Originally a small fishing settlement that became a busy port of call on the ancient trade route between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, the emirate was rapidly transformed into an international business centre and modern tourist destination following the discovery of oil in 1966.
Today Dubai ranks as the country's foremost commercial centre, a city whose skyline is constantly being upgraded with new developments providing the infrastructure and facilities needed for a progressive society, including world-class hotels, shopping plazas and outstanding sports facilities. Dubai Creek divides the city centre into two parts: Deira on the northern side and Bur Dubai to the south and each has its fair share of souks, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and fine mosques.
From within these high standards of luxury and convenience, visitors can experience exotic Arabia in the bustling souks or a night in a Bedouin tent with belly-dancing under the starlit desert skies, as well as a way of life that is still embedded in the Islamic traditions of an ancient land. Dubai's attraction lies in the contrast between the ultra modern and the enchantingly traditional, which gives the city a personality like no other and visitors a variety of experiences to choose from. From desert oases and unspoiled beaches, camel races and old wind towers, to top-class shopping opportunities, avant-garde architecture and the finest international cuisine, Dubai has more than enough depth to satisfy even the most seasoned of travellers.
One of the city's top attractions is its excellent shopping. As an open port with low import duties, Dubai can offer an incredible range of top brand names at cheaper prices due to the tax-free environment, and 'shopping tourists' are drawn from around the world to this paradise of malls, souks, boutiques and modern department stores selling everything from Paris fashions to Japanese electronics. The annual Shopping Festival attracts millions of tourists to the city for a shop-till-you-drop holiday.
Dubai is evolving at a remarkable pace and has left its modest history as a fishing port far behind. Yet in between the ultra-modern skyscrapers and endless construction sites, there are quite a few attractions of historical interest such as the Bastakiya district and the various souks.
Other attractions center on Dubai's defining geophysical features: the desert offers adventure touring, rock climbing and photography, while the coastline offers a plethora of water sports.
Dubai is not really suitable for exploring on foot. Attractions tend to be far apart and the year-round heat - reaching inferno proportions in summer - will turn your walk into an ordeal. Better options are to hire a taxi and driver for the day, join an organised tour, or rent a car and enjoy the inexpensive local gasoline while taking in the sights.
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