Travel guide - Dubai

Dubai, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, is the capital of excess and human genius. Like some futuristic oasis right in the middle of the desert, the region’s main tourist destination illustrates the power of architecture over nature, and the mad ambition of a city that’s home to both an artisanal past and a relentless quest for technological progress. Let yourself be surprised: Dubai is always one step ahead of the pack.

Nature overcome by man

Dubai rises up before your eyes like a steel oasis amidst the sand dunes. You will be constantly surprised throughout your stay in the tourism capital of the Emirates, as every one of its buildings and neighbourhoods attests to the desire to bend nature to the will of daring architects. One of the most dazzling examples of this is the Palm Islands. These graphically shaped artificial islands, which were built with 150 million tons of sand and cover nearly 560 hectares, are the symbol of the city today.
And it’s not just sandy beaches that surprise visitors: this city also boasts snowflakes that amaze and delight. Despite its arid climate, Dubai is home to one of the world’s largest indoor ski resorts, and locals and tourists alike benefit from the winter sports facilities. In Dubai nothing, especially the limits of nature, can slow down the city’s dream or its desire for opulence.

A city of extremes

In its quest for perfection, Dubai doesn’t bother itself with spatial constraints. The result is constructions that astound visitors with their apparent desire to test the limits of possibility. One example of this is the unmissable Burj Khalifa, the pride of the locals, which was inaugurated in 2010. Rising above the city like a pin marking the business district (Downtown Dubai), it is the world’s tallest building. It has 162 stories and is 830 metres high.
Naturally, this ostentatious structure is a shopper’s delight. In Dubai, shopping centres are as numerous as they are enormous, and house luxury brands from around the globe, here displayed in an exceptional setting. Head to the foot of the Burj Khalifa, where the Dubai Mall covers more than 1 million square metres and houses around 1,200 boutiques. In the midst of your shopping, you can take a break at the foot of a waterfall or in the Underwater Zoo, one of the world’s largest aquariums.

A hidden sense of tradition

The biggest surprise you’ll find in Dubai might be its capacity to preserve the beauty of its heritage underneath its futuristic sheen. While losing yourself in the narrow, maze-like roads of Bastakiya, the old Iranian neighbourhood, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time. Shoppers seek shelter from the heat in the small shaded courtyards of traditional 19th century houses made from gypsum and coral.
Dubai’s attachment to its roots can also be seen in the profusion of bazaars which exude old-world charm, complete with rustic stalls and the lively hubbub of customers bargaining with shopkeepers. Each one has its own speciality: the Gold Souk is full of jewellers and sells gold priced by weight, the Deira Old Souk is great for spices and the Bur Dubai Souk is the place to go for a custom-tailored traditional outfit.

In Dubai, the future is now

Dubai is home to both the Dubai Museum, proudly housed in a well-preserved old building, and a Museum of the Future, built in a bold architectural style. They represent two sides of the same coin: the city’s ambition to stay rooted in tradition while spearheading changes in the region. In keeping with this goal, the SMCCU (Sheik Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding), a unique space open to all, where social, moral, and environmental issues are debated, was opened in 1988. On a human and technological level then, Dubai places itself at the forefront of modernity in the Middle East. A technological paradise that fuses tradition and modernity, Dubai is a truly spectacular destination.

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