World's only 7 star equivilent hotel.
While in Dubai, you simply must see the Burj Al Arab Hotel. It is known as the worlds only 7 star hotel. It is also the worlds tallest hotel. A tour of the hotel can be taken for a small fee and I definitely recommend taking the time to see this unbelievable structure.
The Arabs' fascination with "nice numbers"
Arabs have a strange fascination with special numbers in order and sequence. I have no idea where the interest in this stems from, but it is most visible with
a) car number plates
b) telephone numbers.
It is extremely common to hear an Emirati standing at the counter, applying for a new mobile or landline telephone asking the clerk "do you have any nice numbers?" Such numbers would be anything with an order or repetition, such as 1234567. Or maybe 4560456? Or even 7777007.
I have to admit: the allure of special numbers tends to become contagious! After living here for more than a decade, I find myself noticing nice sequences when people give me their phone numbers, and I even felt a little bit pleased when our new home phone number turned out to be really easy to remember ;-)
For car number/registration plates, this attraction to numbers takes on a whole new level of craziness - read here:
14th June 2008: "Dubai holds special number plate auction... about 100 plates were auctioned netting more than Dhs 32.25 Mio" (8.8 Mio US$)
Click here: http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/08/06/14/10220951.html
(further stories of this kind are archived on the right side of the webpage)
Usually, this kind of behaviour would justify some rude language from regular people like you and me: what a waste of money!!!
But, as crazy as these amounts are, at least something good is being done with the raised funds: they either go to supporting the families of car-accident victims, or towards building a new trauma centre for road accident victims or other charitable causes.
Also, single or double digit number plates indicate members of the royal family. Usually, plate number *1* is the ruler of that respective emirate (Sheikh Mohammed, ruler of Dubai, has the number 1 and used to drive around in a white Mercedes Benz G500), followed by the numbers 2, 3, 4, etc. for chauffeur-driven cars for the wives or children. The double-digit numbers 11, 12, 13, 14 etc. often belong to brothers or uncles of the ruler, or employees of the ruler's court in high governmental positions.
Three and four digits mostly indicate very influential and wealthy businessmen, who have either had a long and successful family business throughout the generations, or are simply rich enough to purchase these desirable number plates.
For those of us that don't have royal connections or millions to spend, nice number sequences are still big business in the emirates. When I bought a new car last year, the gentleman at the registration office said "you want nice number? I can give you 5-digits number (that's normal) with 333 in the middle. I give you good price: only 9,000 Dirhams! (2,500 US$)."
Needless to say, that kind of money can be spent in so many better ways, right? Like travel! Haha!
Don't believe me? Well, a few days after I wrote this tip I spotted a Porsche Cayenne infront of me at the traffic lights, with the number plate 5. Also, I noticed a sticker on the car for this website: http://www.vipnumberplate.com/
Herbs & spices (saffron in particular)
The old souq is the place to get lost in buying all sorts of exotic herbs and spices - there's plenty of delicious teas to buy and ultra-cheap and excellent iranian saffron. Be aware that you need to bargain... even then it took us a while to get the saffron we wanted: the very helpful salesman insisted we buy 1st quality saffron... we insisted 2nd quality was more than ok for us (and a million times better than the one we can find in europe). Eventually we understood the reason for his insisting: he thought that we were going to use it in coffee, and for this you really need 1st quality. Once he understood it was for rice - well, he agreed that 2nd quality was adequate. Other than tea and saffron you can find little gems like... pink salt. it looks so cute that we're actually not planning on using it... Don't pay more than 1 dirham per gram of saffron. If you look around enough you will also find it for about half the price
Tripping with a water pipe
I hadn't touched a water pipe, called a "shisha" in the UAE, since, well since those long-gone university days. So when the opportunity arose, I reclined and relaxed, and took a trip... back in time..., drawing in the sweet smoke of...apple-flavored tobacco. This experience was part of an organized nighttime visit to a Bedouin show village in the desert, but there are many places where you can enjoy a shisha in Dubai itself. Many hotels have shisha bars, and even fast-food chains have shishas.
The only real way to get around
Since the public transport system in Dubai is more or less useless, the only way to get around are taxis (if you don't have your own car).
These are relatively cheap compared to Europe/US and easily available everywhere. You don't have to look for a taxi stand in Dubai, because they are driving around all over Dubai looking for customers themselves.
There are several taxi companies operating them with "Dubai Transport" beeing the largest. The taxi fare is based on the meter installed in the taxi and unless you are going with a private taxi usually not subject to negotiation.
A few examples (from my own experience):
Airport to Jumeirah Beach: around 50 Dirhams
Airport to Internet City: around 70 Dirhams
Airport to Arabian Ranches: around 95 Dirhams
The Greens to Internet City: around 12 Dirhams
After the introduction of Salik, the road toll system in Dubai, taxi passengers will have to pay an additional 4 Dirhams for crossing the toll gate on Garhoud Bridge or the one on Sheikh Zayed Road.