Whether you land at Dubai Airport by day or night, you can see the city shining and feel the blazing heat, which by day is over 45 degrees Centigrade. Dubai has been described as the ‘Venice of the Gulf’ and is an oasis on the edge of the desert. The city center is lush with vegetation and trees line the roads, even though water is more expensive than petrol here. The people of Dubai do not spare the dollars when it comes to keeping their city green. Dubai is the chief port and one of the seven sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates. It is situated on the southern coast of the Gulf of Basra and has a coastline of 72 kilometers. The other members of the UAE are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Qaiwain. Life in the region began to change with the discovery of extensive oil reserves in 1958. After the British pulled out of the area, the nine former protectorates formed the Federation of Arab Emirates in 1968. Subsequently, seven of them formed the UAE in 1971, with Abu Dhabi as the political capital and Dubai as the commercial capital.
Foreseeing when oil revenues will decline, Dubai has concentrated on turning the country into a free-trade zone. No duties are charged on any commodities apart from alcoholic drinks, which are available only in hotels.
The Arabs of Dubai lead modern lives, and women are by no means restricted to domestic roles. They are to be seen driving cars, in-state offices, discotheques, in short, everywhere, some with covered heads and some not. The population is just seven hundred thousand, of which foreigners make up a clear majority. Only 20-25 percent of the people are Arabs, the remainder being Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Philippinos, Iranians, Lebanese, and Syrians. Ninety-six percent of the population are Muslims and most of the rest Christians and Hindus. After Arabic, the principal languages spoken are English, Persian, Hindu, and Urdu. Dubai’s streets are filled with Ferraris, Mercedes, BMWs, and long American cars, all the latest models, but there are no traffic jams or air pollution.
Poverty is unknown in Dubai, and crime rates are meager. The primary sources of wealth are oil, oil products, fish, boat building, construction materials, and pearls.
Dubai also has a thriving tourism industry. Winter is non-existent, and it is possible to swim throughout the year. All the world’s famous five-star hotels are to be found here, and the city boasts 39 skyscrapers, the newest built just recently. The most magnificent hotel in the Gulf of Basra, the Burj Al Arab (Arab Tower), is situated here, and from a distance, it looks like a great sailing boat of glass and steel rising out of the sea. Designed by a British architect, the hotel is 421 meters long and 52 storeys high. The baths are made of marble and the taps of gold. The smallest of the 1100 rooms in this hotel is 169 square meters, and it employs 1200 staff. There is a private helicopter pad on the 50th floor, and it has eight Rolls-Royces available for privileged guests.
Three storeys beneath sea level is the first gambling casino built for an Arab clientele. Through its glass walls, you can watch the fish as you play roulette. As you might expect, the cost of a night here is astronomical, yet Burj Al Arab is fully booked until the end of the year 2000.
The Arabs of Dubai are passionately fond of safari, horseracing, and camel racing. Safari driving through the sand desert and watching the jockey ridden camels racing are exciting pastimes for visitors. Another enjoyable sport in Dubai is offshore racing, which attracts an international as well as Arab following. Shopping is one of the most popular attractions in the city since everything is duty-free.
Electronic goods shops are everywhere, selling everything from cameras and DVDs to brand watches and cellular phones at irresistibly low prices. What is more, you do not have to trek from shop to shop comparing prices, which are the same everywhere.
But remember that Friday is an official holiday in Dubai, and all the shops are shut that day. On weekdays there is a daily siesta between 14:00 and 17:00. So now we have introduced you to the delights of Dubai, all you have to do is pack your bags and be off!