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I recently had the opportunity to spend a month in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Set along the Persian Gulf, the global business hub has a remarkably international population -- fewer than 20% of the residents are UAE nationals.
Dubai is renowned for its larger-than-life attractions, which live up to the hype. Take the elevator to the viewing deck of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, to see skyscrapers dwarfed below you. If you find yourself short on gold, you can purchase a bar from the vending machine at the top. Drive along the outer edge of the manmade Palm Jumeirah islands for distant skyline views, or cool off on the Mall of the Emirates’ indoor ski slopes (bring gloves and a hat, since they’re not part of the provided winter gear).
For a more casual day, I recommend visiting the Dubai Marina and neighboring Jumeirah Beach Walk, where you can browse sidewalk stands and dine alfresco along the waterway, with easy access to one of the few public beaches. Malls here are main draws that go well beyond shopping and are more like entertainment complexes – you’ll find aquariums, ice skating, cinemas and dozens of dining options ranging from regional cuisine to Texas Roadhouse. Alcohol is only served at hotel restaurants, but most other restaurants have a menu of “mocktails.” My favorite was a goji berry, mango and mint concoction at Ping Pong, a dim sum restaurant in the Dubai Mall with outdoor seating featuring views of the spectacular Dubai Fountain show.
General tips when visiting Dubai:
If you want to experience this larger-than-life destination, check out this escorted 5-night vacation from Gate 1 Travel. The deal saves $625 on self-packaging.