The crowning jewel of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is a city of opulence and extremes. As flights to Dubai become increasingly affordable and its reputation increases the emirate is becoming a popular holiday destination. But is it a traveller’s paradise or are its charms more of a desert mirage?
An international community
Dubai has a large international population, which suggests that there is plenty there to attract foreigners. A staggering 85% of the population are expats from countries around the world. This is largely due to the fact that Dubai is one of the Middle East’s main centres of commerce where multinationals and financial institutions have offices. The hot climate and luxury lifestyle also attract expats, along with the fact that Dubai residents enjoy a high level of disposable income compared to their home countries since wages are tax-free.
Whilst the international community might increase appeal for some visitors, it means that the experience of traditional culture can be harder to come by in Dubai than destinations such as Jordan. The city is new and cosmopolitan, and those seeking culture and history are probably better off going elsewhere.
A shopping paradise
If you are a fan of shopping, then Dubai could indeed be something of a paradise for you. The Dubai Mall is the biggest in the world with over 1,200 stores under its roof. Many of these shops are designer boutiques and all of the world’s luxury brands can be found there. It’s one of many malls in the emirate, and they have become a place to socialise and enjoy world-class entertainment as well as shop.
The Dubai Shopping Festival takes place in spring every year and it is the biggest shopping festival in the world, attracting millions of global visitors. Competitions to win large prizes and luxury goods, huge discount in designer stores, and shows, including firework displays and concerts all contribute towards the appeal of the festival.
There are also the gold and carpet souks where traditional shopping lives on, so you can get more of an authentic local experience.
Luxury hotels and restaurants
Dubai doesn’t do anything by halves, and that certainly goes for its high-end hotels and restaurants. If you like to go five-star or treat yourself when you travel then Dubai could indeed be a paradise. The Burj Al Arab is considered to be the most indulgent hotel in the world and is described as seven-star. Meanwhile, man-made islands along the coast are the sites for a range of luxury hotels and resorts where you really can experience the good life.
Whilst Dubai may be a holiday paradise for people who can afford luxury, for backpackers or people seeking a historic, cultural experience the city could seem like something of a modern mirage without the substance they are seeking. Is Dubai somewhere that you would like to visit? What attracts you or repels you from taking a trip?