United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a crossover between the traditions of the Bedouin lifestyle and the fast pace of the 21st century modern life. Its an odd mixture of religious conservatism and Western consumerism. The UAE’s seven emirates are each ruled by its own sheikh (under a federal government), but the real drive of the country is its oil fields, which make up the third largest reserve of oil in the world. Though, in these days the UAE is gazing to times beyond the era of oil, with heavy investments in trade and tourism.
Dubai: The Creek
Dubai is really two towns merged into one and divided by Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai), which is an inlet of the Arabian Gulf. The two neighborhoods on either side of the creek form the historic heart of the city, and this is also where you’ll find most of the attractions of Dubai. The two neighborhoods are Deira to the northeast and Bur Dubai to the southwest. The small motorboat taxis, called abras, take you across for one dirham.
Dubai: Dhow Wharfage
Dhows are the traditional Arab sailing vessels, and can be seen along the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, India and East Africa. The dhow wharfage on the Deira side of the Khor Dubai (Dubai Creek) gives an up-and-close view of these graceful wooden ships and the endless flow of cargo being loaded and unloaded. As late as the 1960s dhows would bring their cargo all the way from the Persian Gulf to East Africa using only sails to “power” themselves.
Dubai: Jumeira Mosque
Jumeira Mosque (on Al-Jumeira Rd.) is not only the largest mosque of Dubai (with room for 1200 worshippers). It is also the only functioning mosque in the United Arab Emirates which is open to non-muslims, though only for one-hour tours on Sundays and Thursdays at 10am. Built in the medieval Fatimid tradition, it is an impressive example of modern Islamic architecture. It was completed in 1978, built by order of His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
Dubai: Al-Fahidi Fort
Perhaps the oldest building in Dubai, the Al-Fahidi Fort dates back to 1787 and was built as a defense against foreign invasions). Since a renovation in 1993 it houses the Dubai Museum. The museum gives insight into the heritage of Dubai as well as desert life. One of the hightlights are artifacts excavated from graves dating back to the third millenium B.C. The museum is a must for any first-time visitor to Dubai (open everyday except Sundays) .
Dubai: Burj al-Arab
Built to resemble the sail of a dhow, the Burj al-Arab (meaning Tower of the Arabs) has been promoted as “the world’s first seven star hotel”. The hotel has quickly become a symbol of the modern and luxurious Dubai. Even though the building has the same height as the Eiffel Tower (at over 300 meters) it only holds 28 double-storey floors, with a total of 202 bedroom suites. Prices for the suites start at $1000 per night.