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Information about Dubai
Dubai is one of the seven United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf. Until the 1990s, the economy was mainly based on oil revenues, however, as the end of oil reserves is within sight, Dubai decided to also focus on financial services and tourism.
Dubai is mainly known for its skyscrapers and huge projects, like the particularly shaped, man-made islands in the sea. But you can still get a taste of the old Dubai, for example in the Bastakiya District. Here they restored houses to their former glory. In this neighborhood you'll find many art galleries and coffee shops. In the Dubai Museum you can learn more about Dubai's fascinating transformation: From a poor village of pearl fishers to the shiny metropolis it is today. The museum even recreated an old souk (market). You can also still find some of the old Dubai in the Al Shindagda District. Many houses are open museums, like the home of Dubai's former leader, sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum.
The Joumeirah Mosque is the city's largest mosque and the only one that can be visited by non-Muslims. It is a fine example of Islamic architecture and beautifully lit at night. In the Center for Cultural Understanding you can learn more about Islamic faith.
The world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa (828 meters tall), was inaugurated on January 4, 2010. Until right before the opening, the building was known as the Burj Dubai, but its name was changed to honor Abu Dhabi's Emir who had resolved Dubai's (serious) financial problems a month earlier. The observation platform is situated on the 125th floor, at an altitude of 'only' 452 meters, which makes it the world's second-highest viewing platform. A restaurant is situated two floors below. The Burj Khalifa is surrounded by a park with water features, palm trees and flowerbeds. The Dubai Fountain immediately catches the eye. This 'dancing fountain' also breaks all records: 275 meters long and lit by 6600 lamps and 50 colored projectors. At night, between 6 and 10 pm (in weekends until 11 pm), the arrangement is accompanied by Arab and classical music. The Burj Al-Arab, shaped like a sail, is also a unique building. It is a hotel; 'the world's only seven-star hotel', according to its owners.
At the Dubai Marina you can gape at the luxury yachts that are moored here. Some yachts are for rent, although you will need to bring a hefty purse. There are also some restaurants and two large shopping malls. Dubai is a shopping paradise with no less than 70 shopping malls, including the Dubai Mall, one of the world's largest malls.
Off the coast lie the Gulf state's large-scale projects: The Palm Islands and The World. The Palm Islands are three artificial archipelagos, shaped like a palm tree. The first one, Palm Jumeirah, is the smallest archipelago and the only project that is completed. Next to it lies Palm Jebel Ali. The third project, Palm Deira, was put on hold because of financial problems in 2009. The same holds true for The World, an archipelago in the shape of a world map, of which only the islands have been constructed but nothing has been built on them yet.
In winter months, on Thursdays and Fridays, camel races are held on the Camel Race Track. Here you can not only attend a race, but also visit the grounds where they keep the camels.
From Dubai, they organize various 4WD tours to the desert. It's a unique experience to tear over the sand dunes at high speed. These desert safaris usually take place at the end of the afternoon so you can also enjoy the sunset. They are usually concluded with a dinner in the desert, accompanied by music and dancing. Another unique activity is sand golf: Yes, playing golf in the desert! Dubai also has grass golf courses by the way, for which they use insane amounts of water to keep them green.
In winter months you can visit the Global Village in the outskirts of Dubai. Here various countries from around the world present themselves and you can buy souvenirs as if you were in the country itself. They also hold lotteries with main prizes being a car or a gold bar.
Dubai has many parking garages, so you will have no trouble finding parking space for your rental car. We advise against driving around Dubai during rush hour though. Although the country has invested heavily in the construction of roads and freeways, traffic in and around Dubai is completely stuck at these times. Also keep in mind that there are four places in Dubai where they levy toll automatically. The tolls levied are settled when you turn in your rental car.
Dubai International Airport is located at only 4 kilometers from the city center. You can reach the airport in your rental car via the D-89 freeway (also called Al Maktoum Road, Airport Road or al Khawaneej Road). The new Al Maktoum International Airport is located much further away from the city, 35 kilometers southwest of Dubai City. The plan is for foreign companies to use this airport as of 2012, but the project will only be fully completed in 2017.