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To-Do Dubai

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Ten Essentials on a Visit to the Energetic Emirate

A contemporary conglomeration of highways and skyscrapers,
essentially emerged from the sand in less than a third of a century and its migrating Bedouin populations left few heritage sites behind. Sightseeing attractions are limited but there are still activities for travelers seeking culture and adventure beyond merely shopping and gaping at the overwhelming maze of behemoth skyscrapers -- Here are some things to do -- in
Dubai skyline
1. Take to the Water
The city's origin was a settlement along the
, a ten-mile inlet that empties here into the Gulf of Arabia. Separating Old Dubai's two original riverbank sections, Deira and Bar Dubai, the Creek is thronged with boats and
water taxis which charge a few cents for a refreshing shortcut ride back and forth between the two historic shores. Evening cruises on the Creek provide a cooling voyage and an opportunity to view the city lights from afar. Elaborate buffets are served aboard and many trips are enhanced with live music entertainment.
Abra water taxis

Crossing the creek on an abra

Boarding the evening cruise

Evening dinner cruise

2. Partake of the Past
One of few historic structures in the city, the reclaimed 1799 Al-Fahidi fort has been transformed into a museum with lively and informative exhibits. Visitors see a chronicle of the region's development ground-up from the sand since the 1960's, an array of historic weapons and boats, a narrative on water use and preservation. Exhibits with life-size mannequins illustrate the region's fishing and pearl diving, trade, and life on the desert at night.

Al-Fahiki Museum

Courtyard of the Al-Fahidi Museum

3. Savor the Sand
Desert adventres are reminders of the region's original environment. Take to the beach or book a camel ride at an outlying stable. Try sand skiing, or a harrowing four-wheel drive roller-coaster slide through the sand to a safari site where belly dancers entertain during a barbecue meal.

Desert vista

Motorcycle sand swerving

Saddled up for a camel ride

Camel riding


4. Shop at a Souk
It couldn't be more appropriate that the emirate is pronounced Du-buy -- for shopping is a principle attraction throughout the city. Start at the Spice Souk for a literal whiff of traditional commerce. Its tidied-up maze of wood frame booths provide a sense of old-time shopping with merchants in flowing white kandura robes peddling fresh peppercorns and curry powder, cumin and coriander, and a full supply of standard souvenirs -- "pashminas," toy camels, palm tree tee shirts, scarves bordered with jingly coins.

Inside the spice souk

Souvenir vendor

Bags of spices

Rosebuds and petals

Camel figurines

Toy camels

Exotic slippers

Colorful scarves

5. Get Gold
An open-air corridor of shops with dazzling window displays of jewelry, chains and gleaming household items, the Gold Souk has been a tradition here since long before the malls were constructed. Haggling is called for, but the merchants are highly regulated and 24 karat bargains may be found.

Corridor of the gold souk

Wares at the gold souk

6. Marvel at the Malls
With over 1000 shops, the Dubai Mall, the world's largest, rates at the top among myriad throughout the overwhelming mega-malls city where under one roof, hundreds of sophisticated impeccable shops and cafes stretch along vast multi-storied marble corridors. International brand names are familiar -- H&M, the GAP, Tiffany, Chanel, Samsung, Nike, Bloomingdale's, Macy's -- in stores that seem larger, more sophisticated and spacious than those back home.
Shoppers at Dubai Mall

Elegant arcade in Dubai Mall

Gift shop goods at Ferrari World mall

7. Sample the Spectacles
Striving to outdo each other the malls install unusual features. Shoppers at Mall of Dubai can pause to ice skate, admire the giant waterfall, try rides in the amusement park, gaze at stingrays wafting by in the multi-level glass-wall aquarium. Dancing fountain shows run every half hour in the artificial lake outside.
Ice rink

Scuba diver feeds the fish


Mall of dubai fountain show

8. Rise to the Top
Within a minute high-speed elevators whisk passengers up Burj Kalifa, the world's tallest building to the 125th floor observation level or the 148th floor for those paying an extra fee. Visitors can take photos on an outdoor deck, browse the souvenir shop, pose for photos which can be manipulated to make it appear they are straddling the building as Tom Cruise did in one of his films "Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol".

Burj Kalaifa

Dubai view from Burj Kalifa

9. Have a Snow Ball
Even when the summer temperature soars to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, the coolest place in town is Ski Dubai, the indoor snow spectacle in the Mall of the Emirates. For a fee, visitors can snowboard, shoot down the toboggan run, sled down the hill on inner tubes, watch the penguin show, or take the chair lift up to ski down the 200-foot drop on a 1300-foot "black" slope. The less athletic can watch the fun while lounging by the fireplace in the adjacent, wood-paneled after-ski chalet lounge.
Chairlift at Ski Dubai

Down the slopes

Indoor ski slopes

Spectators watch

10. Eat International
In a population where 90 percent of the residents are emigrants from 160 different ethnic groups, the variety of traditional foods includes almost every conceivable type of cuisine. While not a culture of street foods, familiar logos scattered through town offer take-away -- Kentucky Fried, Subway, Baskin Robbins.

In addition to serving international fare, luxury hotels cater to different cultures. Those who take the elevator up to the 52nd-floor Observatory restaurant in the Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites can dine on herb and thyme crusted lamb cutlet or crispy sea bream with bok choy and olives while taking in the sky high view of the Palm Jumeirah islands branching out below.
Herb crusted lamb

Crispy sea bream

Authentic cuisine from around the world is featured at the Shangri-La Hotel where the choices are Michelin-starred Indian cuisine at Junoon, or Beijing duck and Cantonese dishes at Shang Palace. The city's only authentic Vietnamese cuisine served at Hoi An features pepper leaf wrapped foie gras, summer rolls, lobster ravioli, wok fried prawn with garlic and apple, grilled five-spice baby chicken, and Phobo soup which simmers for seven hours.
Hoi An dining room

Hoi An sampler of appetizers

Hoi An deep fried crispy spring rolls with crab shrimp and shittake mushrooms

Oven baked stripped sea bass onions ginger and mixed herbs served in a banana leaf at Hoi An

Hoi An's Pho Bo Vet Nam traditional vietnamese soup with beef assorted vegetables and chilli

Tempura Canadian lobster ravioli with mango sauce at Hoi An

Visitors should observe and respect local customs and cultural sensitivities wearing loose-fitting clothing that covers the shoulders, avoiding displays of public affection, Alcohol is not widely available, but may be purchased in some shops, hotels, and airport bars.