Dubai is one of the seven sheikdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates. It lies on the north-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
The ultra-modern city is clean, safe, dynamic and reeking of capitalism. Markets sell gold and electronics rather than more traditional items. There is plenty to occupy the tourist. Al Fahidi Street is the heart of Bur Dubai souk, excellent for shopping. Al Nasr Leisureland offers a variety of sports, including ice skating, bowling, swimming and there is an amusement park for children. There is a small but varied zoo, camels and horse racing tracks, hot air ballooning and a good choice of golf courses.
The city's most outstanding attraction, though, is Burj Al Arab, the world's only seven-star hotel, soaring 321 metres, standing on a man-made island 280 metres offshore. It is an architectural and engineering marvel, resembling an enormous billowing sail and dominating the Dubai coastline. It took 3500 designers, engineers and construction staff, 360,000 cubic metres of concrete, 9000 tonnes of steel and 250 foundation piles driven 40 metres deep to create Burj Al Arab, which is rapidly becoming a symbol of the Emirate's growing stature.
The dazzling, white sail is dazzling by day and at night presents an unforgettable sight. It becomes a rainbow of colour at night, with sculptures of water and fire.
The hotel's 202 suites reflect the finest the world has to offer. From the moment you arrive in your chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce or BMW, you know you are about to be somewhere like nowhere else. There is a private check-in area on each floor and every suite is allocated a highly-trained butler who provides around-the-clock attention.
Suites have a dining and living area and office with laptop, Internet access, fax, printer and copier. Hidden technology operates lighting, curtains and air-conditioning at the touch of a button. A 42-inch plasma screen shows a variety of cable channels and video and there is an incredible number of DVDs to choose from.
There are eight restaurants and lounges. Al Muntaha, the ultimate, is 200 metres above the Arabian Gulf. It offers modern European cuisine. Al Mahara is a seafood restaurant, accessed by a three-minute virtual submarine voyage. Al Iwan has sea views and offers fine Arabian hospitality in a dramatic décor of gold, red and black.
Majlis Al Bahar, a casual al fresco restaurant, serves Mediterranean specialities. Sahn Eddar serves light fare and afternoon tea. Juna Lounge is a stylish and intimate cigar lounge and the Skyview Bar attracts guests to pre and after-dinner drinks. Bab Al Yam is relaxed in style and has marvellous views.
The Assawan Spa & Health Club at Burj Al Arab derived its name from a magnificent stone renowned for its magical properties. Through the ages, it has been used to soothe and invigorate all those seeking youthful radiance and vitality.
When it's time to wind down, no place instils a feeling of luxury and wellbeing better than the breathtakingly beautiful Assawan Spa. And if you can tear yourself away from the lavish comforts of the spa, there is plenty to challenge you at Assawan Health Club, equipped with the very latest equipment.
A lavish treatment in the health club will have you sufficiently refreshed to board one of the hotel's cars and head to Dubai Mall, the world's largest single shopping space, housing the world's largest indoor gold souq.
It has hundreds of stalls, meandering walkways and mind-boggling amounts of gold. There is a four-metre-wide Walking Lane, flanked by a two-metre wide Shopping Lane. This allows shoppers and window-shoppers to progress unhindered.
Nowhere near as breathtaking, but certainly a place to visit for a taste of traditional Dubai, is the spice souq. Sacks overflow with earthy and aromatic dried lemons, ginger root, cardamom, dried fruit, nuts, pulses and frankincense. There are also stalls in narrow alleyways selling trinkets, kitchenware, rugs, glassware and textiles and you are expected to haggle over prices.