When planning a vacation, sometimes you know exactly what you’ll find when you arrive. But sometimes destinations can offer unexpected, surprises or extras you never imagined. Even when you’ve done your research, sometimes you have to see a place, to believe it. Dubai is one of those places.
What most folks know of Dubai involves glitzy skyscrapers, and there are plenty of those, but Dubai’s beginnings are rooted in fishing and pearl diving. Traditional wood boats called abra transport visitors and locals alike across the Dubai Creek, a saltwater estuary, from Bur Dubai, or old Dubai to Diera, where you’ll find markets selling spices, teas, and an assortment of other goods.
Less than an hour from the almost nostalgic bustle of Dubai, the desert is worth the drive time, and doable in as little as a half-day. There’s all sorts of activities, from ATVS, to camel rides, and sand-boarding. I went on a 4-wheel drive through desert dunes in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve with Arabian Adventures. (The guide did the driving, not me.) Along with the obvious adrenaline boosts, keep your eyes open for wildlife like African Oryx. Afternoon trips come with the benefit of watching the sunset from the sand.
Don’t come to Dubai without your bathing suit, and be sure to set time aside to put it to good use. The water is warm, the sand is soft. There’s a fun beach culture here. On Kite Beach the kite surfers put on a show. At spots like Le Mar, you rent all sorts of beach toys to play with. And those infamous Dubai skyscrapers, are hard to miss, even from the beach.
Dubai boasts the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa. More than 2-thousand, 7-hundred feet, and more than 160 stories. The observation deck on level 124 is the stopping point for most visitors. The elevators move almost 33 feet per second (10m/per second), so yes, your ears are going to pop on the ride up, but the views are pretty impressive, so you’ll forget all about it when you step off the elevator.
Right next to the Burj Khalifa is The Dubai Mall. With 1,200-plus shops and 150 restaurants, it’s the world’s largest mall, but if you don’t like to shop, no worries. There’s an aquarium, an Olympic-sized Ice Rink, and then there’s the dinosaur.
The resident dinosaur, the Dubai Dino stands in front of the Cheesecake Factory. It’s 80-feet long, and 25 feet high. The original skeleton of the Diplodocus Longus is said to be more than 155 million years old. The skeleton was discovered in 2008 in Wyoming and took two years to excavate. A vegetarian it’s believed the 25-year-old weighed as much as five elephants.