Although Dubai has its origins in cattle herding, pearling and fishing, its inhabitants’ obsession with expansion, both upwards and outward, has created a nascent cosmopolitan metropolis.
Formed in 1971 as one of the seven United Arab Emirates, Dubai is home to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, sprawling malls outfitted with a ski slope and a dive-ready aquarium, and 2.8 million residents. The UAE is an Islamic nation, but its locals, Emiratis, constitute only 20 percent of the population. As the daily calls to prayer echo throughout the skyscraper filled skyline, expats mix and mingle, a veritable melting pot of food, language, and religion.
While its infrastructure is impressive, one could argue Dubai is still experiencing growing pains. Most places don’t have street addresses, alcohol permits are limited to hotel properties and gas is so inexpensive everyone has a car, leaving the city’s walkable regions and its public transportation lacking.
That said, Dubai is also at the forefront of inclusive experimentation. Female-only clubs and metro cars are sponsored by the government, giving women a safe and creative space. Neighborhoods throughout Dubai are diversifying; there’s an arts district (Alserkal Avenue), an old town (Bur Dubai/Deira) and a walkable marina (JBR). Western dress is welcomed and English serves as the universal language. Keep in mind, Dubai is a desert so regardless of when you go, it’s going to be warm.