BY BRIAN OWENS
Few cities can compete with the sheer extravagance of Dubai. The world’s tallest skyscraper, the world’s largest shopping mall, an indoor ski resort on a beach and a man-made archipelago visible from space are just a few of Dubai’s claims. These projects—and even more colossal ones in the pipeline—are the grist for a well-oiled publicity machine that has put Dubai on the map as the go-to destination for tourists looking for the latest in over-the-top luxury.
The enabler for this glitzy metropolis on the Persian Gulf is His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, a constitutional monarchy. The sheik’s visionary leadership has helped build Dubai’s unique brand of brash, western excess in a Middle East setting. A hands-on manager, he has been personally involved in many of the emirate’s major projects, from sketching out the concept of the wondrous Palm Islands to streamlining projects through an otherwise tricky bureaucracy. Projects get an instant green light at the snap of his fingers.
Dubai is not just the name of the city but also the name for one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation.
From a simple pearl-diving and trading post on Dubai Creek, Dubai has quickly grown in a few decades to become a global city as well as a business and cultural hub in the Middle East.
Beneath the shining skyscrapers, wrap-around highways and ostentatious display of extreme wealth, Dubai is rooted in the desert-dwelling Bedouin culture noted for its storytelling, poetry, song, dance and falconry—all of which have been repackaged for the tourist trade.
Dubai is the highlighted Travel location of DOWNTOWN’s Spring 2014. You can find more on what Dubai has to offer, including the best hotels, restaurants, nightlife, shopping and more, in our latest issue on newsstands now!