Free Things To Do in Dubai
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Skirting the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai is every shopper's paradise. The massive Dubai Mall is one of the largest shopping centers in the world and houses more than 1,300 stores. Even if you aren't interested in buying anything, a visit to this immense retail center is a must: The Dubai Mall also contains numerous entertainment facilities, such as an ice rink, a movie theater and several kid-friendly attractions, including an aquarium that houses thousands of underwater creatures. If you happen to be around at night, stop by the Dubai Fountain outside of the mall. Created by the team who designed the Bellagio's famous dancing fountains, the fountain features nightly shows set to a mix of western and eastern music.
Visitors were taken by how much was at the mall – everything you could possibly need can be found inside its sprawling square footage. A few visitors were keen to point out that you might not want to shop here after all. Because so much is imported, some reviewers found prices to be higher in comparison to what they've seen at home. Still, many said that shouldn't stop you from popping in for a visit. Of course, if you're on the hunt for a taste of Middle Eastern culture, this isn't the place to experience it. It is, however, a great escape from the heat, according to travelers.
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Overlooking the Persian Gulf from its perch between Jumeirah Beach and the Palm Islands, this stunning building has wowed architecture buffs since it opened in 1999. Its curved glass façade – modeled after the sails that have graced Dubai's waterways all these years – shelters a world-class, über-luxurious hotel located on its own man-made island. The hotel not only houses the tallest atrium in the world at nearly 600 feet high, but it is one of the tallest hotels in the world. Architecture aside, amenities include revolving beds in some suites, as well as a helipad, in case you thought arriving via a complimentary Rolls-Royce was too pedestrian.
But you don't have to stay at the Burj Al Arab to enjoy it (and let's face it, most can't). Those who aren't crashing at the hotel can gain entry by grabbing a bite at one of the on-site restaurants. Among them are Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara, which features floor-to-ceiling windows guarding a massive fish tank, and the sky-high Al Muntaha, located on the scenic 27th floor of the building.
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Amid the towering skyscrapers of downtown Dubai lies the Bastakiya Quarter, the city's historic district. This former fishing village earned its name from the numerous Bastak (Iranian) traders that settled here in the 19th century. The charming little neighborhood houses the popular outdoor café, the Arabian Tea House, and several art galleries that feature the work of local and international artists, among others. Some of the restored buildings also include wind towers, which was an early form of air conditioning. The Dubai Museum is also located here.
Recent visitors found the Bastakiya Quarter to be a nice respite from the glitz and glam of downtown Dubai, and enjoyed seeing what the city looked like before all of its developments came to fruition. Some recommend taking a quick and affordable abra (boat) ride across the Dubai Creek to a market, where trying the street vendor's ice cream and purchasing Arabic perfume are musts.
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Dubai is and has been a titan of trade for centuries. To get a sense of what commerce was like back in the day, take a stroll through one of the city's traditional souks, or bazaars. The Gold Souk, located on Dubai Creek's south bank in the Deira, specializes in glitz and glamour. Featuring glittering displays of necklaces, bracelets and earrings from more than 300 retailers, the Gold Souk is one of the most renowned gold jewelry trading centers in the world. In fact, approximately 20 percent of the world's gold passes through this market. But if you're not one for gold, don't fret. The souk also sells platinum, diamonds and silver. You're also guaranteed to get what you're paying for. The government tightly controls what is sold and by who in the souk, so you don't have to walk away thinking there's a chance you may be holding something counterfeit.
On the other side of the creek lies the pungent Spice Souk, where vendors hawk flavors from across the globe, including cinnamon, ginger and chili. This is also the place to stock up on saffron, as you'll find this delectable spice at a much lower cost here than you would at home.
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