone international and science-fiction skyscrapers stand alongside the mosques and wind towers of Old Dubai.
The audacity of the city's rulers is breathtaking. Running out of coastline to build hotels? Build vast artificial islands with 120km (74.5mi) of new beachfront. Need better connections with the world? Build up an award-winning international airline in 15 years.
When to Go
The best time of the year to visit Dubai is between November and April, when the weather is coolest. The rest of the year you're more likely to be running from one air-conditioned environment to the next instead of getting out and exploring. Ramadan, which takes place at a different time each year on the Western calendar, is the Muslim month of fasting and is strictly adhered to throughout the UAE. That means that it's illegal, not to mention rude, to eat, drink or smoke in public from sunrise to sunset at this time. On the 'up' side, hotel rates drop to 50% of their usual cost.
Dangers & Annoyances
Familiarizing yourself with local customs relating to dress code and alcohol is your first step to keeping out of trouble. On the whole, Dubai is a very safe city, but you should exercise the same sort of caution with your personal safety as you would anywhere. One very real danger in Dubai is bad driving. Be aware when driving and walking near busy roads that speed limits, indication and other safety related road rules do not apply for many in Dubai. We don't recommend that you swim, water-ski or jet-ski in the Creek. The tides in the Gulf are not strong enough to flush the waterway out on a regular basis so it's not clean, despite what the tourist authorities might tell you. Also, be careful when swimming in the open sea. Despite the small surf, currents can be very strong and drownings are not uncommon.
1328402 homework-expert Dubai is really two towns merged into one and divided by Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai), an inlet of the Gulf. Deira lies to the north and Bur Dubai to the south. Both districts are home to traditional architecture and bustling souqs, but the old city centre is in Deira. Glittering new office buildings along Sheikh Zayed Rd (known as Trade Centre Rd) in Bur Dubai threaten to supplant it as the city's real centre of gravity.
The focal point of Deira's hustle and bustle is on Baniyas Rd, which runs along Dubai Creek; Baniyas Square, which used to be called Al-Nasr Square and is still generally referred to as such; Al-Maktoum Rd and Al-Maktoum Hospital Rd; and Naif Rd. On the Bur Dubai side, the old souq area runs from Al-Ghubaiba Rd to the Diwan (Ruler's Office) and inland as far as Khalid bin al-Waleed Rd.
There aren't really any street addresses in Dubai. People refer to the main roads by name, but the smaller, numbered streets remain largely anonymous. If someone offers you directions like 'It's in the white villa, next to the big tree, across from the Avari Hotel, ' don't fret. Your taxi driver will know the way.
Visas Overview
British citizens and nationals of most Gulf countries do not require visas; Gulf citizens can stay as long as they want, Britons for up to three months. All other visitors are required to have visas. Your hotel can sponsor you for a 15-day, nonrenewable transit visa or a one-month renewable visit visa. Note that if your passport shows evidence of travel to Israel you will be denied entry to the UAE.
Telephone Overview
The UAE has an efficient telecommunications system. Calls within Dubai Emirate, not including Hatta, are free of charge. The state telecommunications monopoly is held by Etisalat. If you need to make a call from the airport, there are telephones at the far end of the baggage-claim area. Some of the lounges at the gates in the departures area also have phones from which you can make free local calls.
Coin phones have almost com completely been taken over by cardphones. Phonecards are available from various places including grocery stores, supermarkets and petrol stations - do not buy them from street vendors as they are often 'recycled' and don't work. Note that there are two phonecards, one for cardphones and ones for mobile phones operating on the Wasel Global System of Mobile Communications (GSM) service.
Mobile Phone Overview
Mobile numbers begin with 050 in the UAE. Often people will give their seven-digit mobile number without mentioning this prefix as mobiles have become the standard means of communication in Dubai. If you don't have a worldwide roaming service and want to use your mobile phone in Dubai, you can buy a prepaid SIM card from Etisalat. Recharge cards are available from grocery stores, supermarkets and petrol stations - and once again do not buy them from street vendors.
The UAE has introduced Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) services, which is available to Wasel GSM users as well as to normal UAE-based GSM subscribers. All you need to do is dial 125 and follow the instructions.
People Arab (61%), South Asian (22%), Iranian (8%), other expats (9%)
Female Travellers
In general, Dubai is one of the best locations in the Middle East for women travellers. Checking into hotels is not usually a problem, though unaccompanied women might want to think twice about taking a room in some of the budget hotels in Deira and Bur Dubai. They are renowned for accommodating prostitutes from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Africa, and you may run the risk of being mistaken for one.
Although things might be better in Dubai than in other parts of the Gulf, it does not mean that some of the problems that accompany travel in the Middle East will not arise here as well, such as unwanted male attention and long, lewd stares. You may be beeped at by men in passing cars, but most times these are taxi drivers touting for business. Try not to be intimidated; it helps to retain a sense of humour.
Dubai is a very liberal place and people here are used to Western women. While it is liberal, try to dress conservatively if you will be among local Emiratis. It's once you're out of Dubai that you might encounter a different attitude. Don't wear tight or revealing clothes. Women should always sit in the back seat of taxis. You'll find that you'll often be asked to take the front seat in buses or be asked to sit next to other women. This is so you can avoid the embarrassment of men's stares.
In banks, Etisalat offices, post offices and libraries there are usually separate sections or windows for women - great when there's a queue. In small Arab and Indo-Pakistani restaurants you will often be ushered into the 'family room'. You don't have to sit here but the room is there to save you from being stared at by men.
Gay & Lesbian Scene
Officially homosexuality is illegal in the UAE and can incur a jail term. Gay travellers, however, have no trouble travelling in the UAE. You will see men walking hand in hand but that's no indication of sexual orientation. Women walking hand in hand are not as commonly seen.
Dubai has made a huge effort to promote itself as a tolerant, safe tourist destination, and gay and lesbian travellers won't face any discrimination or legal trouble, short of staging a gay-pride march down Sheikh Zayed Rd. Basically authorities don't want bad publicity, so there's generally only a problem when a situation is played out in the public sphere. For example, one nightclub that had a strong gay following crossed the line when it posted flyers around the city calling on local gays and drag queens to come out. Only then were the authorities compelled to take action. Note that any specifically gay-focused websites are blocked in the UAE.
Disabled Travellers
Dubai's Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing has a highly detailed list of facilities offered at dozens of hotels for disabled people. All the major shopping centres have wheelchair access, but ramps in car parks and into most buildings in the city are few and far between. There are a number of car parks for disabled drivers.
Dubai Transport Company has taxis that can accommodate wheelchairs. The airport has facilities for disabled travellers, including low check-in counters, but things do get more difficult once you are out of the airport. While many hotels in Dubai now claim that they are disabled-friendly, not all of them have specifically paid attention to the details of what this actually means. Dubai Museum has ramps, but other tourist attractions are difficult for disabled visitors to get around on their own. Dubai airport has modern facilities for people with disabilities, including lounges and carts for getting around the concourse.
Pre 20th Century History
Although little is known about the ancient history of this area, archaeological finds suggest that humans have been living here since at least 3000 BC. Other evidence links the peoples of what are now the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman to the mysterious Bronze Age Magan civilization. Magan ships sailed to Babylonia, Mesopotamia and beyond, trading copper from Oman and pearls from the mouth of Dubai Creek with the heavyweights of the Bronze Age economy. The Magan civilization waned around 2000 BC, but Dubai's instinct for trade remained.
Excavations at Jumeirah, just south of Dubai, recently unearthed a 6th-century caravan station, proving that the area's population was still keeping the trade routes well oiled during this period. Around this same time, the Sassanids, a Persian dynasty who had inhabited the mouth of Dubai Creek since 224, were driven out by the Umayyads, who came to stay and brought Islam with them.
Exploiting their prime location between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, the new inhabitants, working with the old, began re-establishing old trade routes and spreading the word of Allah, all the while making folks fantastic deals for the lowest everyday prices in the Gulf. As trade began to match pearl diving's importance to the local economy, merchant dhows sailed as far as China, returning with silk and porcelain for Middle Eastern and European markets. This maritime madness reached its peak between 750 and 1258.
Soon everyone wanted a piece of the Gulf's action. By the late 16th century the Portuguese were attempting to control local trade. Their success was such that many coastal settlements were practically abandoned, and the tribes took refuge in oases far from the coast. The British finally gained control of the region's waterways in 1766. Dubai was caught between local power struggles and Europe's imperial dreams, but somehow turned this bad situation to its advantage, expanding its pearl trade through every channel.
In 1833 a neighboring tribal power, the Bani Yas, decided that Dubai would be its new turf. Eight hundred Bani Yas moved into the Bur Dubai area under the leadership of Maktoum bin Butti, founder of the Al-Maktoum dynasty that still rules the emirate today.
The region's two economic epicentres, neighbouring Sharjah and Lingah in modern-day Iran, were already losing business to bustling Dubai. Sheikh Maktoum decided to capitalise on the opportunity. In 1892 he signed an exclusive business deal with the British and in 1894 permitted a full tax exemption for foreign traders. Persian merchants were the first group of expats to take advantage of the deal, but traders the world over were on the way.
Modern History
In 1903, when the sheikh convinced a major British steamship line to make Dubai a port of call, a 25-year boom began. The Great Depression, compounded by the emergence of artificial pearls in 1929, cast a dark cloud over Dubai's newfound prosperity. Young Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum, convinced that the pearl trade was dead, decided that this cloud had a 24-karat lining. Dubai wasn't duty-free for nothing. Soon, the re-export business, whereby goods were cheaply imported into a duty-free port and immediately exported to another market, exploded. After Dubai Creek was dredged in 1963, allowing almost any boat safe harbour, gold smuggling took off like a rocket.
Dubai's lucky streak had only just begun. In 1966, oil was discovered and the economy kicked into overdrive. The British had already decided to pack up the empire and head home, and in 1971, Dubai became the seventh emirate of the newly formed UAE. Sheikh Rashid agreed to a formula that gave the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai the most weight in the federation, and made sure that Dubai would continue living life in the fast lane. Border disputes and friction about the integration of the Emirates led to some tension, but in 1979, Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi sealed a compromise; in effect, Dubai would remain a bastion of free trade while Abu Dhabi imposed a tighter federal structure on the rest of the Emirates.
When Sheikh Rashid, the architect of Dubai's success and unrivalled financial freedom, died in 1990, his son Sheikh Maktoum took the reins of power. The core of Maktoum's policies is economic freedom and the no-holds-barred promotion of Dubai, which makes the city a very fun place.
Recent History
World-class tennis tournaments, boat and horse races, desert rallies and one of the largest air shows in the world attract millions of visitors to the city. Other high-profile events, such as the Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises, bring hordes of tourists into town. Tourism matches trade and oil in importance to the emirate's economy.
The story of Dubai reads like a rags-to-riches tale, and indeed, it is hard to imagine anywhere else in the world that has developed at such a pace, in such a short time, for so many different people.
Places to See
There are two sides of Dubai to explore - the sleek, futuristic world of mirrored skylines, chilled-air malls and James Bond-style artificial islands; and old Dubai, perhaps most clearly represented by its ancient mosques and countless souks, all of which sell a different speciality.
Deira Gold Souq markets
Sikkat al-Khali St Deira
Deira's celebrated Gold Souq attracts buyers from all over the world. Pass through its wooden lattice archways and you'll find great dazzling heaps of gold chains, rings, earrings, bracelets and every other kind of jewellery. It also sells silver.
Dubai Museum
Al-Fahidi Road Bur Dubai
The Dubai Museum is housed inside the Al-Fahidi Fort, which was built in the late 1790s, and is believed to be the city's oldest building. The museum has collections of everything from Arabian sailing boats to the curved daggers known as khanjars. There are multimedia and interactive displays, and all the exhibits have captions in Arabic and English
Grand Mosquereligious/spiritual
Ali ibin Ali Talib St Bur Dubai
This multidomed mosque boasts the city's tallest minaret. The mosque might appear to be a beautiful example of restoration work, but it was in fact built in the 1990s. As well as being the centre of Dubai's religious and cultural life, the original mosque was also home to the town's kuttab (Quranic school) where children learnt to recite the Quran from memory.
Maintaining the style of the original Grand Mosque, which dated from 1900 and was knocked down to make way for another mosque in 1960, its sand-coloured walls and wooden shutters blend in perfectly with the surrounding old quarter of Bur Dubai.
Perfume Souq markets
Sikkat al-Khali St Deira
While the Perfume Souq is really just a group of shops, it sells a staggering range of Arabic and European perfumes. The European perfumes are a mixture of designer originals and copies while the Arabic perfumes are much stronger and spicier. It's worth buying some of the latter for the kitsch packaging alone
Spice Souq markets
Al Abra St Deira
The Diera Old Souq is a wonderful place to wander round and take in the scents of spices and fruits. In the eastern part of the market you'll find sacks brimming with frankincense, dried lemons, ginger root, chilli and cardamom. The rest of the market is full of rugs, shoes, kitchenware, glassware and amusingly tacky little trinkets.
Places to Eat
The rich cultural mix of Dubai's population is echoed in the myriad choices of restaurants and coffee shops across the city. From the simplest Indo-Pakistani workers cafe in Karama to the gastronomic delights and decor of eateries at the swanky five-star hotels, Dubai offers a huge range of dining experiences.
Night Time Venues
Abundant entertainment options mean you can keep exploring Dubai into the wee hours. See live music, see live DJs play music, see beautiful people dancing to the music, see people on a dance break partaking in a bit of traditional sheesha (water pipe) in a cafe.
Places to Shop
Dubai's shopping muscle draws lifeblood from the thriving contrast of traditional souqs, towering super malls and boutique stores; each overflowing with fresh produce, old-world exotica, designer collections and new-wave gadgetry. The visiting shopper does not know where to begin.
Acknowledged as the best hotel in the world,
Designed to resemble a billowing sail, the hotel soars to a height of 321 metres, dominating the Dubai coastline. At night, it offers an unforgettable sight, surrounded by choreographed colour sculptures of water and fire. This all-suite hotel reflects the finest that the world has to offer.
Visit 1328402 homework-expert homework-expert for more geography info!
Michael Newman - Tutor, Writer, Economist: homework-expert Follow me on twitter: twitter Homework_Expert

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