Often nicknamed the “Vegas of the Middle East”, Dubai is much more than a town filled with tacky hotels and flashing lights. Yes everything is here is larger than life and it’s true that some of its shopping malls verge on being slightly ostentatious. But if you look beyond its shiny exterior you’ll discover a tiny emirate that has everything you could ask for in a holiday. Miles of white sandy beaches provide great spots for a barbeque or for simply relaxing beneath a palm tree, while adrenaline-seekers can go para-sailing or jet skiing instead. And since most travellers taking flights to Dubai merely use it as a hub to stopover on route to Asia why not stay a few days – or a week – and explore all that this desert city has to offer.
Dubai’s shopping malls and souks surmount any in the region and are usually the first stop for travellers coming off their flights to Dubai. The Mall of the Emirates is the largest and has an indoor ski slope, the first of its kind in the Middle East; while Deira’s Gold Souq has an extensive selection of Indian and Arabian gold.
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Dubai is scorching hot and sunny, as you would expect from the desert. Summer days average 11 hours of sunshine a day with temperatures more than 37 degrees (Celsius). On the hottest days the temperature can reach 49 degrees. Evening temperatures drop to the 20s, but the humidity rises to an uncomfortable level.Between December and March, daytime temperatures range from the upper 20s to upper 30s, with evenings cooling down to the teens. Rainfall is limited, but what Dubai does get falls mostly from January to March.
Tourists usually choose to make their way through Dubai by taxi. The privately owned taxis are the only ones allowed at the airport and are not metered, so you will have to agree on a fare before departing. Metered taxis can be found everywhere else and will be beige-coloured with uniformed drivers. You can also get around by bus or the new metro system. Buses crisscross the city and routes are easy to decipher. Routes are printed in both Arabic and English and discounted tickets offer unlimited travel on one or both sides of Dubai Creek. Walking is the best way to see the older parts of Dubai, where you can visit the souqs and museums.
If you need to cross the Creek, abras (water taxis) are convenient and provide a nice view of the waterfront. Pay your fare once you’re afloat.