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Why You're All Wrong About Dubai

14th December 2015

Culture in Dubai? You may well think it's an oxymoron but, believe it or not, there’s a soul deep beneath the glitzy mega malls and sprawling hotels that the UAE’s swaggering metropolis is so famous for.

Like Las Vegas, Dubai can appear, on the surface, a playground offering little in the way of substance. Superficial, some may argue, and certainly polarising, it splits travellers firmly into lovers and loathers and gets a rough ride.

 Dubai is not as superficial as it appears. Picture: Getty Images

But dig a little deeper and you’ll find a city richly rewarding and one plagued by preconceptions. I first visited in 2014 with low expectations, dismissing it as little more than a man-made mecca for shoppers and sunworshippers.

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To my great surprise, I discovered a city full of greatness: galleries showcasing contemporary Arabic art, cosy teahouses with old wind towers (the original form of airconditioning), crowded souks filled with gold and spices, and fine Emirati cuisine eaten cross-legged on the floor in the company of wise Islamic scholars.

I discovered ancient Arabian secrets at the Dubai Museum, housed beyond the old stone and coral city walls from the 1800s, and stepped back in time with a short cruise along the murky Dubai Creek aboard a traditional wooden abra boat – tiny and rickety but still used to ferry people back and forth between the historic neighbourhoods of Deira and Bastakiya.

 Souks sell gold, spices and textiles. Picture: Getty Images

Modern-day Dubai is no less impressive. The Burj Khalifa is not just the world’s tallest building, rising 800 metres from the dusty desert floor, but an innovative piece of architecture inspired by the hymenocallis desert flower.

To the west is Dubai’s landmark hotel, Atlantis The Palm. It may be a little on the gaudy side but its world-class water park will put a smile on the faces of kids big and small. Are you brave enough to ride the nine-storey Leap of Faith water slide?

Its boundless Friday brunch, meanwhile, will satisfy even the most discerning of foodies, with dishes from every corner of the world prepared by expert chefs. The hollowed-out watermelons filled with fruity vodka cocktails ensure much merriment.

So don’t dismiss Dubai too flippantly. Give it a go and make up your own mind.

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This article was written by Nick Boulos from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.