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Dubai See And Do

Al Quoz
Dubai
United Arab Emirates

This district of warehouses, small factories, and labor camps just south of Sheikh Zayed Road has become a locus of Dubai's dynamic art scene thanks to its vast industrial spaces and cheap rents. Some of the most cutting-edge galleries are located here and specialize in work by emerging Iranian, Pakistani, Indian, and Arab talent. The pioneering Third Line, founded in 2005 by three American, Iranian, and Emirati partners, curates consistently interesting exhibitions and hosts regular cultural evenings. Emirati brothers and installation artists Hassan and Hussein Sharif run the Flying House. Founded by an Indian expat, the Jam Jar is both art center and gallery and runs a semiregular art bus tour of exhibitions across the emirate. Traffic is a 10,000-square-foot arts center that holds exhibitions by artists from the region and beyond and also showcases the art collection of founder Rami Farook. Among a cluster of galleries located in the Al Serkal Compound off 8th street, Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde is the most internationally esteemed.—Updated by Susan Hack

Bastakiya
Bur Dubai
Dubai
United Arab Emirates

Shops, galleries, and charming restaurants pack the alleyways of the Bastakiya quarter, an area on the west side of the Creek that has been inhabited by wealthy Persian merchants since the late 19th century and was painstakingly renovated by the government in the 1980s. Narrow pedestrian alleyways snake around the district, lined with local architecture and wind-towered houses (the tower was designed to catch cool breezes and direct them to the lower rooms) in coral-colored stone and rose-beige clay. Almost every heavy wooden doorway swings open to reveal a courtyard where you'll find traditional craftsmen or studios. Highlights include the Majlis Gallery, which showcases both traditional and contemporary ceramics, jewelry, and art; XVA, a hotel/art gallery/vegetarian café in one. The exhibitions can be a bit hit-or-miss, but the area is charming and sensitively restored, even though it is now blatantly aimed at the tourist market. The rooftop of the restaurant Bastakiah Nights has breezy views of the Creek and a set menu of Arab and Iranian dishes (971-4353-7772). For walking tours, contact the Sheikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding. In cooler weather there is a weekly Saturday-morning flea market.

In March, Bastikiya's alleys and courtyard houses become showcases for an Art Dubai fringe fair of concerts, films, exhibitions, and lectures promoting the best of the UAE's contemporary art (note the main fair takes place at the Madinat Jumeirah resort).—Updated by Susan Hack

Burj Khalifa
Dubai
United Arab Emirates

The world's tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa (formerly known as the Burj Dubai) officially opened at the beginning of 2010. At 2,625 feet high, the building towers nearly a thousand feet above its closest rival, Taiwan's Taipei 101. The $1.5 billion Burj Khalifa comprises both residential and commercial areas, including the first Armani Hotel. For those with a head for heights, the building also features the world's highest observation deck (on the 124th floor) and 57 superfast elevators, which take only two minutes to reach the top (more than 160 floors up).

Desert adventures

Desert safaris are cheesy and contrived but still great fun. Even the most jaded locals grudgingly admit that a dune-bashing safari is not to be missed. A 4WD vehicle picks you up from your hotel at around 3 pm and takes you in a convoy to the desert about an hour and a half away. The SUV then veers off the highway, the driver deflates the tires, and the vehicle climbs up then slides down the sand dunes (called dune, or wadi bashing). The experience is a bit like a roller-coaster ride, so we suggest you have some motion sickness medication on hand (or a paper bag). Afterward you'll be taken to a faux-Bedouin tented camp where you can eat, take camel rides, and indulge in a spot of shisha smoking.

The desert, fortunately, is more varied than a canned "Bedouin" experience. If you have a full day, book a four-by-four trip to Hatta, an oasis village at the foot of the Hajjar Mountains where a few date farms are watered by traditional communal channels called aflaj. Your car will have to crawl through wadis and between dramatic volcanic peaks to reach a series of clear-water pools where tiny fish will nibble your toes as you swim. Arabian Adventures can arrange day trips in SUVs to Hatta Oasis.

Just 90 minutes by car from Dubai, Oman's Musandam Peninsula, a rock finger overlooking the straight of Hormuz, is another world of seemingly remote fjords, small uninhabited islands, and wild beaches. Dubai operators drive you to the Omani town of Khasab, the center of dhow-based dolphin-watching and snorkeling expeditions. Khasab Tours can organize trips out of Dubai lasting one day as well as cruises of up to a week out of Khasab, with transfers from Dubai hotels.

Dhow or Abra Cruise
Dubai
United Arab Emirates

Cruise down the Creek (the name throws many visitors, but as it's a huge, natural inlet it is technically a creek) at a leisurely pace on a large, traditional wooden dhow (moored opposite the Radisson Blu Deira; 971-4303-4888; www.arabian-adventures.com) or else you can rent your own speedy abra (water taxi) from the Deira Old Souk or Bur Dubai Arab Station. They are used by the locals to traverse the Creek from Deira to Bur Dubai for a mere 14 cents, and tourists can hire one to take them sightseeing (flat rate of $27 an hour).

Dubai Camel Market
Dubai
United Arab Emirates

In the desert on the road to the neighboring emirate of Al Ain, the Al Lusali Camel Racing Club track and Dubai Camel Market offer a glimpse into the cultish world of camel breeders and their pampered charges. A champion racing camel can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars; the Dubai royal family keeps the tradition alive by offering large cash purses, and has also backed a new initiative to market camel milk and camel-milk chocolate. The souk sells camels, anti-spitting muzzles, hand-woven camel wool reins and decorative tassels, as well as miniature robot camel jockeys. (The robot jockey was developed a few years back after human rights organizations campaigned against the use of child jockeys trafficked from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sudan.) No need to join a tour, since many taxi and hotel limo drivers know the place.—Updated by Susan Hack

Market open daily from 7 am to 1 pm and 3 to 10 pm. Races on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 7 am and 3 pm.

Dubai International Financial Center
The Gate
Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Tel: 971 4 362 2222
www.difc.ae

Some of the city's most prominent curators have taken over a repurposed luxury shopping mall at the foot of the Dubai International Financial Center. Have lunch at one of the center's restaurants, such as Zuma, and you'll find yourself surrounded by collectors and bankers (often one and the same). Run by American Mona Hauser, XVA nurtures young Emirati talent, while Cuadro Fine Art features regional artists who have hit the auction house big-time. The Farjam Collection is a revolving exhibition space for extensive classical and contemporary Islamic works belonging to one of the region's biggest art patrons. Ayyam specializes in solo shows of Levantine work, and ArtSpace shows revolutionary Egyptian artists. The Empty Quarter, founded by a Saudi fine arts photographer and royal princess, showcases both contemporary and historic photographic images.—Susan Hack

Dubai Museum
Al Fahidi Fort
Bur Dubai
Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Tel: 971 4353 1862
www.dubaitourism.ae/historicalsites

In contrast to most of Dubai's shiny new attractions, this small but informative museum near the Creek, a short walk from Bastakiya and the old Textile Souk, is housed in the remains of the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 and thus the oldest building in the city. Don't expect to see rooms filled with ancient historical artifacts; what you get is an air-conditioned, interactive labyrinth that re-creates the Emirati way of life in the pre-oil age. Despite the current glitz, the locals tend to cling to their traditional Bedouin culture, and this museum gives a glimpse of that ancient lifestyle, with its reliance on and love of the desert, the solar system, and traditional handicrafts. Standout installations on shipbuilding and a re-created village scene complete with 3-D ghostlike holograms of traders are worth the bargain 80-cents entrance fee alone.

Open Saturdays through Thursdays 8:30 am to 7:30 pm, Fridays 1:30 to 7:30 pm.

Golf
Dubai
United Arab Emirates

Yes, it's built in a desert, but Dubai has plenty of cultivated greens to keep even the best golfers happy; the diehards play at night in summer to avoid sunstroke. The Montgomerie course is a par 72 and has the world's biggest green; Emirates Golf Club is home to the Desert Classic (part of the PGA European Tour); Dubai Creek Golf Club has stunning views and is adjacent to the hip Park Hyatt; the 247-acre Desert Course is the longest in the city; and Al Badia course in Festival City has a spa and a terrace restaurant with panoramic views over the 18-hole course and Dubai Creek. Make sure you ask your concierge to book well in advance. Courses give priority to members, and it's often impossible to get slots over the weekend. Some also have minimum handicap requirements.—Updated by Susan Hack

Jumeirah Mosque
Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Tel: 971 4353 6666
www.cultures.ae/jumeirah.htm

The majestic Jumeirah Mosque showcases Islamic heritage and promotes cultural understanding; this is the only mosque non-Muslims are allowed to enter in the UAE besides the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The mosque was built entirely in natural-colored local stone in 1978. Its architecture is in the Fatimid tradition, with heavily decorated, towering minarets (including the tallest one in Dubai) flanking nine massive domes (and 45 smaller ones), all covered in geometric motifs and intricate Arabic calligraphy. It's a fascinating option for those interested in the religion, and at the end of the tour, questions are actively encouraged. Bare arms and legs are not permitted, and women should bring a head scarf.

Free one-hour guided tour on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 10 am.

Ski Dubai
Mall of the Emirates
Sheikh Zayed Road
Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Tel: 971 4409 4000
www.skidxb.com

Essentially a giant freezer attached to the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai's first indoor ski slope has a chairlift to five separate stations, including the world's first indoor black run, whose thrill comes not just from the 60-meter drop but from the knowledge that outside it might be 130 degrees in the shade. Nonskiers can toboggan, "rock" climb, and make snow angels and snowmen in the world's largest indoor snow park, where fresh powder falls every night. Ski Dubai's Avalanche Café, midway up the slope, offers non-alcoholic mulled wine. A two-hour lift pass with all equipment costs $80; ski and snowboard lessons from $40 per hour.

Sporting Events

Dubai World Cup
For many, the Dubai World Cup in March is the social event of the year, when a well-dressed crowd gathers to watch the richest horse races in the world (and, of course, to party). Aim to get a space in the Makhtoum stand if you're a racing enthusiast, but if you're here for the party, head directly to the Bubble Lounge to fill up on Champagne alongside the socialites. You can also book a suite with a view at the Meydan Hotel overlooking the refurbished race track.

Dubai Desert Classic
Watch the world's top golfers as they tee off at the Emirates Golf Club during the Dubai Desert Classic in February/March, part of the European PGA Tour. Insiders ensure they get invitations to one of the lavish hospitality tents, the Emirates Airlines tent being the hottest ticket around.

Dubai Tennis Championships
Despite the caliber of player—Federer and Nadal, for instance—at $8 for the early rounds and $27 for the finals, the Dubai Tennis Championships in March/April is a very reasonably priced event. Be warned: The seats aren't numbered, so it's first come, first served for the best views of the courts.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.