Brimming with innovation and architectural giants, Dubai is a hive of activity, soon to be hosting the much-anticipated Expo 2020. Here is a rundown of what the city has to offer 

Writer: Tom Wadlow
Dubai – synonymous with luxury and almost unlimited ambition. The innovative epicentre of the United Arab Emirates, the city is awash with modern architectural phenomena and breathtaking skyscrapers, the most famous of all, the Burj Khalifa, being the tallest building in the world. It is an exciting time for the emirate. With Expo 2020 fast approaching, it will soon be the focus of the world’s gaze for 173 days by hosting what is the largest festival on earth, an event that is predicted to draw in 25 million visits, 70 percent of which coming from outside of the UAE. 

Away from Expo 2020, a constant draw for tourists is Dubai’s shopping scene, not least in the form of Dubai Mall which is also home to an enormous aquarium. Traditional souqs are hives of activity brimming with timeless bargaining banter. Dubai is the first Middle Eastern city to make the UNESCO list of creative cities of design, a reflection of the city’s cultural dynamism which showcases itself in dance, music, fashion and food. Although based in the middle of what is a swathe of boundless desert, this destination certainly makes for an unforgettable business trip or holiday.  

The Business End 

Although Dubai was initially built on revenues from the oil industry, with production peaking in 1991 with 410,000 barrels per day, it has been steadily declining ever since, now accounting for less than five percent of the emirates gross domestic product. Today, the city focuses its economy on tourism by developing luxury hotels and real estate. Dubai is the top business gateway in the Middle East and Africa region with the government setting up industry specific free zones throughout the emirate.

Dubai has seen a sizable growth in the number of international visitors in the past decade through the addition of new landmarks and attractions. A major draw for tourists is shopping, however, it does have possession of other modern sites such as the Burj Khalifa, which is a stunning feat of architecture that pierces the peaceful skyline at a measurement of 828 metres in height. 

Dubai also holds some older, more historical attractions such as the Al Fahidi Historic District, which was built by merchants from the Persian town of Bastak, who settled in Dubai to take advantage of tax breaks granted by the sheikh. But by the 1970s the buildings had fallen into disrepair as the residents started to move into the newer, more comfortable accommodation. Dedicated locals, with the support of the UK royal Prince Charles, prevented the area's demolition in the 1980s. 

In Focus: Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa is well known for being the tallest skyscraper in the world, standing at 828 metres. The architecture behind this skyscraper is intricate with its triple lobed footprint – an abstraction of the Hymenocallis flower, the tower is composed of three elements arranged around a central core. Subject to a naming controversy, the building was originally to be known as the Burj Dubai until the team behind the project ran into financial problems and required more financing. Sheikh Khalifa, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, granted monetary aid and funding, resulting in the changing of the name to Burj Khalifa. 

It is the most impressive venue in Dubai to host business events, with floor 112 dedicated to such activities and fitted with 990 square metres of meeting space and an outdoor terrace. The minimal finishes of the area allow the possibility to customise the venue, while its exceptional views are matched by expertly prepared cuisine, advanced audio-visual equipment and wireless connectivity. Most visitors to the Burj Khalifa will head to one of the two observation decks, the first at levels 124 and 125 with an even more impressive view possible at floor 148. 

Getting There and Around

Dubai International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, handling around 84 million travellers a year through its three terminals, the third being exclusively operated by Emirates. A second airport (Al Maktoum) near Jebel Ali is a work in progress and only receives a handful of passenger flights, the majority of traffic being cargo. 

In terms of getting around the city, the metro service has been a popular addition since it opened in 2010. There are two lines, red and green, which link the main airport with other major landmarks such as Dubai Creek and Dubai Healthcare City. Those looking to get onto the Palm Jumeriah should use the monorail service which connects to Dubai Marina, while taxis and ride hailing services are a good bet to get almost anywhere out of reach by public transport. There are also around 120 bus routes, although these can be slower than some alternatives, among them boats and bicycles, the latter available for rent via online registration. Car hire is the final option, but not for the faint hearted. Dubai is home to enormous seven- or eight-lane highways which are subject to heavy traffic at peak hours. It is a safer bet to use road transport when day-tripping away from the city centre. 

Outlook Recommends 


Located on the world-famous Palm Jumeirah just off the coast of Dubai, Anantara, The Palm Dubai Resort boasts 400 metres of private shoreline and surrounding views of the Arabian Gulf. Indulge in an exclusive beach escape, while still enjoying the excitements of the city.

Sat 200 metres above sea level in the iconic Burj Al Arab building, the Skyview at Burj Al Arab  is a bar and restaurant offers anything from modern day classics to innovative cocktails. Afternoon tea is the main speciality to be enjoyed here. 


Set up in 1985 with just two aircraft, Emirates today flies the world’s biggest fleets of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, offering its customers the comforts of the latest and most efficient wide-body aircraft in the skies. Based in Dubai, the firm connects people to more than 160 destinations around the world. 


Touted as the must-do activity in Dubai, desert safari is extremely popular with tourists. Desert Safari Dubai is one of the best-known operators, offering three different options – morning, evening and overnight safaris. More than 500 people opt for the evening safari every month.