Sightseeing in Dubai

Dubai isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of sightseeing.  Shopping, yes – diving, yes – sitting around in fancy hotels soaking up the sun, yes – but sightseeing not so much.

I’ve met a few travellers who weren’t bowled over by Dubai – pretty much for the reasons above, so when Philip and I were there for work, we didn’t really think they’d be much to see while we were there. But I am pleased to report that we were wrong.

As someone who spends most of her time travelling around old towns and admiring monuments from thousands of years ago – I knew I wouldn’t get that from Dubai, but it’s hardly Dubai’s fault.

Although it dates back to 3000BC, it was a relatively small port, consisting mostly of desert until oil was discovered in 1966 and it began expanding beyond all recognition.

Here is some of the stuff that we got up to. And we absolutely didn’t make it to everything we wanted to see, including the desert or out to any of the other Emirates.

Let’s start with the big one – literally. The Burj Khalifa is the worlds tallest building and not by a little bit.  It has nearly 200 metres on the second tallest building – The Shanghai Tower.

The views (as you can imagine) are incredible.  There are some really interesting exhibits around that show just how quickly Dubai has grown, looking down on skyscrapers and then seeing that 20 years ago where all those buildings are was just desert, is incredible.

On the other end of the scale, The Dubai Museum is housed in the oldest building in Dubai – a fort built in 1787. It shows the history and archaeology of Dubai using models and life-size dioramas.  It was a really interesting way to spend a couple of hours.

If you headed to the Dubai Mall for dinner, you can check out the Dubai Fountain and the Aquarium while you’re there.  The Fountain is the largest choreographed fountain system in the world and it is really rather cool to watch. With all these ‘largests’ it feels like the Aquarium is letting the side down by being the second largest in the world 😉 but it’s still awesome to see.  Even if you don’t pay to walk through the middle, you can grab a cuppa from one of the cafe’s on the top floor and watch the incredible collection of marine life swimming around for as long as you want.

I don’t really need any encouraging to go on a bus tour, but being able to see Dubai while avoiding the bonkers temperatures can only be a good thing.  We used the Big Bus Company, which had two different lines, offering a really good overview of the different areas, although their sales patter was completely over the top and aggressive and very nearly put us off using them.

To be honest the bus ride was the only way we could see the whole breath of what Dubai has to offer.  It was simply too hot to do anything else – we used the air conditioned bus to see the Atlantis resort at the end of the man-made island complex,the down town area and across the river to the old part of town.  It was unlike any city tour we’ve taken before – the sheer amount of new building work and areas rising from the desert was simply breathtaking.

My thoughts on Dubai are mixed – yes it has no real historical part to it, most of the past is shown in the Dubai museum, and there are no buildings or public spaces that rival the old cities of Paris, London, Rome etc.  But that’s not the point of Dubai – it’s history and grandeur is being built every day in the gleaming high rises being thrown up across the city.  How that is happening is for another post, but as a spectacle, Dubai is unlike anything I’ve experienced writing this blog.

Have you been to Dubai? What did you think?


  • I’ve been many times to Dubai, most times on business trip but got to see its many sides over the years. You’re right, historic parts are mainly in the museum but I’m overly impressed by the grandeur that the emirate has become. It’s all about being bigger and better. Sometimes there is such a thing as too much where it borderlines gaudy but they have the money, they’ll happily spend it. Having said that I love the shopping in Dubai, in particular gold shopping (that’s what happens when I take Mom with me). Happy travels!

  • Nice selection of pictures of Dubai. I have never been but my husband brought back similar images when he went a few years ago for work. (Suzanne)

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