The Bastkia Quarter is a little corner of downtown Dubai which has been kept as how Dubai looked like in the old days, way before the oil boom. It's a cute collection of nicely restored traditional houses, some with wind-towers, an ancient way of air conditioning. Originally Bastkia Quarter was a neighbourhood for wealthy traders, but today the buildings house galleries, cafes, and boutique hotels.
Burj Khalifa is ridiculously tall, 828 m (plus a small tip) to be more precise, making it the tallest building in world. It's so tall that every other building in Dubai, even other super-tall skyscrapers, look tiny compared to this sleek shiny tower which seems to disappear into the sky. From the air the tower looks like a symmetric Y, a design apparently inspired from a lily, but from the ground it resembles an elegant sci-fi rocket. The 163 floors - where the top one is at 621 m - are used for both corporations, residences and hotels. Yes, here you can stay in an Armani suite. At first, during the construction, it was called Burj Dubai, but when completed it changed name to Burj Khalifa, probably in honor of Sheikh Khalifa, emir of Abu Dhabi, as he bailed out the project when it was badly needed.
Ski Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
When you are a rich oil sheik, you can have everything... even snow in the desert. Fitted inside the second biggest mall in Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, is an artificial plastic-fantastic winter wonderland with real snow, ski slopes (including a 400-metre-long run and a black run), snowboard funpark, toboggan runs - yes, even live penguins. The snow park at the base is a bit of a mayhem of kids in all sizes and concerned parents. All equipment, clothes and boots are of course included, and there are even special jackets for those wearing a traditional kandura or abaya. For observers the whole hullabaloo can seems tacky and stupid, but Ski Dubai is very popular and everyone is having a blast.
Jumeirah Open Beach
Just a short drive from downtown lies what is best described as Dubai's version of Venice Beach. An urban oasis of palms, white sand, blue water, and tracks for jogging/bicycling/rollerblading with a backdrop of Dubai's impressive skyline. It's no wonder why it gets crowded during weekends (Friday and Saturday) and holidays, and is a popular spot for watching the sunset. Jumeirah Open Beach consists of three sections, original named 1, 2 and 3.
All over Dubai
Dubai has some of the largest and extravagant malls in the world. Some have themes while others have crazy stuff like an indoor ski resort (Mall of the Emirates), ice skating ring (Dubai Mall) or giant aquarium with sharks (also Dubai Mall), but all have an insane amount of shops (1200+ in Dubai Mall), of which a large fraction sell high fashion and silly luxury goods for the super rich - and they do come here to power shop. At the entrance to any of the classy mall, an impressive line of sports and luxury cars are parked side by side. However, inside it can be hard to tell one abaya covered lady from another, which make you wonder when they do wear that revealing designer dress - but at least it makes sense with all the watch and jewellery shops, for a little bling goes well with any cloak.
You might think that the modern malls have outcompeted the traditional soups in Dubai, but the local marketplaces are still very much alive and kicking. One both sides of Dubai Creek are several souqs dealing with more traditional stuff than what you will find at the malls. Spices, nuts, perfumes, gold, local garments, hardware, tools, food items, Indian knickknacks, you name it. A maze of narrow lanes along with a few, some even covered, main streets connect the hundred of shops. Some lanes only deal in one item (like gold, bathroom tiles or baby clothes), which makes the selection rather overwhelming when people finally have found what they are looking for. There are even souvenirs shops in some of souqs for the few tourists who are brave enough to venture out into the real world and the suffocating heat, but else the souqs are a great place for some people watching - you might even bump into an old Bedouin woman with face mask shopping for a new abaya (the black cloak for women).
Umm Suqeim Beach
Umm Suqeim Beach is the public beach right below the iconic 7-star hotel Burj al Arab. It's a shade-less stretch of white sand with crystal-clear turquoise water. A tranquil spot perfect for a splash in the water or a laze about in the sun. It seems to attract mainly residents from the surrounding posh neighbourhood of Jumeirah, including a fair share of expats. Since the views of the Burj al Arab are sublime, tourists and locals alike come by to snap a photo of the Burj al-Arab - and, if they can get away with it, sunbathing girls in bikinis.
An abra is a small traditional wooden boat, which is still used to ferry people across Dubai Creek. It's a fun and cheap way of transport between Deira (north side) and Bur Dubai (south side), and a reminder that not everything in Dubai has turned modern and expensive - yet. Beside jumping on one of the shared abra, which constantly plies the creek, it's also possible to rent a private abra if you want to explore the waterfront which is packed with traditional wooden cargo dhows (ship).