Dubai is a stirring alchemy of profound traditions and ambitious futuristic vision wrapped into starkly evocative desert splendour.
It's hard not to admire Dubai for its indefatigable verve, ambition and ability to dream up and realise projects that elsewhere would never get off the drawing board. This is a superlative-craving society that has birthed audaciously high buildings and palm-shaped islands. Sci-fi concepts such as flying taxis, a lightning-fast hyperloop train and an army of robocops are all reflections of a mindset that fearlessly embraces the future. And with many more grand projects in the pipeline for World Expo 2020, it's clear that Dubai is a city firmly in charge of writing its own narrative.
Dubai is a top retail haunt that hosts not one but two huge annual shopping festivals. Shopping is a leisure activity here and malls are much more than just mere collections of stores. Some look like an Italian palazzo or a Persian palace and lure visitors with surreal attractions such as an indoor ski slope or a giant aquarium. Traditional souqs, too, are beehives of activity humming with timeless bargaining banter. Meanwhile, a new crop of urban-style outdoor malls has expanded the shopping spectrum yet again.
After dark, Dubai sometimes seems like a city filled with lotus eaters, forever on the lookout for a good time. Its shape-shifting party spectrum caters for just about every taste, budget and age group. From flashy dance temples, sleek rooftop terraces and sizzling beach clubs to fancy cocktail caverns and concerts under the stars, Dubai delivers hot-stepping odysseys. Most of the nightlife centres on the fancy hotels, but there’s no shortage of more wholesome diversions either, including shisha lounges, community theatre, live-music venues and the sparkling new Dubai Opera.
With Emiratis making up only a fraction of the population, Dubai is a bustling microcosm peacefully shared by cultures from all corners of the world. This diversity expresses itself in the culinary landscape, fashion, music and performance. Although rooted in Islamic tradition, this is an open society where it’s easy for newcomers and visitors to connect with myriad experiences, be it eating like a Bedouin, dancing on the beach, shopping for local art or riding a camel in the desert. Dubai is a fertile environment conducive to breaking down cultural barriers and preconceptions.