The earliest settlement of Dubai dates back to 1799 when the area began as a trading hub and later an important port for merchants. Oil was discovered in Dubai in 1966 and then the oil industry dominated for several years. Today’s Dubai is focused on infrastructure, construction, real estate, financial services and tourism (with much less dependence on oil).

dubai-cityscape

Old and New Dubai

Old and new Dubai are quite different. Dubai Creek and the surrounding area is the original and old Dubai. It’s an area rich in culture, where most of the locals live. You can take a city tour, explore the souks (markets), wander through shops and enjoy some local food. Spending time in both “old” and “new” Dubai will give you a complete view of this fascinating part of the world.

It’s hot!—time your visit accordingly

Dubai (and the UAE) has a desert climate and is located within the Arabian Desert, on the Persian Gulf. Even in the winter, the weather is still warm. In the summer, it’s hotter than hot. Temperatures in July and August average around 41C, with nighttime lows of 30C.

The best time to visit the UAE, if you’re avoiding the heat, is November through March. Temperatures typically are in the 20C – 30C range. But it’s also the time of year when flights and hotels are most expensive. Shoulder months like April and October offer both less heat and lower prices for travel.

burj-al-arab

What to do

You’ll also want to carefully choose a hotel and plan your activities. If you’re looking for luxury and relaxation, one of your top choices will be the Burj Al Arab Resort in Dubai. With its private beach, spa, dining and butler service, you’ll never need to leave (except perhaps to visit the nearby Mall of the Emirates).

burj-khalifa

If you have a budget and want to explore, you’ll probably want to stay at a more modest hotel. The list of things to do in Dubai is long and varied: go on a desert safari, attend camel races, play golf, go to the public beach, go shopping, sightsee on the Big Red Bus, ride the world’s fastest roller coaster, take a trip to the top of the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa, pictured), just to name a few. You won’t run out of things to do, but you will quickly run out of vacation days if you don’t plan out your trip.

Eat and drink like a local

The UAE has some very interesting local cuisine. Authentic Emirati and Persian Gulf cuisine are full of flavours with cinnamon, nutmeg and za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend with herbs, citrus and sesame seeds). But don’t head out for dinner before 8:30 p.m. (unless you want to sit with other tourists)!  Alcohol is served in the UAE, but only within licensed hotels and clubs. It’s illegal to be under the influence of alcohol in public. Being a very drunk tourist will probably get you arrested. If you plan to have more than a few, do it within your hotel.

dubai-mosque

Respect local culture

Dubai is more liberal than ever, but the UAE is still a conservative Islamic country. Locals dress conservatively, as do visitors from other Gulf countries. You can wear what you feel comfortable in, but dress appropriately for the situation. Swearing in public is against the law. Be aware of cultural differences, and you’ll be fine.

The UAE is a unique destination and well worth the trip. Plan it out and you’ll have an amazing trip. Knock another great destination off your world bucket list!

Safe travels,

Mark

Dubai and UAE Travel Tips for First-Time Visitors

Oct 16 2019