This bustling, modern, gleaming metropolis with skyscrapers rubbing shoulders side by side is a far cry from the quiet fishing village and pearl diving centre it once was not too long ago. There is a bit of the old Dubai left in the historical Al Fahidi (Al Bastakiya) quarter, which was restored in the eighties and is home to galleries and restaurants and where the Dubai Museum is located in the old fort, the oldest building in Dubai. The Old Souk and Abra station is also close by, the boats get you across the creek. The souks are definitely worth a visit, the textile one where you are able to buy beautiful shawls at a fraction of what it would cost in Europe. The Spice Souk is a heady experience, just seeing saffron in abundance is such a delight. In Sweden the little packets of saffron are hidden under the check out counters like contraband.
The shopping malls are a planet onto themselves, everything from every imaginable label, to restaurants, cafes, skating rinks and ski slopes, aquariums, you will find it all there in the malls. Living with untenable weather for part of the year, it is a desert after all, the malls are a good refuge to escape the scorching heat.
The food scene is amazing, most top end restaurants are located in hotels, it is also the only place where alcohol is permitted to be served. You really can find every type of cuisine here, Middle Eastern and Indian very good of course, and I found my favourite Taiwanese dumpling chain Din Tai Fung. Also loved the falafel from Operation Falafel, didn’t feel greasy and over fried, nice consistency and spices. Indulged in Red Velvet cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and the most delicious macarons from Ladurée and Pierre Hermé. Stuffed Dates are a perfect sweet snack and I found delicious ones at Bateel, they can be found in all the malls.
The top luxury hotels are quite a sight to behold and to experience, the Al Qasr and The One&Only Royal Mirage are both spectacular both in terms of architecture and for facilities that they provide. Go there even for just a drink at sunset. Getting around is easy with taxis, although it can also be a heart stopping experience but they are inexpensive and easy to find.
I did not do the desert tour, will leave something for my next trip, when I will also visit Abu Dhabi and the exciting new Louvre and Guggenheim Museums on Saadiyat Island. Dubai surprised me on many levels, all positive, and I look forward to going back.