Dubai Since emerging as a tourist and financial hot spot in 2000, Dubai has experienced a period of incredible growth. In fact, the population has nearly tripled over 15 years to more than 2 million people. At one time, it was estimated that the city housed 25 percent of the world’s construction cranes, as new skyscrapers sprang from the sand seemingly every day.
The worldwide financial crisis took the wind out of the city’s sails for a short time, but it is
booming again as it prepares to host the World Expo ( expo2020dubai.ae) in 2020. Visitors
still flock to the United Arab Emirates’ largest city for extravagant hotels, plush malls and mega-money sporting events, but you’ll also find eclectic cuisines, authentic markets and some of the
world’s more beautiful beaches.
Dubai’s reputation as a shopper’s paradise
is well deserved. The city boasts an array of
malls, each stuffed with chain favorites, high-end designer outlets and the occasional local
independent. Look for a dip in prices (plus
film festivals, fireworks, giveaways and other
events) in January during the annual Dubai
Shopping Festival ( mydsf.ae). But no
matter when you visit, you’re sure to find plenty
of entertainment at the city’s many malls.
Bragging rights are currently split between
Mall of the Emirates (+971 4 409 9000 /
malloftheemirates.com) — which offers an
indoor ski slope, real snow and penguins — and
the superlative-hogging Dubai Mall (+971 800
382246255 / thedubaimall.com). The latter is
the largest shopping center in the Middle East,
in the shadow of the world’s tallest tower and
home to the region’s largest fish tank (with
sharks!). A mini zoo (more penguins), ice rink,
flight simulator and a full-size dinosaur skeleton
complete the scene. A recent addition to the
shopping scene, BoxPark (+971 800 637227 /
Founded in the early 19th century as home
to a pearl-diving industry, Dubai has long
attracted people to its extravagant riches. But
there’s more to the city than glitz and glamour.
You just need to know where to look.
BY MARCUS WEBB