Expert guide to Dubai

Find out for yourself what all the fuss is about and discern the truth from the clichés. For starters, Dubai is nothing like Las Vegas. There are no colossal neon-lit signs, no impersonator shows, no showgirls, and certainly no casinos. In fact, gambling is illegal, even at the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup.

Dubai is much more like Shanghai, with its audacious architecture, spectacular skylines, obsession with fashion and style, and flourishing contemporary art scene. Contrary to rumours, Dubai does have a rich culture, though most of it is intangible, rooted in Bedouin heritage and traditions of storytelling, poetry, song, dance, and falconry, but there are plenty of opportunities to experience it.

For all Dubai’s futuristic appeal and abundance of western entertainments – a sleek metro that zips through the sky like something out of Blade Runner, sumptuous shopping malls, an indoor ski park, and countless bars – there is just as much fun to be had in the simple pleasures of “the Orient”: haggling for gold and frankincense in the bustling souqs, savouring the sunset from the back of a camel, inhaling from a fragrant sheesha pipe on the fairly-lit deck of an old wooden dhow. Perhaps there is, after all, some truth to be found in the clichés…

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