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What was once scarcely more than a fishing town at the mouth of a desert creek has become the iconic new city of the world. The gleaming vision of modernity has erupted out of obscurity onto the world’s scene and has become a beacon for all things modern, over-the-top, and opulent. While the attractions will make your eyes gleam (and your head spin), it’s all held together by the conservative laws of the UAE. It’s a city that’s seemingly in two places at once: while you may be able to casually take a supercar for a romp around a track, kissing in public is strictly forbidden. It’s a place where extravagance is expected—just not everywhere.
This balance of old and new can be seen from Zabeel Park’s giant picture frame. On one side, the new: the iconic Burj Khalifa, the gleaming skyline full of rooftop cocktail lounges, neon-lit clubs, and art galleries aplenty. On the other side, the old: the gold, spice, and perfume souqs, set inside the historic Old Dubai, modestly adorned in tradition. In between, you’ll be able to do everything from a desert horseback ride into the sunrise to ski inside—or you can just hang out on the beach. And even if you’re not a shopper, you’ll probably want to go by at least one of the malls. Whether it’s the Dubai Mall, the Mall of the Emirates, or the Souk Al Bahar, you’ll probably find something you want along the way.
Dubai was built on labor from all over the world, and Dubai’s culinary scene reflects the vastness of these influences. From achingly modern restaurants to traditional Emirati cuisine, the gamut of restaurants is pretty spectacular. Craving French? Maybe Japanese? Or maybe you just want to sample the catch of the day on the beach. Done, done, and done. And when you’re done, you can always head out to an Irish pub, hookah bar, or grab one of the best cocktails this side of the Persian Gulf.
Calling Dubai burgeoning wouldn’t be right—it’s already arrived. But it’s not done expanding into its own vision of itself. Perhaps that’s what makes Dubai so incredible: it’s a city built by its own rules. It holds its past in high regard, but its not stuck on it. It’s always moving forward, always innovating, always looking for the next big thing—always looking to conquer the next impossibility.