Things to do in Dubai

Established in 1833 as a sheikhdom, Dubai has an illustrious history as a Middle East trading hub and port city. While its modest roots are hard to comprehend amid the modern and manmade metropolis, there are still historic areas to explore. Check out the Old Dubai area of the Bastakiya and Shindagha districts with traditional buildings and visit the Dubai Museum, housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort, for a potted history of the emirate where exhibits shows the speed at which Dubai has progressed from pearling village to building behemoth.

For the social and cultural aspect, be sure to check out the souks on both sides of the Dubai Creek that sell everything from spices to souvenirs. Take a trip on an abra for a scenic and traditional cross-river ride. Tradition still underpins the religious mores of the country and a visit to Jumeirah Mosque - the city's largest and the only open to non-Muslims - is a must for an understanding of the local Arabic culture and Islam religion.

From the old to the new, Dubai is renowned as a shopper's mecca where mega malls are more like miniature cities. Check out the world's largest mall, Dubai Mall, next-door to the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, for big-name brands and over 1,200 shops; Mall of the Emirates for themed attractions and retail therapy; the popular Deira City Centre and the air-conditioned Souk Madinat Jumeirah –- just a small selection of the centres on offer.

While shopping centres offer a welcome respite from the searing heat, Dubai also has outdoor diversions such as Dubai Marina, parks and the desert. Take the scenic route with a hot air balloon ride over the dunes or try a desert safari by SUV. Want more? Here's our take on Dubai's most popular sights.

Gold Souk

Imagine the gilded life at the famous Dubai Gold Souk, which boasts more bling than your average rapper from the 'hood. One of the world's biggest jewellery trading centres, prepare to be dazzled by a stunning array of gold adornments.

Palm Jumeirah

A residential, shopping, entertainment and hotel precinct contained on an artificial archipelago off the coast of Dubai, Palm Jumeirah is an engineering feat that has to be seen to be believed. The manmade island in the shape of a palm tree is also one of the hottest nightlife destinations in Dubai.

Burj Al-Arab and Wild Wadi

The world's tallest all-suite hotel may also be the most opulent. The 5-star Luxe-rated hotel soars like a dhow sail over the Dubai skyline with its distinctive curved exterior. Inside, no expense has been spared for a truly extravagant and indulgent holiday or dining experience.

Burj Khalifa

In a city of mega structures and engineering marvels, Burj Khalifa towers over them all - literally. Take a trip up to the observation deck of the world's tallest building/structure/freestanding structure at a whopping 828 metres high for a view that's out of this world.

Ski Dubai

The coolest place to be in hot and humid Dubai has to be the freezing temps and real snow contained in Ski Dubai, the Middle East's first indoor ski resort. Suit up to ride the chairlift, ski the slopes, snowboard, throw snowballs or watch the penguins frolic all year round.