Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, a federation located to the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula. To see where Dubai is in relation to the rest of the world head to our interactive map and zoom out.
The city has been an important trading port for many years but it was the discovery of oil in 1966 that kick-started the development of the cosmopolitan city of today. The ruler at the time, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, realised that oil would one day run out, and began to build an economy that would outlast it.
In 1985 Emirates airline was established and soon passengers travelling between Europe and Asia began to stop off in the city. In 1975 the city opened its first 5 star hotel but it was the opening of the super luxury Burj Al Arab in 1999 that really put Dubai on the world tourism map.
Dubai now has a higher percentage of 4 and 5 star hotels than any other city in the world and many more are planned. The ambitious Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing is aiming to attract 15 million visitors a year by 2015.
Visitors are drawn by the city’s mix of great weather, its shopping malls, groundbreaking developments, lively nightlife, plus a growing range of attractions and activities.
Relaxed immigration policies mean that guests from most developed countries receive a free visa on arrival at Dubai International Airport or other point of entry. Dubai is also effectively bilingual. The official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and a main language in local newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations.
Dubai’s rapid growth has necessitated a massive influx of expatriates, so great that Emiratis now constitute a minority of the population. Despite this, tourists should remember that it is still a Muslim city. It is much more tolerant of other cultures than many of its neighbours but its religion should always be respected. Alcohol is sold to visitors and expatriates, but the penalties for drugs are very severe.