A modern oasis in the heart of the Arabian Desert, Dubai is a rapidly growing metropolis on a quest to become the biggest and the best.
Just minutes from downtown, more than 20,000 birds—including hundreds of wild flamingos—live in the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. One of only a few urban protected areas in the world, this wetlands reserve allows visitors to observe various species of flora and fauna in their natural habitat.
Discover recently unearthed treasures from a metalworking center that is more than 3,000 years old at the Saruq Al Hadid Archaeology Museum. Only 10 percent of the site has been excavated so far, uncovering gold jewelry, iron daggers, and household pottery from the United Arab Emirates’ Iron Age.
Best Day Trip
Just an hour’s drive from Dubai, the marble-clad Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque blends traditional and modern Islamic art to reflect the region’s culture. While the mosque is one of the largest in the world and can hold 40,000 worshippers, the nearby burial place of the UAE’s first president is just as sacred.
Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest existing building in the city, is home to a museum depicting the everyday life of Emiratis before the discovery of oil. Visitors can explore the history of Dubai through model re-creations of various communities and antique monuments, from traditional homes to local boats.
Most Unbelievable Sight
Intricate designs and quirky structures covered in flowers line the pathways of the world’s largest natural flower garden. Featuring more than a hundred million blooming flowers of 70 varieties, the Dubai Miracle Garden holds two Guinness World Records, including largest flower arrangement, awarded for a life-size replica of an Airbus 380 aircraft.
Most Iconic Place
The world’s tallest building at a staggering 160 stories, the Burj Khalifa is an iconic monument blending shapes found in nature with Middle Eastern architecture. Enjoy views of the downtown skyline and the Arabian Gulf from the observation deck before heading downstairs to the dancing Dubai Fountain for an unforgettable light and music show.
Ride an old-fashioned abra through the Dubai Creek for a glimpse of the city’s cultural heritage. Stalls with bold colors and aromatic flavors line the winding paths of the Spice Souk while the nearby Gold Souk—one of the oldest marketplaces in Dubai—is a window into the region’s jewelry and bargaining methods.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Escape to the permanently protected Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve for a chance to spot Arabian flora and fauna while exploring the expansive sand dunes on board, bike, or car. This unique desert ecosystem is only accessible through a few preapproved safari tour operators and Bedouin-style campsites.
Best Sunset View
Watch the setting sun from the sand or the sea against a backdrop of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks at Kite Beach. With uninterrupted views of the Arabian Gulf on one side, the twinkling city skyline on another, and a flurry of kite surfers on all sides, Kite Beach promises a beautiful end to any day.
The synergy between expats and locals highlights the peaceful coexistence between various nationalities within one city. From Western customs to Middle Eastern traditions, Dubai boasts a fusion of culture at every corner—whether it’s on the street, in the mall, or at the beach.