Locals hate the comparison, but Dubai really is Las Vegas transplanted to the Persian Gulf — sans the gambling and showgirls, of course. But everything else is there: fantabulous hotels, luxury air-conditioned malls, gourmet eateries, music clubs that rock all night, and theme parks in the middle of a desert where temperatures often hit triple digits.
What We Love
Dubai Creek: The heart of old Dubai is still filled with traditional dhow sailing craft, and flanked by the aromatic spice market, the glitzy Gold Souk, and original Royal Palace.
Ski Dubai: What's not to love about a place where you can ski a black diamond run, have close encounters of the penguin kind, and have a snowball flight — all indoors while the desert swelters outside?
Best Known For
Burj Khalifa: The world's tallest building soars 2,717 feet above the oasis city — twice as tall as the Empire State Building. The observation decks on the 160th floor are a guaranteed vertigo rush.
Shopping: Whether it's Dubai Airport or the modern air-conditioned ambience of Dubai Mall, Ibn Battuta, or Souk Madinat Jumeirah, there are plenty of places to spend a buck, duty-free.
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Who It's Best For
Architecture Junkies: World-record skyscrapers, artificial archipelagos, and over-the-top hotels are bound to blow away anyone keen on city planning and modern building design.
Souvenir Hunters: Between the old souks and the modern shopping malls, Dubai offers endless opportunities to buy rugs and carpets, jewelry, tea sets, traditional wooden furniture, perfumes, and hookah pipes.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's Not Made for Walking: The heat, dust, unattractive streetscapes, and long distances make Dubai the kind of place to hop a taxi or the monorail rather than walk.
Dubai is a Conservative Society: Away from the pool or beach, visitors should always dress in a respectful manner — in particular no skimpy outfits (this applies to both men and women). Be sure to read up on local customs.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.