Dubai is the United Arab Emirates. Despite the fact that the emirate's area is 17 times less than that of Abu Dhabi, most people know only about Dubai. This is not surprising as the top sights of the UAE are located in the city. We have to say "new sights", because important museums are in other emirates, but who knows about them?
There's a lot of myths about Dubai, the most important of which is oil. Unlike Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, where oil is the basis of GDP, profit from oil and gas in Dubai is only 6% of GDP (in Russia, for example, export of raw materials is 40% of GDP). Oil boosted the city, but that was long ago (oil was found in 1966).
The main sources of income today are tourism and trade. Recently, Dubai has also become the world's largest logistics center. Despite the fact that the current Dubai International Airport is one of the biggest in the world, the next biggest airport in the world, Al-Maktoum, is currently being built and will be opened in 2015. It will become a major transit point on the planet.
The first thing that catches the eye of a tourist is that city is very green. Every bush, every flower is watered! And this in the country where fresh water is more expensive than oil, and desalination of sea water costs billions of dollars a year.
The main problem when visiting Dubai and the UAE is the weather. It's very hot here! You probably often see cheap tours to the UAE, usually they are being offered during the hottest months. Many local people move to Europe in summer. We were there in May, air temperature of 38 degrees allowed to walk, but not too much. Better visit the city from December to March.
The second problem is that the city is not designed for pedestrians. Sidewalks are only in the downtown and some parks. Probably they are being built right now. Distances are very large, for example, distance from the Burj Khalifa to the Atlantis hotel is about 25 kilometers. Therefore, despite the fact that the taxis are quite cheap, the overall trip around the city is quite expensive.
Metro has significantly improved the situation. It was built mostly above ground. There are no drivers in the trains, although if you want take a seat in front of the wagon, you should buy a first-class ticket.
In fact the transportation system is far from perfect. There's a monorail on the Palm island, but it's not easy to get there without a taxi. Bus stops are air-conditioned, but the buses go very rarely. Metro + taxi was ok for us and we were able to visit many interesting places in the city. Locals travel mostly by cars and taxis. You can see who owns the car by numbers. Sheikh Mohammed's car has the number with one digit. Members of the royal family have two-digit numbers, while the locals have three digits and everyone else - five.
Special thanks to the government for trying to make everything comfortable. Air-conditioning and lifts are everywhere. And even travelators are built inside pedestrian crossings.
But there is another problem - accessibility of beaches. Although the city is located along the coast, the number of beaches is small. The only free public beach which we know is in Dubai Marina. The most famous and popular is Jumeirah Beach Park (entrance fee is 5 AED). Shuttles from many hotels go there.
Basically, Dubai attracts tourists with its famous shopping malls. The most famous are Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall, and probably more malls are being built at the moment. By the way, Ukraine's biggest shopping center Ocean Plaza was opened in Kiev in 2012 and it looks very similar to Dubai Mall.
The glass of the aquarium and the shopping center are the largest in the world. In general, Dubai is a city of the largest things. The tallest building in the world Burj Khalifa and the world's largest light and music fountain are located nearby.
If you take a sightseeing tour, you will visit a road to a residence of the ruling sheikh (several kilometers from the Dubai Mall). It is possible to come pretty close to the gate and take pictures. The road is very beautiful, with palms and peacocks :)
In addition to the downtown area, there's quite a lot of interesting places on the coast as well. The first is the Burj Al Arab hotel, the world's first seven-star hotel. It used to be the tallest in the world until another Dubai hotel, Rose Tower (333 meters), was built.
Further along the coast from the downtown is Palm Jumeirah, one of three artificial islands that increase Dubai's coastline by 520 kilometers. It is possible to move on to the monorail across the island. The final station is the Atlantis hotel and Aquaventure Water Park.
In the lobby of the hotel there's a huge aquarium which is open to the public.
Further down the coast is a modern district called Dubai Marina. You should definitely come here and walk for at least for half a day, preferably at sunset. It is a perfect place to look for a reasonably priced hotel within walking distance to the beach.
Between the airport and Burj Khalifa is a beautiful Dubai Creek bay. You can walk along the waterfronts, visit the historic Bastakiya area and the old market or take a boat ride. Dubai's museums are also here.