With a perfect winter climate, top class hotels, superb facilities for a variety of sports and leisure activities and excellent shopping, Dubai has something to offer everyone. Moreover, the emirate is friendly, safe and virtually crime-free. Sunshine, shopping, seaside, sports and safety - five of the key ingredients that have earned Dubai a growing reputation as one of the world’s most attractive and rapidly developing leisure destinations.
Long established as the trading and commercial hub of the Middle East, the emirate combines the excitement of a bustling commercial center with the wide open spaces of a luxurious resort. Located at the cross-roads of Asia, Europe and Africa, Dubai is well positioned to attract tourists looking for somewhere new and different, a destination combining the traditions of the east with the comforts of the west.
Both business travelers and tourists find that Dubai offers the highest standards of comfort and luxury. As befits a dynamic and prosperous business center, Dubai’s ultramodern hotels offer every luxury. Yet the comforts of the 21st century co-exist comfortably with the emirate’s rich Arab-Islamic culture.
An intriguing land that combines old-world souks and modern shopping malls, rolling sand dunes and championship grass golf courses, remote Bedouin villages and an array of five-star hotels, Dubai defies easy definition.
Dubai’s culture is rooted in Islam, providing a strength and inspiration that touches all aspects of everyday life. Virtually every neighborhood has its own mosque, where the faithful congregate for prayer five times every day. One of the largest and most beautiful - Jumeirah Mosque - is a spectacular example of modern Islamic architecture. Built of stone in medieval Fatimid style, the mosque is particularly attractive at night when subtle lighting throws its artistry into sharp relief.
Ramadan, which commemorates the revelation of the Holy Koran, is the Holy Month of fasting when Muslims abstain from all food and drink from dawn to dusk. Courtesy and hospitality are among the most highly prized of virtues in the Arab world, and visitors will be charmed by the warmth and friendliness of the people.
The official language is Arabic. English is widely understood and ranks alongside Arabic as the language of commerce.
Originally a small fishing and trading settlement, Dubai was taken over in about 1830 by a branch of the Bani Yas tribe from the Liwa oasis led by the Maktoum family who still rule the emirate today.
Traditional activities included herding sheep and goats, cultivating dates, fishing and pearling, but the inhabitants built up trade too. By the turn of the century, Dubai was reputed to have the largest souks on the Gulf coast, with 350 shops in the Deira district alone.
Commercial success allied to the liberal attitudes of Dubai’s rulers, made the emirate attractive to traders from India and Iran, who began to settle in the growing town. But, while trade developed, Dubai remained politically a protectorate of Britain as part of the Trucial States extending along the northern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
On the British withdrawal in 1971, Dubai came together with Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and (in 1972) Ras Al Khaimah to create the federation of the United Arab Emirates.
This was shortly after the discovery of oil in 1966, which was soon to transform the emirate and its way of life. Dubai’s first oil exports in 1969 were followed by a period of rapid development that laid the foundations for today’s modern society. Much of the credit for this development can be traced to the vision of the late Ruler, HH Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who ensured that Dubai’s oil revenues, despite being relatively modest by the standards of the region, were deployed to maximum effect.
His work has been continued by the present Ruler, HH Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and his brother, Their Highnesses Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance and Industry. The result is that Dubai is constantly building up its infrastructure of transport facilities, schools, hospitals, tourism developments and other amenities of an advanced society.
The monetary unit is the dirham (Dh) which is divided into 100 fils. The dirham is linked to the Special Drawing Right of the International Monetary Fund. It has been held constant against the US dollar since the end of 1980 at a mid-rate of approximately US$1= Dh3.67.
The UAE has a sub-tropical and arid climate. Rainfall is infrequent and irregular. Falling mainly in winter, it amounts to some 5 inches a year. Temperatures range from a low of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit to a high of 118 degrees Fahrenheit. The mean daily maximum is 75 degrees in January rising to 106 degrees in July.
No health certificates are required for entry to Dubai, but it is always wise to check before departure, as health restrictions may vary depending upon the situation at the time.
A passport is required to enter the UAE. For personal travel of 30 days or fewer, U.S. citizens holding valid tourist passports may obtain visitor visas at the port of entry for no fee. For stays longer than 30 days, all travelers must obtain a visa before arrival in the UAE.
American Express, Diners Club, Visa, MasterCard, etc are generally accepted in the main hotels and larger shops but some retailers offer better bargains for cash.
The electricity supply in Dubai is 220/240 volts at 50 cycles. US-made appliances may need a transformer.
Tap water is quite safe to drink but visitors usually prefer locally-bottled mineral water and this is generally served in hotels and restaurants.
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