All the great cities around the world — Paris, New York, Tokyo — certainly have their charms and their history. Soon, our descendants may mention these iconic cities in the same breath as another up-and-coming metropolis: Dubai.
In seemingly no time at all, Dubai rose from the desert to become one of the most luxurious and beautiful places on Earth. Its culture and lifestyle are so grandiose that you might think the entire city is just a mirage — but these photos are proof that it’s very real…
1. It’s not uncommon to spot a wealthy citizen walking a pet cheetah or tiger around town. However, Dubai banned new purchases of exotic pets in 2017, so this sight will become rarer over the years.
2. The Burj al Arab reached the status of the only seven-star hotel in the world. Its helipad is home to the highest tennis court in the world, at nearly 700 feet above the ground, and has welcomed big stars including Roger Federer.
3. Dubai has a culture clash like no other. Eastern and western sensibilities live side-by-side, and this stands out the most in the area of women’s fashion. Some areas do enforce dress codes, but in other spots, you can see a burqa right next to a cocktail dress.
4. If you’re afraid of heights, you can still have a great view from your hotel room. If you stay at Atlantis, you’ll feel like you’re under the sea! It’s one of the world’s few underwater hotels, and it features all kinds of rare species in its aquarium.
Travel and Leisure
5. Who says you can’t have fun in the middle of the desert? The extreme sport of sandboarding is gaining popularity in Dubai. It’s all the fun of snowboarding without having to bundle up in ten layers of winter gear!
6. Dubai is home to all kinds of insane vehicles — more on that later — but nothing tops the Naturmobil. This unusual contraption draws power from a horse on a treadmill, while the driver up front steers. Its see-through glass also provides a great view, especially for curious passersby.
7. Dubai’s skyline truly is a feat of architecture, and the crown jewel is the Burj Khalifa. Topping out at over 2,700 feet, this building has the honor of being the tallest structure in the world. You can see practically the entire city from its upper levels!
8. Fans of winter should know that it never snows in Dubai — at least not outside. But you can tear up the slopes at Ski Dubai, which offers indoor skiing all year round. They’ll even provide you with the necessary gear, so no need to haul around your heavy jacket the entire trip.
9. Private investors are tossing entire fortunes into the latest craze: building manmade islands. The Palm Jumeirah, the only completed one to date, is several miles long and captures the exact shape of the tree for which it is named.
10. In need of a desert oasis? The city’s Miracle Garden will leave you feeling refreshed. It is the largest flower garden in the world, displaying 45 million species. It also houses a colossal butterfly sanctuary, which multiplies the stunning array of colors on the grounds.
11. Even the ordinary things in Dubai become a little bit special. In most places, there is a Starbucks on every corner. However, their location in the Ibn Battuta Mall looks more like a palace than a coffee shop. Now that’s a good place to write your screenplay!
12. You can imagine that the people of the United Arab Emirates go big on holidays. For their National Day in 2018, they flew an impressive fleet of planes, each spouting out the country’s colors, over Dubai’s Grand Mosque.
Imgur / DontSantDunes
13. This is no ordinary vending machine. Thanks to Dubai’s biggest high rollers, the city actually has custom ATMs that spit out entire gold bars. Each machine updates the price of gold every 10 minutes, according to international market standards.
14. Dubai’s streets are packed with flashy sports cars, which means that the police need some serious wheels of their own to keep up. Here, we have a tricked-out BMW, but the authorities also have a couple of Lamborghinis and Aston Martins in their garages.
15. For some one-of-a-kind entertainment, you can check out one of Dubai’s famous camel races. These events are just like the Kentucky Derby, with one interesting difference: the camels carry robot jockeys!
16. Are you one of those people who forgets to buy souvenirs until you reach the airport? Well, Dubai’s airport sells these gold-covered cell phones for any big spenders. These models don’t look updated enough to download the latest apps, but they do look fancy!
17. You’ve never gotten a beauty mask like this before. One lavish clinic will apply a sheath of 24-carat gold across your face. Who knows if it will actually help your skin, but it will have you looking like King Tut for an afternoon.
Time Out Dubai
18. Tourists who don’t run out of money immediately can visit one of the city’s luxury malls. The Mall of the Emirates, for example, is the world’s first resort mall. In addition to its hundreds of stores, the mall has two 5-star hotels at each end.
19. Even getting stuck in traffic is a little fancier in Dubai. Over 50,000 of the city’s residents own at least one luxury sports car, though they don’t always have the open road to really rev up their engines.
20. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Dubai is that the city was barely a blip on the radar a generation ago. This photo from 1980 shows a desolate city center, with only a couple of notable buildings. Only once the oil money started pouring in did Dubai become the opulent metropolis it is today.