In just the past few decades, ultra-sleek architecture has sprung from the desert coastline of the Persian Gulf, giving rise to the gleaming metropolis of Dubai.

1Notorious for lavish hotels, luxury shopping and futuristic high-rise steel and glass buildings, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates mixes opulence with age-old Arabic culture including gold and textile souqs, fragrant spice markets and pearl diving from its pre-oil days.

Below are five ways to experience the contrasting aspects of this multi-faceted destination.

Desert Dune Safari

2Enjoy breathtaking climbs up the face of soft sand dunes, followed by sheer descents as you experience what’s referred to as dune bashing. As your skilled driver negotiates a course through the desert in a 4×4, you’ll be treated to spectacular panoramic views of this magnificent vast landscape of golden sands.

Modern Dubai with Tea at Burj Al Arab Hotel

Travel to the world-renowned seven-star Burj Al Arab, the city’s most 3notable landmark and perhaps one of the most popular hotels in the world, for delicious high tea and a selection of freshly baked treats. Built on an artificial island and designed to resemble the sail of a traditional Arabic dhow, Burj Al Arab is considered both an engineering feat and architectural marvel.

Sharjah Heritage

Visit Dubai’s neighboring emirate, Sharjah, referred to as the Pearl of the Gulf. Drive from Port Rashid to the northern coast and Sharjah, the third largest of the seven emirates. Recognized as the Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO, it boasts some of the most remarkable architecture in the country and the largest mosque in the UAE, the King Faisal Mosque.

Walking Tour of Old Dubai

Spend time in Old Dubai, which stands in stark contrast to the gleaming high-rise buildings that define the city. Don’t miss Bastakia – as part of Old Dubai, it’s one of the most picturesque historical sites in the city and has been designated as a heritage area. Many of its vintage homes and wind towers have undergone renovations in the last few years and its narrow alleyways have been designated as pedestrian thoroughfares.

Discover Dubai

4Explore all that Dubai has to offer on this half-day excursion. Begin with photo opportunities at the dazzling Burj Al Arab and the stunning Jumeirah Mosque, an impressive example of Islamic architecture. Visit the Dubai Museum, located in the 200-year-old Fort Fahidi, followed by a photo stop at the beautifully restored former residence of Sheikh Saeed al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai until 1958. End with a visit to the Gold and Spice Souqs.

What do you look forward to exploring the most on your visit to Dubai?

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