Dubai can either refer to one of the seven emirates that constitute United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the eastern Arabian Peninsula, or that emirate's main city, sometimes called "Dubai city" to distinguish it from the emirate. The modern emirate of Dubai was created with the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971. Dubai has the largest population and is the second largest emirate by area, after Abu Dhabi. With Abu Dhabi, it is one of only two emirates to possess veto power over critical matters of national importance in the UAE. Dubai has been ruled by the Al Maktoum dynasty since 1833. The city's current ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is also the Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE.
Dubai has attracted world-wide attention through innovative real estate projects and sports events. This increased attention, coinciding with its emergence as a world business hub, has also highlighted human rights issues concerning its largely foreign workforce.
A trip to Dubai transports you on a journey through time. Although the early history of the area is not very well documented, archeological discoveries suggests that, as long as four thousand years ago, small fishing communities lived along the coast of the Arabian Gulf on the site of modern Dubai. It is also believed that the natural sheltered harbor afforded by the Dubai Creek was a busy port of call on the ancient trade route between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. In recent years, archeologists have unearthed hundreds of artifacts, including pottery, weapons and coinage that point to civilized settlements dating back to the third millennium B.C.
These historic finds have been carefully preserved and are now permanently housed in the Archeological Section of Dubai Museum. Modern Dubai, however, traces its origins to the 1830's. At that time, the small fishing village on the Shindagha peninsula at the mouth of the Creek was settled by a branch of the Bani Yas tribe, originally from the Liwa oasis to the south, led by the Maktoum family who still rule the emirates today.
The city of Dubai is situated on a coastal strip bordered by desert and gets very hot and humid in the summer. Cooler, more pleasant weather lasts from the end of September to beginning of May (although note that pleasant is relative, which daily temperatures from October to January and March to May still being in the upper 30s Celsius/90s Farenheit). In May, June, July, August and September, the sun is intense and temperatures can touch 50 degree Celsius in the city and even higher in the desert! The heat coupled with humidity of 80-90% near the coast effectively precludes most activity outdoors for the daylight hours during summer.
As Dubai has grown from a small town into a bustling city, so has the entertainment. There are many music and sport events through out the year. Dubai also has a Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises to entertain visitors and residents. Most 3-5 star hotels have bars and nightclubs for those interested in the nightlife. World-class DJ's frequent Dubai's nightclubs, and many A-list musical celebrities are adding Dubai to their list of tour dates.
There are endless water-sport opportunities as Dubai has some of the whitest and sandiest beaches in the world. Ocean temperatures range from 22°C in winter up to 35°C in summer, meaning you might as well forget a hotel and bathe in the ocean. Very salty though. Diving activities have been severely affected by offshore construction work for the Palms and The World; consequently, long boat trips are necessary to reach wreck sites. Alternatively, one can make the 90 minute road journey to the East coast Emirate of Fujairah or the Sharjah enclave, Khor Fakkan, for top class diving on coral reefs supporting extensive marine life.
Dubai now has its own snow skiing centre. Located in the new Mall of the Emirates (MOE), on the Sheikh Zayed Road, it offers both skiing and snowboarding. The slope is quite large for an indoor area. All equipment is available for hire and a 2 hour package typically costs Dhs140. Although it is -4°C inside, you don't need to bring a jacket because they supply pretty much everything except gloves and a ha.
Dubai is practically synonymous with shopping. The huge amounts of cargo passing through its port and the low tariffs ensure that practically anything is available at competitive rates.
Remember to haggle in the souks, as discounts are almost always available and even in situations where the item will not become much cheaper, the customer is always expected to "play the game" of haggling. A simple question of "what's your best price?" will often result in a shop-keeper going to extraordinary lengths to sell his stock.
Prices in the malls and other Western shops tend not to be negotiable. Far from being a bad thing, this allows the canny visitor to work out comparative prices for common souvenirs - an invaluable aid when a shop-keeper in a souk is asking for a higher price.