BEST OF THE REST
The Montgomerie Dubai (themontgomerie.com), which Colin Montgomerie designed with the late Desmond Muirhead, is worth a visit. Its island green on the par-three thirteenth is reputedly the largest in the world. Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa (jebelali-international.com), about a forty-minute drive from the city, has nine pretty holes and for years hosted the Jebel Ali Challenge, a star-studded event that acts as the curtain raiser for the Desert Classic. Watch for peacocks that roam the fairways on the eighth and ninth holes.
WHERE TO STAY
There are two types of hotels in Dubai: expensive and very expensive. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to find anything decent with fewer than four stars, so visitors tend to stick to the plethora of upmarket resorts and business hotels. The most famous of these is the five-star Burj Al Arab (burj-al-arab.com). With its soaring white facade resembling a billowing sail, the hotel stands on its own island nine hundred feet offshore and serves as the architectural symbol of the city. A kaleidoscopic waterfall, mirrors on the ceilings of the suites, and chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royces are the order of the day here. The more conventional Hilton Dubai Creek (hilton.com) manages to have both a boutique and business feel. As an added attraction, the hotel is home to Verre, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey's first restaurant outside the U.K.
WHERE TO EAT
You can find restaurants serving dishes from all corners of the globe in Dubai, but visitors often overlook the fine cuisine of the Middle East during their stay. Layali Lubnan on Sheikh Zayed Road is an independent café that gives a rare glimpse of genuine Arabia. Here you'll find locals and expatriate Arabs smoking shisha (flavored tobacco) while enjoying a game of backgammon. Try the falafel and hummus washed down with a cup of strong Turkish coffee for a tasty and invigorating lunch. Lebanese food is justifiably popular the world over, and Ayam Zayam at the Ascot Hotel in Bur Dubai offers delicious repasts at reasonable prices. The restaurant also puts on belly-dancing shows and live music throughout the week.
Shops And Spas
Shopping is a major reason that tourists flock to Dubai; the city is often referred to as the Hong Kong of the Middle East. However, those looking for traditional Arabian markets are in for a disappointment. The creekside souks, which sell a range of gold, jewels and textiles, are a rather sanitized version of their exotic past and a world away from the bustling flea markets of Cairo, Damascus and Tehran. Rather, designer boutiques rule the roost in modern Dubai, and the emirate's tourist-friendly tax-free zones ensure that bargains can be had. BurJuman (burjuman.com), Wafi City (waficity.com) and Mall of the Emirates (malloftheemirates.com) are three of the city's biggest malls, each of them crammed with upscale outlets.
Spas have become seriously popular in Dubai as well and can be found in all of the city's top-end hotels and shopping centers. The Spa at the Shangri-La Hotel (shangri-la.com/dubai) is one of the most elegant retreats anywhere, while the exquisite Angsana chain (angsanaspa.com) has outlets at both the Arabian Ranches and Montgomerie Dubai golf clubs.
It might come as a surprise to learn that Dubai buzzes after dark. For years, drinking alcohol was restricted to a series of stodgy hotel bars, but the city now overflows with trendy pubs and ultrachic nightclubs. The Souk Madinat complex (madinatjumeirah .com) in Jumeirah, with its twenty-two bars and restaurants, is the focal point for many a good night out. Particularly popular joints here include the Agency, a waterside wine bar, and JamBase, a world-music megaclub.
The active traveler is well catered to in Dubai. Skiing is the latest craze here, and it can be done in both the desert and the city. Local tour operators organize sand skiing—more like sandboarding—down steep dunes, while Ski Dubai (skidxb.com), in the Mall of the Emirates, is a 240,000-square-foot indoor ski center with man-made snow and the world's first indoor black-diamond run. One of the most popular sports in Dubai is camel racing, which can be viewed at the Nad Al Sheba racetrack (nadalshebaclub.com) from October to March.