To those who’ve been there and those who have only dreamed of it, Dubai is the world’s first thoroughly modern city. However, along with the towering architecture, including the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and the dazzling luxury hotels that make up its skyline, Dubai also has balance. While there may be modernism lurking around every corner, the city also has more than its share of old world Persian charm. As a matter of fact, there are many things to do in Dubai that are an exciting mixture of both.
Dubai attracts its share of the upper 1%, but the Dubai Mall is a paradise for shoppers from most pay brackets. One of the biggest shopping malls on the globe, you might even think about putting a day of exploring and window shopping on the cards. As well as more than 1,300 stores, the Dubai Mall has a movie theater and an aquarium. It's also the location of the Dubai Fountain, which was designed by the same guys who did the Bellagio's fountains in Las Vegas. You can find anything here, although quite a lot of the fare is more expensive than it is at home.
Every city has its greatest, most standalone restaurants. In Dubai, one of those is Emly Chilli. Serving up traditional and authentic Pakistani fare, plenty of locals will tell you that they do the best rolls and chutneys in town. They also deliver, so if you've booked out an Airbnb or holiday home, you can get them to deliver food right to your door. If you do want to eat out, you can find the store's actual location behind American Hospital in Oud Metha.
Eating traditionally is all well and good - and recommended - but if there isn't a great pizza joint in town, you have to wonder why. Luckily, Dubai is home to MATTO, a homegrown Italian restaurant you'd think could have been plucked right off the streets of Verona. MATTO does excellent pizza. What's more, it also offers a bottomless pizza deal every single Monday from 7 PM to 12 AM. For as little as Dhs100, you can try an unlimited supply of delicious slices of pie.
A city's skyline comes alive with the sparkling colors of an incredible fireworks show, and Dubai offers up some of the best. You can catch fireworks shows all over the city for two days, starting on the first day of Eid. Eid, being the celebrations that occur after Ramadan is over, every early summer, depending on when Eid falls, you can watch some of the most glorious displays on earth.
Ripe markets are a mixture of farmers markets, craft markets, and foodie markets. Here, you'll find all kinds of wares from fresh coffee to organic fruits and, if it's your thing, ample opportunities for some exceptional Instagram snaps. Although these markets can be expensive, Dubai isn't particularly a place where those mindful of money would choose to go. However, it's also worth every cent. If you don't want to buy, you can take your own picnic instead.
Formerly known as the Burj Dubai, construction on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper began at the beginning of 2004. Since its completion in 2010, it's held the record for being the tallest building on the planet. With an observation deck that, at more than 2716 feet tall, is aptly named "At the Top Sky," scaling the Burj Khalifa is an experience so life-changing that many people go to Dubai just to do it. The view from the top will figuratively take your breath away.
As if any of us would go to the Persian Gulf without scheduling in a little beach time. What a waste that would be! The UAE has some of the most stunning beaches you'll ever see in your life. One of the most popular has to be Jumeirah Beach Park. It has white sands, bright blue waters, and is a great spot to take the family. Another is Kite Beach, which is one of Dubai's favorite community beaches. It's a beach that was made for watersports of all kinds, from kitesurfing to tennis.
The desert surrounding the city of Dubai is unique in that it is surrounding such a modern place. Even if you're not tempted to stray too far from the city, you should schedule in a camel riding desert tour or two. Several different companies provide tours and safaris of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, including ones specific to what might pull you in. For example, can you think of anything better than seeing the sun come up over the orange sands while on camelback?
If you're all for adventures outside of the city, you could also look into the Hatta Heritage Village. This is a reconstruction of a traditional mountain town, allowing visitors to hurtle back through time into an age where skyscrapers were merely part of someone's dreams. You'll see forts, military towers, citadels, and more. There are even hotels close by where you can live up in the mountains as those you're learning of would have done years ago.
Aptly named, Dubai Miracle Garden is exactly that: A miracle of modern, floral displays. Launched in 2013 on Valentine's Day, there's no other garden like it in the world. True to the Dubai brand, you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere on earth that's quite as extravagant. The garden is a one-of-a-kind, not just in the UAE, either. Home to more than 50 million flowers, garden sculptures, and displays, the only thing you'll need to remember is if you have allergies.