Dubai Museum: Appropriately housed in one of the city’s oldest buildings, this museum provides a well-laid-out and comprehensive history of Dubai. Learn exactly how and why, in just a third of a century, this extraordinary destination has risen from being a simple desert settlement to one of the most progressive and modern cities in the Middle East.
Many exhibits take the form of lifelike dioramas, while a separate archaeological exhibition covers the ancient history of the region, with a display of exhibits discovered in several excavated tombs.
Dubai Souqs: Noisy, chaotic and colourful, Dubai’s souqs are an enticing reminder that you are, indeed, in a foreign country – something you might forget when you’re poolside at your five-star hotel. The small Spice Souq is a heady introduction to Middle Eastern exotic herbs and spices, while Bur Dubai’s Textile Souq (p66) is another assault on the senses with its vividly patterned fabrics.
Don’t miss nearby Hindi Lane (p65), a tiny alleyway flanked by stalls selling brilliantly coloured religious decorations, or the Deira Gold Souq, which has a dazzling display of jewellery at remarkably low prices
Bastakia Quarter: Wandering around the maze of narrow lanes in the Bastakia Quarter provides a tangible sense of historic Arabian architecture and culture. The streets are flanked by low-lying traditional buildings, complete with wind towers, arabesque windows, and decorative gypsum screens. Punctuated by the occasional splash of dazzling bougainvillea, this evocative area is home to a couple of the city’s most characterful guesthouses, as well as cafes, galleries, and museums. If you want to learn more about local history, join one of the informative organized walking tours.
Art Galleries: Dubai and Abu Dhabi are rapidly evolving as exciting centers for art in the Middle East. In Dubai, the annual Art Dubai art fair has been instrumental in reviving the city’s art culture. Ranging from the dusty industrial surroundings of Al-Quoz to the chic sophistication of the city’s financial center and the boho-chic Bastakia Quarter, the contemporary art scene here is buzzing. It’s a similar picture in Abu Dhabi with its dedicated cultural ‘island’, Saadiyat, which includes branches of leading international art museums the Louvre, and the Guggenheim
Nightlife: Dubai is home to some of the most glamorous, see-and-be-seen nightclubs in the world. Some of the best are in beachside Jumeirah, where you can dance by the sea under the stars, while several of the city’s most sophisticated bars top soaring buildings, offering dizzy skyscape views to go with those head-spinning cocktails. If you prefer your ale on tap accompanied by big-screen sports or karaoke, there are plenty of Brit-geared pubs, while live-music lovers may get lucky if their trip coincides with a star billing on the concert circuit in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi