Flashier Dubai is fast becoming major tourist site

DUBAI, the United Arab Emi- rates' cosmopolitan melting pot, has become one of the most exciting cities in the Gulf region, thanks to the city rulers.  

Dazzling palaces, mosques stand side by side along with opulent new hotels and glittering modern skyscrapers. Dubai’s architectural splendour rising from the sand is a pleasure to admire.  

A journalist friend from Africa, who was on his second visit in four years, said “Dubai was flashy back then? it's even flashier now,’’ as we cruised along the eight-lane Sheikh Zayed highway, the main artery of the newer part of town. 

Seeing it from afar as we drove out to the desert, it was obvious why locals dubbed the area as Dubai’s “Man- hattan Skyline.’’ 

It was hard to miss the Emirates Towers complex, a twin high-rise hotel and commercial centre which I couldn’t help but to compare with our very own Petronas Twin Towers. 

Further down the highway is the world famous Burj al Arab luxury hotel, perhaps Dubai’s most recognisable landmark.  

Located nearby are dedicated commerce areas such as the Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City. 

The cityscape had seen more changes during the last three decades than the preceding six millennia combined as a visit to Al Fihidi Fort, now Dubai’s museum, would suggest. 

Nearby, old merchant quarters of yesteryear along Dubai Creek, a salt-water inlet to which Dubai owes its existence, are being reconstructed and preserved into future tourist attractions. 

The city landscape is a fusion of traditional Arabic culture and modern variety.  

Admittedly, my short stay prohibits further exploration of the city. A commerce-driven city, Dubai is also fast becoming a major tourist destination.  

Local officials estimated that 15 million tourists would visit Dubai in 2010, based on a projected growth rate of 16% annually. An estimated 3.8 million visitors came to Dubai in 2001. 

Dubai is the quintessential home of sand, sun, sea and duty-free shopping experience. The desert area is a must visit for those seeking adventure and romance of a different kind.  

The Emirates group-owned Al-Maha Desert Resort is a good example. This award-winning 30-suite exclusive hideaway is also one of the world's most successful conservation projects. 

And the stay in Dubai will not be complete without a visit to its many souks or traditional market place. 

The Gold Souk, a stone's throw away from the Creek, is another must visit, according to our tour guide.  

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