Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Name: Port Rashid
Address: Sheikh Rashid Passenger Terminal, Berth 9 & 10
Phone: 971 4 8811110
Website: www.dpa.ae (Alternatively Contact Individual Cruise Lines)
Dubai is one of the seven emirates (principalities) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is flanked by Saudi Arabia on its southern and western borders while northern and eastern borders are shared with the Sultanate of Oman. The neighboring emirates are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. The current emir is Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai.
The modern cruise terminal, which opened in 2010, covers 3,300 square meters and is only 15 minutes drive from Dubai International Airport. It is located quite close to the heart of the city. Currently it will accommodate two cruise ships, but plans are to expand to eventually be able to handle seven ships at one time. Taxis are available outside the terminal.
Dubai is a Moslem nation so be prepared to observe local traditions and restrictions.
Western style of clothing is commonplace, but there are restrictions on some forms of attire, especially for women. It is advisable to cover knees and shoulders. Spaghetti straps, low cut tops on women may be viewed as offensive. Bikinis are fine on beaches and swimming pools. For men, loose trousers and a long sleeved cotton shirt will suit a wide range of situations.
To welcome a Gulf Arab, a handshake is sufficient. Men greeting women or vice-versa are not recommended. But, if a woman offers a handshake it’s appropriate to accept it out of courtesy.
The local currency of Dubai is Arab Emirates Dirhams or Dhs. Tourists can exchange their local currency or travelers checks for Dirhams at any moneychangers or banks. Those who prefer hard cash, the best option is carrying US dollars, British pounds or euros. Credit cards are widely accepted at ATMs and banks.
The official language of Dubai is Arabic. However, English is widely spoken and understood. Alcohol is consumed in the usual places – bars, hotels, restaurants, etc. – but banned in public parks, beaches and on streets.
It’s doubtful any serious traveler hasn’t seen the most famous hotel in the Middle East – the Burj Al Arab, likely the most iconic landmark in Dubai. It’s technically a five-star hotel, but is unofficially known as the world’s only seven-star hotel. Built on an artificial island, the sail-shaped building has everything one could ask for including gold faucets –at a premium cost, of course. Burj al Arab is the world’s second tallest building solely operated as a hotel. Lavishly decorated in bold stones, the hotel offers an indoor and outdoor swimming pool; swim up bar, private beach, health spa and massage treatment rooms, steam room, fitness equipment, library, hair salon and a pool table. There is an amphitheater on the 27th floor of the hotel. However, very few travelers can afford to stay here and gawkers are decidedly not welcome.
But the city has more properties from which to choose and you’ll be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t meet expectations. Médien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Dusit Thani Dubai, Oasis Beach Tower, The Palace Old Town, Le Meridien Dubai, The Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Grand Hyatt Dubai, and Royal Mirage Dubai offer a wide range of choice from the super luxurious to the simply grand. The Atlantis Palm Dubai has a spectacular location on Palm Island and is worth a quick visit just to see the huge Chihuly glass sculpture, the multi-level Lost Chambers aquarium and perhaps visit the Aquaventure waterpark. (You can swim with dolphins here, too!)
One special hotel that many first-time visitors miss is the Park Hyatt Dubai, located next to the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. This low-rise hotel has one of the city’s finest spas and several restaurants. It is a tranquil spot, tucked away from the busier tourist areas and right next to a golf course.
Dubai is one of the most luxurious and culturally opulent places in the world. Surrounded by desert, Dubai can get very hot. The most pleasant weather lasts from early October to late April, which is the height of the cruise season. Like any desert, night temperatures are cool year around. The so-called “rainy season” lasts from December to April. But the highest precipitation may be 10 centimeters (5 inches), and many years see even less. In the heart of the city, you’ll find the Wild Wadi water amusement park – a break from the sun-drenched heat.
Dubai is divided into two parts. Deira is on the northern side of Dubai Creek and Bur Dubai is to the south, as is the top tourist area of Jumeirah Beach. Abras, the traditional water taxis, are regularly used to cross passengers over to either side of the creek. Each side has its share of fine mosques and busy souks (bazaars), public buildings, shopping malls, hotels, office towers, banks, hospitals, schools, apartments and villas.
Dubai is known for its spectacular buildings. Certainly the most famous is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world at a height of 2,717 ft. Part of the new development called Downtown Dubai, the tower is the address to the most elite hotels, shopping centers, residences and offices in the world. If you want to experience what may be the most spectacular panoramic view in the Middle East, the Dubai city skyline from the 124th floor Observation Deck of the Burj will give you a chance to orientate yourself to this spectacular city.
From the deck you’ll see the Palm Islands and World Islands, ambitious man-made islands constructed to accommodate the city’s growth. Shaped to resemble a palm tree, the Palm Trilogy defines luxury living. The World Islands share the same idea of creating man-made islands for luxury residences. When photographed from above the islands resemble the world and each island is the country within it. (It is worth noting that construction has slowed considerably since the recession of 2008.)
A trip to the top of the Burj — called “At The Top” — is a must for any visitor. Tickets may be purchased online and it is recommended to be there when they open at 10 a.m. Details can be found at www.burjkhalifa.ae. You enter the Burj through The Dubai Mall, perhaps the most famous of this city’s fabulous shopping emporiums. (Yes, this is where the indoor ski hill is located.)
Things to do:
Dubai first developed at the mouth of Dubai Creek. The old city is located in the Bastakiya Quarter in Bur Dubai and it is where you’ll find the roots of the city. Because it has been declared a conservation area, no vehicles are allowed. Walking tours are arranged regularly and will give you a peek into the restored buildings. Be prepared to spend half of a day here.
The Bastakia Quarter was built in the 19th century to house wealthy Persian merchants who traded mainly in pearls and textiles. Due to the tax free trading and access to the Dubai Creek, these Persian merchants were lured to Dubai. Most of the houses were built in the early 19th century from coral and limestone. Most of these merchant homes featured a wind tower that captures the air and funneled it down to the rooms as an early form of air conditioning. Bastakia is characterized by narrow lanes and ancient buildings restored to its former splendor.
While in that area, learn more about the Muslim religion by participating in an educational program at the Jumeirah Mosque. Put on by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, this hour-long program really helps you understand the culture around you. Tours are every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 10 am. No booking necessary (cost: 10 AED per person). Appropriate conservative dress required (women must cover their heads). The meeting point is outside the Jumeirah Mosque. Cultural breakfast and lunch programs are also offered.
Other attractions include the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House; the Dubai Museum in the restored Al Fahidi Fort, which was erected around 1799; and the Heritage Village of Hatta, situated 115 kilometers southeast of Dubai City in the heart of the rocky Hatta Mountains. The history of the village can be traced back 2,000 – 3,000 years. It consists of 30 buildings, each differing in size, interior layout and building materials used. Great care was taken to use the same materials as those used when originally built during the renovation such as mud, hay, sandalwood and palm fronds. The Sharia Mosque is an old mosque built around 200 years ago.
You’re in the desert so go see it. You won’t find a more spectacular range of sand anywhere. You can ride a camel, drive through the wadis (desert gullies), or drive a dune buggy over the giant sand dunes. There are plenty of choices of tours.
You can’t spend time in Dubai without shopping. You’ll find the list of shopping malls in Dubai ranges from gigantic malls selling branded goods to the small shops famous for trinkets and souvenirs.
Jumeirah Beach is Dubai’s only beach-side outdoor shopping boulevard designed to cater to the residents living in the Jumeirah Beach Residence properties. It is a 1.37-mile stretch of high-end cafes, restaurants and boutiques.
The Dubai Mall has 1,200 shops and 160 food outlets. If you are tired of shopping pay a visit to other attractions in the mall like the Dubai fountain, Burj Khalifa Observatory, Dubai Aquarium and Ice Rink.
The Deira Gold Souk is one of largest gold markets in the world, where you have every imaginable jewelry piece under one roof. Global Village is a yearly phenomenon from early November to late February when traders from around the world get together to display their goods in Dubailand. Coupled with shopping, tourists are entertained by spectacular performers from a variety of cultures.
Ibn Battuta Mall is kind of off-track, but it is well worth a visit for its dramatic architecture inspired by Arab traveler Ibn Battuta with its gorgeous courts – the most gorgeous of which is the Persia Court characterized by the hand-painted dome.
If you want more than just a walk on the beach, JumeirahBbeach is a must visit attraction as the long strip of five-star hotels located there instantly catches your attention. There are lot of water sports and family activities to do on the beach itself, especially at Kite Beach which attracts a lot of kite surfers. Because of the daytime heat, you’ll find plenty of activities along the beach in the early and late evenings.