dubai mall fountainDubai, the concrete emirate on steroids in the United Arab Emirates, tends to get stretched out into 24, 48, 96 hours or longer when it comes to travel advice. In a city where everything is larger than normal (even the most inconsequential buildings seem 3 times the size required), why not do the opposite.

Overload your senses before you arrive in Dubai, only to have them shocked again on your 24, 48 hour, or however-long trip to the city that sees over 10 million tourists each year.

Really Big Buildings

Every piece of modern architecture in Dubai seems like it was built with the express purpose of outdoing another (now former) Dubai wonder. For many, the first image to come to mind is the Burj Al Arab – that iconic sailboat overlooking the popular Jumierah beach. Under the imposing luxury of the Burj Al Arab you can surf, get a tan, or simply relax from the steel intensity you tend to find everywhere else.

burj al arab dubai uae

  • jumierah beachDubai Beachwear For Women – Ladies, bikinis and swimsuits are acceptable when laying out to get a tan; however when up and about on the beach a sarong wrapped to cover top and bottom was the norm. (Gourmantic has good information on what to wear for women visiting Dubai.) I also wouldn’t recommend getting romantic in public if you know what I mean.

The Wild Wadi Water Park also happens to be right next to the Jumierah Hotel, of which I inadvertently got an extensive tour of. Having to use the bathroom somewhere, they let me in and a worker escorted me to the toilets on the other side of the park. The way back took around an hour though, as I got an unexpected (yet detailed) tour of over-the-top park by an employee who wasn’t too keen on getting back to work.

I never went in the Burj Al Arab myself; the least expensive way to visit (you must have an invitation) being to book a reservation at one of the hotel restaurants. Spending $50 for a cup of coffee to see a hotel I wouldn’t pay $1,100 a night to stay in didn’t appeal to me personally; though not to put you off, those of you interested will need to book any restaurant reservations an average of 5 days in advance.

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The World’s Tallest Building (Soon To Be Third)

Although the Burj Al Arab might be the most famous building in Dubai, right across from the Address Downtown Building and the popular Dubai Mall, is the world’s largest building. The Burj Khalifa stands 828 meters (~2,700 feet) and there is a 3-5 day wait to get entry tickets. It costs about $50 to reach the top of the world’s largest building – a distinction that the Burj Khalifa won’t have for long. Kuwait is currently building the 1,001m Madinat al-Hareer and the Saudi’s plan to beat that several years later with the proposed 1,600m Mile-High Tower.

burj khalifa dubai uae worlds tallest building

The park (yes, it’s concrete too) surrounding the Burj Khalifa, next to Dubai Mall, is full of bustling cafes active well into the weekend nights, with the occasional concert or other free event popping up as well.

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burj khalifa park

Travelers with children might also want to check out the aquarium in Dubai Mall which has a number of hands on displays and plenty of sharks up close to keep things interesting.

Take A Ride To Dubai’s Spice Souk

Not quite as built up or obviously in a modern facade as Doha, Qatar’s Souk Waqif, Dubai’s Spice Souq comes as a refreshing reminder that there are layers of reality under the constructed tourism industry all around.

dubai spice souq

The shopkeepers were fairly subdued with the occasional “yes, please” you’ll find in this part of the world, and although the prices are hardly bargains, the boat ride over for the ambiance more than makes the trip worthwhile.

Stuff Yourself Before You Digest

Dubai is a destination that comes at you…and fast. Literally a city designed for tourism from the bottom up, it has every tourist draw in abundance. Shopping in gold souks new and old, any cuisine on Earth, and adventure that lets you shoot desert sand into the skies with 4x4s of all shape and size. Dubai has it for you – pardon the cliche, but most of the tourist infrastructure is created to keep the city running on tourism. In fact, that’s why Dubai is there in a sense, to let you shop and drop while supporting its economy as it moves away from dwindling oil reserves.