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The natural seawater inlet that cuts through the centre of the city is the historical part of Dubai where visitors can take an (small water taxi) and view the old trading port and the dhows from the water. A cruise to Al-Maktoum Bridge will pass many of the city's historic, as well as modern, landmarks. A stroll around the wharf offers a picturesque glimpse of Dubai's trading heritage, where dhows bound for distant places dock to unload their goods.
The old Bastakiya district is a step back in time to the days before electricity and air-conditioning, where traditional courtyard houses were cooled by wind towers. Old Dubai was famous for its wind towers that lined the Creek on both sides, and today the narrow lanes festooned with the distinctively Arabian architecture are a popular historical attraction marked for tourist development.
The , or traditional markets, are popular with bargain hunters as well as sightseers and photographers. The most famous is the Gold Souk, where the narrow streets are lined with shops selling everything golden, from 24-carat bars to rings and elaborate necklaces, and all at low prices. The tiny lanes of the traditional spice souk are scented with sacks of cinnamon, incense, spices, and dried fruit, while the modern fish souk bustles with activity and is redolent with smells of a more unpleasant nature. At the heart of the Bur Dubai souk lies Al Fahidi Street, selling the latest electronics, photographic equipment and home appliances at competitive prices. Other streets sell everything from materials and carpets to traditional coffee pots, loaves of unleavened bread and hubble-bubble pipes.
Boasting the city's tallest minaret at 230 feet (70m), the Grand Mosque is a notable landmark with its multi-domed style and impressive size. It is an important place of worship and can accommodate up to 1,200 worshippers inside. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the Mosque.
One of the most advanced water theme parks ever designed, the five-hectare (12-acre) water park at Wild Wadi offers families and thrill seekers hours of fun, relaxation and adrenalin-pumping action. Designed like an Arabian wadi (oasis), the park has an Arabian folklore theme and features some of the highest and fastest water rides outside of North America with 24 state of the art, high-adrenaline rides and slides. Rides for thrill seekers include Jumeirah Sceirah, a 108ft (33m) free-fall at 50 miles per hour (80km/hr), Master Blaster slides that are water roller coasters propelled uphill by high-powered jets, the white-knuckle ride at Rushdown Ravine or the high waves at Breakers Bay.
While Musandam is technically part of Oman, the tiny peninsula is all but surrounded by the United Arab Emirates. The barren mountains that make up most of Musandam are home to a few isolated villages; Khasab is the largest, with a few cultural attractions like prehistoric rock paintings and a 17th-century castle. But tourists don't come to Musandam for nightlife, they come for the spectacular views and quiet beauty of nature. The coastline of the peninsula is made up of stunning fjord-like inlets, and dhow and boat trips along the coast are a popular activity in Musandam (and a good way to spot dolphis frolicking in the sea). Scuba diving is also popular, especially from the dive centre at the Golden Tulip Hotel, the only major hotel in the region.
The Jumeirah Mosque is one of the most photographed sights in Dubai. A fine example of modern Islamic architecture, this beautiful mosque is also one of the city's largest, with a majestic dome and twin minarets, and is one of the few mosques open to non-Muslims for tours. Non-Muslims may only enter the Jumeirah Mosque on an organised tour. Modest dress is preferred, however traditional attire can be borrowed from the Mosque.
The imposing 19th-century Al Faheidi Fort houses the Dubai Museum, which has an impressive collection of military and cultural artefacts, as well as working models and life-size displays depicting various aspects of Dubai life such as the markets, an Islamic school, the desert, Arab houses and Gulf marine life. One of the most interesting exhibits shows the underwater world of pearl-diving. The fort was built in 1799 to guard Dubai from landward approaches, and was once the residence of the city's rulers as well as the seat of government until 1971.
One of the city's newest and most interesting attractions is the region's first indoor ski resort, with real snow and five runs catering to both beginner and expert skiers and snowboarders. The monumental indoor snowdome can host up to 1,500 people. The longest run is 1,312 feet (400m), dropping 197 feet (60m), while a freestyle zone and quarter pipe cater specifically for snowboarders. Ski lifts, snow patrols and professional instructors help to create an authentic environment. A Snow Park at the bottom is ideal for children to play in the snow. Slope passes include all equipment and ski clothing except hats and gloves. Guests need to pass a minimum skills test to access the main slopes, and those who don't pass can take lessons.
Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum Museum
Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum's house dates back to the 19th century, and was built for Dubai's ruler with commanding views over the sea. It is one of the oldest residences in the city and has been restored as a museum exhibiting historical photographs and artefacts showcasing Dubai's history and development. Its architecture is also a fine example of the regional style with its wind towers and central courtyard, teak wood doors and windows and wooden lattice screens.
For a real taste of Arabia, visitors can take a trip into the desert with any number of tour operators into the rolling sand dunes surrounding Dubai. Tours usually include a thrilling 4x4 drive over the dunes, camel riding, a visit to a local Bedouin village, and end with a traditional Arabian barbeque under the stars with a show of belly dancing.
No visit to Dubai would be complete without a trip to the races the camel races. This is a traditional sport in the UAE and hugely popular among local Emiratis who head to the race tracks early in the morning to watch these magnificent animals. The racing season runs from September to March and race tracks can be found in various locations around the Emirate and on the way to Abu Dhabi. In 2007 a brand new venue was built close to Nad Al Sheba racecourse and races are held early on Thursday and Friday mornings.
Jumeirah Beach Park
One of the main reasons holidaymakers flock to Dubai is to take advantage of the stunning beaches. If visitors aren't staying somewhere with access to the sand and sea, and don't want to pay AED 100 or more to use a hotel's facilities, then Jumeirah Beach Park is a brilliant alternative. The beaches are clean and safe, and unlike some of the other public areas in Dubai, are not populated with 'gawkers'. There are even designated 'women only' sessions. The park section of the beach is equipped with barbecue facilities and seating areas. There are also showers and toilets on the beach, and lifeguards on duty at all times.
Bateaux Dubai Dinner Cruise
The Bateaux Dubai Dinner Cruise provides visitors to the Emirate with a unique and memorable way in which to view the older part of Dubai. The two and a half hour cruise departs from just beyond the Al Maktoum Bridge and makes its way along the Creek past many of the city's most famous landmarks. Guests can take advantage of unobstructed views thanks to the non-reflective glass surround and extensive outside deck area. A four course a-la-carte meal is served during the cruise (diners with specific dietary requirements are requested to arrange at the time of booking) and alcohol is available to purchase on board. Musical entertainment is provided care of the Bateaux Dubai musicians and DJ. Booking is required in advance through the reservation line.
Opened in November 2008, the Dubai Mall is the world's largest shopping centre and is home to around twelve hundred retailers. It is the size of more than fifty football pitches and features an ice rink, movie theatres, playground, aquarium, hotel, and is the gateway to the Burj Dubai: the tallest building in the world. The mall is home to a number of the world's best known stores including Bloomingdales, Marks and Spencer and Montblanc. Designers such as Stella McCartney also have outlets in the complex and world famous jewellers Tiffany & Co. have a branch located there. The mall also has a number of restaurants ranging from fast food to fine dining. No trip to Dubai would be complete without an outing to Dubai's latest shopping spectacular.
Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
Located in the enormous Dubai Mall, the recently-opened Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is fast becoming one of the Emirates' most popular attractions. Featuring the largest viewing panel and one of the biggest tanks in the world, visitors have the opportunity to experience the incredible underwater domain of thousands of creatures of the deep. Highlights include feeding time for the enormous Sand Tiger Sharks and the majestic Stingrays. The aquarium and zoo is home to over thirty-thousand types of sea life and provides an exciting, educational day out for adults and children alike.
Al Nasr Leisureland
With a variety of sports to choose from, Al Nasr Leisureland offers facilities to cater to just about every sport under the sun. From an ice rink to swimming pools, tennis courts and a bowling alley, children will have a great time trying their hand at everything. There is even an amusement park with bumper cars, rollercoasters, go-karting and much more.
This 82,890-square-foot (7,700 sq-metre) education park is located in Dubai Creek Park and offers a wide range of activities geared towards kids, making the educational process fun. Children can learn all about the human body, science and space and the park also features a theatre, café, souvenir shop and wonderful views of the creek.
Wonderland Theme and Water Park in Dubai Creek Park is a must for children struggling with the heat in this scorching city. The Caribbean-themed park offers thrilling rides and slides such as the Red Baron, the spinning-coaster, the Action Arm, Lazy River and Surf Hill. The attached water park is low-tech, but provides cool entertainment for the whole family. Wonderland is a great way to spend the day with the family and a must for children of all ages.
The Dubai Dolphinarium offers guests the chance to interact with these gentle aquatic mammals and watch them perform tricks with their trainers. The Dolphinarium is home to four Black Sea Bottlenose dolphins as well as four Northern Fur Seals. The dolphinarium allows visitors to swim with the dolphins in a pre-arranged session, and also features a restaurant and gift shop.
With what seems like an endless lawn, Creekside Park is a great place for families and kids to enjoy while on holiday in Dubai. Boasting botanical gardens, an 18-hole mini golf course, an amphitheatre, picnic locations with barbecue equipment and a mini train and children's play areas, kids will be beside themselves with the endless amount of activities to enjoy here.
An ancient village positioned in the foothills of the Hajjar Mountains, Hatta is located about 71 miles (115km) east of Dubai. A popular weekend getaway for residents of the city, Hatta has a mild climate that makes it ideal for escaping the heat of Dubai. The town itself is basic, with an ATM and roadside market being the main tourist infrastructure, which gives it an unspoiled atmosphere that makes it interesting to explore; the 16th-century fort is a must-see. Hatta also makes a good base for exploring the surrounding region. 4x4 trips and off-road adventures are a popular way to take in the scenery, including the Wadi Hatta gorge with its magnificent waterfall, and a few picturesque rock pools. Travellers driving to Hatta should keep in mind that the road from Dubai passes through Oman; although there are no border stations, most rental car agreements from the UAE will not cover incidents that happen in Oman.
The beautiful island of Kish is located in the Persian Gulf, off the southern shore of mainland Iran. Sometimes referred to as the 'Pearl of the Persian Gulf', Kish is home to a resort with both modern and ancient attractions. The luxury resort of Kish offers many family attractions, including the Kish Dolphin and Crocodile Park, Mysteries of the World Zoo, and a giant bird interactive sculpture. The resort takes advantage of Kish's stunning islands to offer water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving, yachting, fishing, parasailing and water-skiing. Unfortunately, women are not allowed in some of the best snorkelling areas, however there are women-only beaches available. Kish also has a number of historical attractions, including the underground town of Cariz, the ancient city of Harireh, and the remains of a Greek ship wrecked on the shore (a popular picnic site). Kish is a free trade zone, meaning there are good bargains to be had in the numerous shopping malls on the island. Shoppers should be aware however, that much of the merchandise is fake.
The heart of cosmopolitan Dubai is the slick and modern Dubai Marina, a development that continues to add new attractions each year. World-class hotels and shopping malls dominate the distinctive skyline, while the waterline is taken over by luxury yachts. Some of the best restaurants in Dubai are also located here. Dubai Marina has two walkways (The Walk and Marina Walk) that make pleasant places to stroll in the evening, and there are open markets on weekends between October and May. Although it is known as a beacon of over-the-top consumerism, the Dubai Marina transforms during Ramadan, when locals celebrate in song and dance in Heritage Village.