Is Dubai the most decadent example of man’s excesses? Or is it an example of his great innovation? Is this United Arab Emirates nation a contemporary playground for the ultra-rich? Or is it an architectural and ecological wonder? Is it an artificial 21st Century world built on oil and the sea, or is it home to a vibrant culture that has evolved over thousands of years? What is Dubai? Exploring it is the best way to answer this question: Dubai defies categorization. Whether you find a land of excesses or of eccentricities, you are sure to have the experience of a lifetime.
Dubai is perhaps best known to the outside world as home to one of the only “7 star hotels” on the globe, as well as the minds behind incredible man-made archipelagos in the shapes of date palms and a world map. Thousands of years before these technological marvels evolved, Dubai was first settled by nomadic cattle herders. By about the 7th Century, after Islam was introduced, the area was a prime fishing and pearl diving center. In 1799, the area was established as a dependency of Abu Dhabi. A few decades later, it became its own “Sheikhdom.” The invention of fake pearls damaged the economy, but Dubai, always an important trading hub, was able to resurrect it by becoming a re-exporting center.
The wealth for which Dubai is known developed as oil was discovered in the region in 1966. This changed everything; as the world’s thirst for oil grew, so too did Dubai’s wealth. Oil is no longer a stable foundation for any nation, and Dubai has diversified its economy so it is based on real estate, building, business, and tourism. This leads many experts to believe that in a post-oil world, Dubai will remain a leader in the Middle East. If nothing else, Dubai is visionary, and innovation is essential in the new world.
The worldwide recession hit Dubai exceptionally hard because of its dependence on tourism and foreign revenue. This presents a rather interesting and ironic opportunity for sophisticated travelers. They can enjoy the opulence and luxury of this UAE state for less than other leading vacation destinations. A contradiction that works out in the traveler’s favor, Dubai mixes high end shopping and 5+ star accommodations with authentic, and more affordable, souks, and budget-friendly hotels. American dollars and European currencies go much further in Dubai than they do in other first class cities around the world.