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Think of a superlative — biggest, most, best, tallest — and chances are you’ll find something in Dubai that corresponds. The nation holds nearly 150 Guinness World Records, including tallest building, biggest-ever fireworks display, largest indoor theme park and world’s largest gold ring.
Dubai is also raking in the accolades beyond its world records, however. Recently it ranked as the third “most dynamic” city in the world, after San Francisco and London, on Jones Lang LaSalle’s City Momentum Index. Late last year, it achieved another first, when it was selected to host the World Expo 2020, making this the first-ever World Expo to be held in the Middle East.
As Dubai rolls out plans for the expo, the city of bigger and better is demonstrating that it is nowhere near finished growing.
Under its “Tourism Vision for 2020” plan, Dubai plans to double its tourism infrastructure in the next six years, attracting 20 million visitors annually by the end of the decade. Accordingly, it plans to increase its hotel inventory to 160,000 rooms in time for the expo, twice its current inventory of 80,000 rooms.
To meet its new goals, Dubai intends to focus its tourism marketing efforts on business travelers as well as the lucrative family travel market. Tourism officials say they will aim at the 25 to 55 age segment in particular, a complement to the city’s own youthful population — about 50 percent of Dubai’s residents are younger than 20 years old.
As it continues to roll out newer, bigger and taller offerings, let’s not forget, however, that Dubai is also an excellent place to enjoy a little downtime.Indeed, Paris Hilton seemed impressed with the destination’s resort-style offerings.
“Dubai is my new Hawaii,” said the celebrity in a tweet last year.
Dubai’s favorable location on the Arabian Sea, with plenty of high-end resorts set along the coastline, offers recreational activities for visitors looking to do nothing more than soak up the sun.
Ready to explore Dubai? The city offers an impressive selection of cuisine, venues and activities to choose from.
Where to Eat:A fantastic place to dine and learn about Emirati culture is the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. The Cultural Center offers a variety of cultural activities, including a mosque visit. Daily lunch programs serve up the finest in Emirati home cooking while explaining the traditions behind the food. During the meal, a hostess answers questions from the audience, some even touching on personal issues such as what life as a Muslim woman is like.
What to Do:A visit to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, is a must. On-site binoculars show both real-time views and historical views of the area from 50 years ago. The building is located within the Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping centers in the world.
Dubai sparkles so bright that it can be easy to forget that the city is located in the midst of the Arabian Desert. Tour Operator Desert Adventures enables guests to experience desert life by bringing them to the city’s outskirts for an afternoon of sandboarding. It also offers a four-wheel jeep experience that’s unique to the area. Guests are then taken to an authentic Bedouin campsite where they will enjoy a traditional dinner, camel rides, a belly dancing performance and a shisha pipe lounge. www.desertadventures.com
Where to Stay:Made up of three properties, One&Only Royal Mirage is set on 65 acres of lush green lawns overlooking the Arabian Sea. Featuring one of the top beaches in Dubai, the hotel also offers a sports center and temperature-controlled pools, making it the ideal city retreat for active travelers. http://royalmirage.oneandonlyresorts.com
Located on Dubai’s famed Palm Island, an artificial island designed to resemble a palm tree, the One&Only The Palm resort offers a distinctive views of Dubai’s impressive city skyline. This low-rise building is refreshing in a city filled with over-the-top architecture, and it offers the perfect laid-back vibe away from the bustle of the city. http://thepalm.oneandonlyresorts.com
Atlantis, The Palm is a children’s paradise. On-site recreation includes an aquarium housing 65,000 marine animals, a dolphin bay, a waterpark and three private beaches. The best bet here are the three-story Underwater Suites, where floor-to-ceiling bedroom windows offer a dramatic view of the aquarium. www.atlantisthepalm.com
The Palace Downtown Dubai is located on Old Town Island, a vibrant market square offering an eclectic mix of outdoor stalls, boutiques, international restaurants and coffee houses. The hotel is adjacent to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, and offers quick access into the city. www.theaddress.com/en
Set on its own private beach, Madinat Jumeirah resort’s facilities are connected by nearly two miles of waterways and landscaped gardens. It is also the site of the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project, where sick turtles are rehabilitated and released back to the sea. It also features a 1,000-seat amphitheater, the region’s only dedicated entertainment center and more than 40 restaurants and bars. www.jumeirah.com/en
Getting There:Emirates offers nonstop flights from Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Washington Dulles. The airline has a frequent flier affiliation with Jet Blue, offering convenient domestic connections. The nonstop flight from Los Angeles takes 16 hours, but Emirates offers an impressive in-flight entertainment system with plenty of international movies, television shows and video games.