An accusation commonly thrown at Dubai is its lack of culture. Fair enough once upon a time, perhaps, but that is changing rapidly.
Serious museum hounds will no doubt want to head to Bastikiya’s Dubai Museum (04 353 1826) as their first port of call, where the history of the emirate is revealed in fascinating detail. But to enjoy a more hands-on experience of Dubai’s ancient history head to the little-known Jumeriah Archaeological Site (04 349 6874). Here, the city is literally being unearthed before you, dating as far back as the ninth century.
For something a little more contemporary, take a car (or arrange an hourly rate with a driver), arm yourself with an art map (available at thejamjar – 04 341 7370) and enjoy a leisurely tour of the art galleries of Al Quoz. From stalwarts such as The Third Line (04 341 1367) and B21 (04 340 3965), to spectacular new spaces like North African specialists Artsawa (04 340 8660) and the international arm of Syria’s Ayyam Gallery (050 115 5358), your visitors will be left in no doubt that Dubai has a buzzing contemporary art scene.
The emirate is also increasingly a good place to come and catch a show – on the cheap. Ductac’s Centrepoint Theatre (04 341 4777) in Mall of the Emirates and the Madinat Theatre (04 366 8888) both regularly host plays, musicals and dance, while Cirque du Soleil’s month-long run at Ibn Battuta mall (from March 5, www.timeouttickets.com) offers visitors the chance to see classic production Allegria for a fraction of the price they’d pay elsewhere.
Speaking of malls, no trip would be complete without a visit to newly opened The Dubai Mall (www.thedubaimall.com) to check out the aquarium (where shark feeding takes place every day at 4pm) and the Olympic-size ice rink. Should you wish to compare and contrast watery attractions, scoot over to Atlantis, where the Lost Chambers (04 426 0000) is a must-see for kids.
Finally, allow your guest to experience the heart of the city with a visit to Jumeirah Mosque. Guided tours (Dhs10 Tue/Thu/Sat/Sun 10am; 04 353 6666) offer true cultural insight for visitors who want to know more about Dubai than merely where to bag a bargain.
I always take my dear visiting friends for a glorious one-dirham Abra ride from Deira to Bur Dubai. Besides the serenity of seeing the city’s light reflected in the water, I often feel that the halfway point in the Creek is where Dubai conceptually starts to become modern.
Mahmoud Kaabour, Lebanese filmmaker and cultural innovator
Tip from a tourist
‘One of the highlights of my visit to Dubai was undoubtedly my trip to the Tip from a tourist: ‘One of the highlights of my visit to Dubai was undoubtedly my trip to the Madinat Jumeirah. The atmosphere was amazing – a tribute to the Arabian heritage and a fascinating place, but also welcoming and friendly.’ Tom Greenfield, 29, UK