In 2002, 4.8 million visitors checked in to Dubai’s hotels. Tourism accounted for almost 18% of GDP of the country. Farah Najam explains why.

Dubai is the home of sand, sun, and shopping. There are two sides of Dubai to explore – the sleek, futuristic world of mirrored skylines, chilled-air malls, and James Bond-style artificial islands; and old Dubai, perhaps most clearly represented by its ancient mosques and countless Souks, all of which sell a different specialty.


Even picky eaters will have to surrender to the variety offered in terms of dining, which ranges from economical fast food joints to posh clubs and restaurants. Besides trying the Italian, Mexican, or Chinese, do not forget the delicious Arabic cuisine. Shawarma, a pita bread roll with chunks of chicken or meat and savory sauces, is a delight. French fries served not on a plate but on a burger along with chicken patties!

Automatic Lebanese Restaurant can offer Hummus and Mutabbal, two great dips to go with pitta bread and sourly pickle. Sheesh taook and Kebab are also recommended.

For South Indian food lovers there are plenty of Masala Dosa inns, “India House” being one. “Bombay Chowpati” is for Chat lovers. Pakistani restaurants are famous for their Nihari and chicken Biryani. Trendy cafes, such as “French Connection,” are everywhere for a light bite.

Sight Seeing:

Walking Tours

Dubai is a sprawling city and, combined with the heat, can be difficult to walk around. There are no official guided or signposted tours. A number of companies offer half-day city tours.

Other Tours

“Coastline Leisure” operates one-hour guided tours of Dubai Creek by dhow. “Arabian Adventures,” also offers a choice of cruises on Dubai Creek. Alternatively, go down to Dubai Creek and charter a traditional Abra (water taxi).

Dune Bashing

Regular tours are run and can combine dune bashing with desert dinners in recreated Bedouin camps.

Camel Rides

A ‘Rides and Slides’ tour combining camel rides with sand skiing is also offered.


The lush green stretching for miles can be a very serene outing. Parks can entertain you with beautiful landscapes, swings for kids, boat ride adventures, barbeque grills for family cuisines, and even cable cars for having a panoramic view of the city. Some of the most famous names are Safa Park and Creek Park.

Water Sports:

“The Wild Wadi” water park is just the place for aqua lovers. The tall and swirling water slides are part of a big investment in tourism. Apart from that, scuba diving and wind surfing in the azure waters of gulf are also a treat.

Museums and Other Edifice:

Dubai National Museum

Built in 1787 as a fort for sea defense and located in Al-Fahidi Fort, it is one of the most ancient buildings in Dubai. The Museum displays pottery, stone and metal items, stone engravings, and skeletons. Here the visitors can browse through a collection of old maps of the Gulf and the Emirates. A model of a wind-tower room is an interesting feature of the architecture section.

Sheikh Saeed’s House
It is on the Shindagha end of Dubai Creek. A rare collection of historic photographs, coins, stamps, and documents can be seen here.

The Bastakiya
The largest concentration of traditional courtyard houses in Dubai, located in a short walk distance from Al-Fahidi Fort. The old district of Bastakiya provides a hint of the old Dubai, with its narrow lanes and tall wind towers.

Bur Dubai Creek Side
The buildings lining the Bur Dubai side of the creek provide the main panorama of the old city. The traditional facades of these buildings have been restored to their original state, with wooden windows, decorative gypsum panels, and screens.

Archaeological Sites

There are four main excavation sites in Dubai: Al-Qusais, Al-Sufooh, Jumeirah, and Hatta. The Jumeirah site reveals artifacts from the 7th to 15th centuries AD.

Burj Al-Arab

This is a sail-shaped edifice as tall as the Eiffel Tower. The hotel has become Dubai’s striking trademark and a wonder to see. The Burj (meaning ‘tower’ in Arabic) is not everybody’s idea of a place to stay on a holiday budget, as rooms start at USD 1361/- per night!


Being an open port with low import duties and no taxation, the city offers the bargain hunter unbeatable value. Dubai’s major shopping areas include: City center, Burj Uman center, Marcato, Al-Rigga Road, Karama, Al-Dhiyafa Road, and Bani Yas Square, not forgetting the Dubai Duty Free complex at the airport.

Value buys can be made at discount stores located all over the city. They offer items worth from Dhs 2/- up to Dhs 20/-. This is especially meaningful for souvenirs, gifts, and other nick knacks.

Carpets: Numerous shops specialize in carpets, with countries of origin ranging from Iran, Pakistan, and Central Asia to China. “Deira Tower Shopping Mall” in Al-Nasr Square has the largest number of carpet outlets under one roof.

Clothes: There are many boutiques and designer label shops for men, women, and children. Each shopping mall offers a mixture of expensive and cheaper clothes.

Electronics: Prices of electronic goods in Dubai are generally lower than anywhere else in the world.

Gold and Jewellery: Dubai’s Gold Souk is world famous for its low prices and sheer variety on offer. Those who bargain hardest get the best price.

Perfumes: Just about every perfume in the world is available in Dubai.


Dubai Shopping Festival

Dubai must be the world leader, when it comes to organizing events, especially, when the Dubai Shopping Festival is concerned. 300 Hotels and 130 apartments also participate with special offers during this period. “Emirates” and most other airlines flying out of Dubai offer discounted airfares and much needed excess baggage allowances, during the festival. Events for children, street side performances, nightly fireworks, etc., reflect the emirate’s cosmopolitan character.

Hotels: “Sheraton,” “Sofitel,” and “Best Western.”