When the Middle East discovered oil, they promptly started developing two of its most prominent cities – Dubai and Abu Dhabi – into the powerhouses they are today. While Abu Dhabi is the tamer sibling, Dubai turned out to be the more aggressive, hard partying brother. Shiny, fancy cars fill the streets, the nightlife is A+ and the shopping is world-class. Dubai is often seen as a brash, cosmopolitan oasis of glitzy glamour in the Middle East but it is not one bit sorry for its high-end culture.

DubaiDubai thrives on the attention it is getting from all over the world. Everything in Dubai is over-the-top, gilded and served on a gold platter. The first thing visitors notice is how seemingly materialistic the city is. It treats every tourist like a VIP and this indulgent ego-stroking leads them to spend more in the city’s shopping malls and entertainment centers. Very much a win-win!

Shopping in Dubai

This is a city that has invented the all-out sale. Dubai Shopping is one of the biggest shopping events in the city. Every year thousands of stores put together unbelievable discount sales, which prompt locals and foreigners to buy and swipe away with the credit card. At the buffet of shopping malls, and flamboyant independent boutiques, it is easy to forget how much you have spent. “Budget” is the first word Dubai deletes from your vocabulary and “no” comes in a close second.

Places like the Dubai Mall, with more than 1200 stores, resemble a battlefield where shoppers whose arms are already loaded, plow through to the next row of stores, because hey, everyone needs another pair of shoes, right? There are many other shopping malls and retail centers in Dubai. Next to the Dubai Mall is the Mall of the Emirates and ever popular is the Gold Souk for jewelry and trinkets.

A Different Dubai

Heritage-VillageWith all of Dubai’s glitz and glamour hitting you right in the face, it is hard to see beyond the commercial aspect of the city. However, if you put down your shopping bags and look close enough, you will see a city that is a far cry from what the magazines describe. You will discover that Dubai does have history and a rich culture hidden in its metropolitan existence.

Take a trip to Dubai’s Heritage Village especially during Ramadan. There you will experience a quieter, more traditional Dubai where the native Emiratis still celebrate with their traditional songs and dances. The people here are still so steeped in their tradition that it is hard to imagine that only minutes away is the flamboyant edifice of teflon-covered fiberglass and steel, Burj al Arab. Life is easy in the Heritage Village and no credit card is required for admission. You can spend a few hours simply watching the dhows (traditional sailing vessels) on the creek while having a cup of strong Arabic coffee or smoking on a sheesha. Life, on this side of Dubai, is good and cheap.

Whichever Dubai you prefer is up to you, but you might as well try both sides and make your trip twice as memorable.

About Author:

Arie Boris has extensive travel industry experience, including business and sales development for commercial aviation, the International emergency assistance & travel insurance industry and a national association of travel agents. He was a contributing editor to several print and Internet travel publications, including Fieldings’ Worldwide Cruise Guide and was part of the start up team for CruiseCritic. He has written over 400 cruise ship reviews. Arie also produces and hosts Cruise Gourmet Voyages, a variety of fundraising & theme group cruises for various charitable and arts organizations. He has produced theme cruises for a variety of special interest groups including opera, comedy, spiritual retreats and fan clubs for TV shows like Dark Shadows and Dancing with the Stars!