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United Arab Emirates: Dubai by Day

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Dubai is not the largest or the wealthiest emirate in the United Arab Emirates but it is certainly the most ambitious and best-known. And it is definitely the most fun! Dubai is now a World Expo city that's about to host Expo 2020 (like the Olympics, the expo was postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic but retains its 2020 designation) from Oct. 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022. Just about every country in the world will be at Expo 2020 and you could easily spend a week exploring there, but a good way to get a feel for Dubai is to take a city tour. Various companies offer city tours and here are some things that you'll likely see on most of them.

Dubai Museum


Al Fahidi's Boat
Al Fahidi's Boat

Don't despair when you find out the Dubai Museum is temporarily closed for renovations because there is still plenty you can see on the outside of the property. One jaw-dropping display is the Al Fahidi Rowing Race Boat, an amazing wooden race boat that was a champion for 20 years as it won all races it entered from 1972-1992. It took 78 rowers to propel the ship along! Also viewable outside the museum are a couple of models of traditional Arab dhows and an example of a typical Bedu (Bedouin) tent, complete with all the carpets, cushions and pillows that make life without chairs comfortable. Also here is the ancient Al Fahidi Fort which makes for a good photo op.

Dubai Creek


Dubai Creek
Dubai Creek

Somewhere along the line in your Dubai city tour you'll have a stop at Dubai Creek. Tour guides explain the importance of the waterway as a trade route, historically and today, and they'll tell you how things were depending on what side of the creek you lived on or conducted business on. Dhows act as water taxis here and you can also sign up for a different tour where you'll sail the creek during a dinner cruise.

Jumeirah Mosque


Jumeirah Mosque
Jumeirah Mosque

There are a few mosques in Dubai that allow non-Muslims inside and Jumeirah Mosque is one of them. In order to go inside your tour operator will need to make special arrangements in advance. This is another case though where there's plenty to see outside if your particular tour just pulls in for an exterior visit. An ingenious feature of the mosque is at the outdoor prayer area where long narrow prayer rugs are rolled up on a horizontal cylinder and can be pulled out for use at prayer time. They accommodate a lot of people, and when prayers are over a handle attached to the cylinder allows the rugs to be rolled back up. The mosque and its outbuildings are very photogenic and you can get some good shots here.

Surfing Zone Beach


You probably won't be taking your surf board to Dubai with you, but if you're a surfer it's nice to know that there's a place on the sea set aside just for you at the Dubai Surfing Zone Beach. Swimming is prohibited here; you can loll on the powdery sand beach or stick your toes in the water but that's it. This is a safety measure so that swimmers don't get clunked by surfboards and so that surfers don't get upended by swimmers.

Burj Al Arab


Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab is a luxury hotel and it is one of the tallest hotels in the world. A room at this iconic hotel, recognizable by its unique shape, is going to set you back more than $1000 a night, but the photo op is free. Tour guides know right where to pull over and park so that you can get a snap of this famed hotel. A guard keeps tourists from getting any closer than the parking area; you can't drive onto the property unless you're staying there. The Burj Al Arab is actually on a manmade island that's connected to the mainland by a short bridge road. Oh, and if you do stay you can choose from 17 types of pillows to lay your head on.

Dubai Mall and Aquarium


Dubai Aquarium
Dubai Aquarium

If you've ever been to the Mall of America in Minneapolis you know that it is absolutely huge. Well, Dubai Mall is bigger, much bigger. A place where fashion-conscious shoppers from all over the world come to buy the latest and greatest (or just see and be seen,) Dubai Mall overflows with outlets like Rolex, Armani, Calvin Klein, Birkenstock, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy, Ferrari, Gucci, Harley Davidson and, well, you get the idea.

Quirky stores abound too; at South Korean sunglasses outlet Gentle Monster there is actually a (gasp!) mechanical monster waiting to greet you at the front of the store.

Gentle Monster
Gentle Monster

And the food court has some familiar names like Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut, but you can get those at home. Why not try Jollibees, Noon O Kabab or Zaatar W Zeit? There are fine dining options too serving French, Japanese, British, Indian, Italian and Chinese cuisine. And when you're tired of shopping (never!) go and have some fun at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. If you don't have time or otherwise don't get to go into the aquarium you can still enjoy parts of it in the substantial viewing area where floor-to-ceiling glass walls offer a peek at sharks, rays and other fishes that call the aquarium home. This is part of the fun at the mall; there's no charge at the aquarium until you go in.

Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall

These are some of the highlights of a Dubai city tour. Guides are always informative as they relay information about Dubai's history and current affairs. Of course there's much more to this glittering emirate, and as you motor through the city on a tour you'll see lots of things you'll want to check out later. In our next feature we'll look at some things to do in Dubai at night.

For more information on visiting Dubai go here.

For information on Expo 2020 Dubai go here.

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