If you like your holidays with a good splash of opulence then you have probably already considered Dubai. From the world’s tallest building to man-made islands; when it comes to Dubai, go big or go home.

Rising out of the desert on the southeast of the Persian Gulf is a towering metropolis that has quickly become the business and cultural hub of the Middle East. The city has grown rapidly in the last 15 years thanks, for the most part, to the boom in tourism, real estate and finance. Dubai, it seems, is a work in progress and there is building work to be found in most directions you look, but predominantly upwards; skyscrapers loom out of desert and the landscape is a curious mix of five star beaches amidst a backdrop of towering architecture.


The architecture is something to behold; most popular is the sparkling Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, which sits at the centre of downtown Dubai and rises to 828m tall with over 163 floors. There is also the Burj Al Arab, the seven star hotel is shaped like the sail of a ship, and has repeatedly been voted as the most luxurious hotel in the world. And it is easy to see why, with a personalised butler service, a private beach, eight world-class restaurants, four swimming pools and an airport transfer service that offers a choice of Rolls Royce, Mercedes or helicopter.

When you visit Dubai it quickly becomes clear that despite being a business hub, this is also where the extremely wealthy come to play. Roof top bars, private beaches and world class restaurants are just a few of the things to keep them entertained, as well as two huge shopping malls that house everyone from H&M through to Christian Louboutin and just about everything in between. If you don’t like shopping, then don’t ignore the malls altogether, as you will also find an indoor ski slope at the Mall of the Emirates,and the world’s largest mall, the Dubai Mall, boasts a huge aquarium.


Highlighted as the 22nd most expensive city in the world in 2012, experiencing Dubai doesn’t come cheap. Flights and accommodation can be costly and while food isn’t too pricey, alcohol with meals could hike up your bill as the sale of alcohol is regulated in the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates is an Islamic country and therefore visitors are asked to respect their cultures and traditions. Drunk and disruptive behaviour, overzealous public displays of affection and “indecent” clothing are not tolerated. As a modern business and culture hub, Dubai is far more tolerant of Western behaviour and ideals than other Emirates but you may find locals take offence if tourists flout their local traditions and etiquettes too carelessly.

The Westernisation of Dubai is both its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. The tradition and culture of Dubai is gradually getting buried beneath the weight of the shops, restaurants and people who flock from around the world. The percentage of “locals” in Dubai is ridiculously low with a huge majority of expats and businesses making Dubai their adopted home.


Dubai is a great city to visit with its culture clash of tradition meets modern city and business meets pleasure. But if you look for a bit of culture on your holiday then go soon before tradition loses out altogether.

By Samantha Vandersteen

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