Get the skinny on the city with a quick history lesson. Armed with knowledge, head out to discover all the emirate has to offer for the holiday of a lifetime
A city of visual superlatives, it’s difficult to imagine Dubai without the gravity-defying presence of Burj Khalifa, the roar of supercars along its highways and wealth of plush malls, luxury hotels and record-breaking attractions.
Back in 1833, the nomadic Bani Yas tribe – led by the Maktoum family – migrated from the country’s desert interior to what was just a small coastal fishing, pearling and trading settlement. Nothing much changed for the next 100 years until Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum became ruler and ordered that Dubai Creek be dredged to accommodate larger trading vessels, thus setting in motion the transformation of Dubai into a modern mega city.
The discovery of ‘black gold’ in 1966 was the real game-changer with newly found oil wealth the catalyst for the establishment of the United Arab Emirates. In an historic first, the ruling tribes of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah came together on 2 December 1971, followed by Ras Al Khaimah one year later, to form the country.
Under the leadership of the UAE’s first president, the late Sheikh Zayed (ruler of Abu Dhabi), and with the can-do attitude of Sheikh Rashid and support of the rulers of the other five emirates, the rest, as they say, is history.
The modern-day metropolis you’ve seen on TV is every bit as exciting as you can imagine. For a rich experience, we recommend that you get out onto the city streets, meet some of the more than 200 nationalities who are proud to call Dubai home, and discover just what makes this one of the best destinations in the world to visit.
The temperature in March reaches a peak of 29°C (84°F) – be sure to slap on that sunblock.
The UAE Dirham is what you’ll use. Notes come in 1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5, and their value is pegged at Dhs3.67 = USD1.
The UAE weekend falls on Friday/Saturday. Friday is the holy day so bear in mind that some attractions may be closed until the early evening.
You’ve arrived and you want to get to your hotel ASAP. Read our quick tips to get you out of the airport and into holiday mode, pronto
Take a load off by booking a Marhaba service (+971 4 389 8989, marhabaservices.com) that will help you make a speedy arrival and departure. When you touch down, the friendly staff will be waiting with a transfer to passport control, where you'll be fast-tracked through the queue before a porter collects your luggage from the carousel. When the time comes to leave, you'll enjoy a chauffeur pick-up from anywhere in Dubai, a quick journey through departures and access to the Marhaba lounge, where you can unwind and help yourself to the complimentary food and drink.
LEAVING THE AIRPORT
There are plenty of public taxis available at the airport, although you may need to queue. Women can get a step ahead by hopping into one of the pink-roofed taxis reserved especially for female travellers and families, and driven by ladies. Your fare will include a set airport pick-up fee of Dhs25.
Dubai International Airport is also connected to Dubai Metro at Terminals 1 and 3, with trains running every 10 minutes from 5am (or 10am on Fri) to midnight Sat to Wed and until 1am on Thur and Fri.
If you’ve got extra baggage, best take a taxi, as metro travellers are restricted to one regular suitcase and one piece of hand luggage only.
All the major car hire companies have desks located after arrivals. Drivers must be at least 21 years old and in possession of a valid driving licence from their home country. Remember, we drive on the right-hand side here.
At the airport, you can pick up a Tourist SIM for local use – just head to the Du shop in the arrivals hall at Terminals 1 or 3. Simply pay the activation fee of Dhs65 and enjoy the Tourist Plan for data, calls and texts at a fraction of the roaming charges. Whenever you need to, you can easily top it up with a prepaid card sold at most major convenience stores, supermarkets and Du outlets (du.ae) across the city.
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Another of Dubai’s iconic man-made projects – best viewed from above to fully appreciate its creatively engineered design – Palm Jumeirah blends posh apartments and villas with luxury hotels and malls all the way from its trunk to the tips of its feathered fronds. Ride the Palm Monorail to Atlantis The Palm, Dubai and enjoy the thrills and spills of Aquaventure Waterpark. Grab a bite to eat at foodie destination The Pointe, and check out the bevy of five-star hotels along the crescent, from One&Only The Palm Resort to Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort.