Dubai, A City Built On Sand

A metropolis of superlatives on the Persian Gulf


If someone had told me 5 years ago that I would fly to Dubai I would have laughed & replied with something like “What the hell would I want in Dubai?” Well, after some research where I could take a short winter break without taking out a second mortgage I decided that I would indeed fly to Dubai for a week. I didn’t regret it, if I regretted anything then it was that I didn’t book for two weeks. This city is well worth taking a closer look at. Built on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The climate in winter is bearable at around 30°C during the day. Summer is a different matter soaring to around 47-48°C in July & August with extreme humidity making matters even worse.

Although Islamic Dubai is in comparison to the other Emirates pretty liberal on the surface at least. Alcohol can be consumed in hotel annexes & bars but not in public. Kissing in public is also strictly forbidden & can result in deportation. Photographers too have to be very careful where they direct their lenses as photographing Muslim women for example is no go as is the shooting of government buildings, the airport or buildings belonging to the royal family. Otherwise you shouldn’t have any problems at all. I wasn’t forbidden once from taking a picture, on the contrary, many are proud to show off their modern city.

Arabian culture isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but I thoroughly enjoyed my stay & would like to return maybe in five years time to document the development of this fascinating modern desert oasis.

Ethnically speaking only 15% of Dubai’s population are actually Arab UAE Nationals, the rest being expats that have lived for generations in the country or were born there. Around 85% of these expats are Asian with over 50% originating from India and some 15% from Pakistan. Other religious beliefs are also accepting and Dubai has large Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and other religious communities residing in the city. Outside the city is a different matter though.

Surprisingly Dubai is not a city built on oil revenue but more significantly through commerce and tourism. In fact only 5% of Dubai’s income comes from the oil business today. The explosive development of the city in the past 20 years has been financed considerably from the Al Maktoum family that rules here as absolute monarchy since 1833. Human rights organisations have heavily criticized the living conditions and mistreatment of many of the 250,000 foreign workers in the city as inhumane. Indeed, once one ventures into the old city on Dubai creek then you get a different picture to the shiny, sterile, hyper modern metropolis.

As a guest though it ‘s a welcome change to experience how Dubai was before the oil boom in the 70’s and indulge in a little of that true Arabian flair be it in the Souks of Deira or observing the Abras (water taxis) that traverse the creek between Deira and Bur Dubai. This part of town is of course less exhilarating as far as the architecture is concerned but has definitely more character in my opinion making the complete experience a perfect balance.

Highlights Of My Trip

Downtown Dubai

Downtown Dubai is considered by many as being the heart of modern Dubai where the Worlds tallest skyscraper Burj Khalifa the central point is to be found. Surrounding the Burj is the Dubai fountain where in the evenings accompanied by Arabian music the digitally controlled fountains give a spectacular water show with mystical low lying smoke veiling the water surface.

Dubai Marina

The artificial marina is in the southern part of town & houses around 120,000 people in its numerous high-rise apartment blocks. A good place to go for an evening stroll & admire the many luxury yachts & motorboats moored there. It is also an excellent place to watch the locals enjoying life, relaxing outside the many restaurants & bars, smoking a shisha, dining or posing on their boats.

Burj Khalifa

No visit to Dubai would be complete without visiting the observation deck of the Burj. I had to go twice as the view is well worth the fee to see at night as well as during the day. From here you get good views of Jumeirah beach with its Burj al Arab hotel, the Palm & World Islands as well as a sighting of the old town Dubai to the north east.

Downtown Dubai

Dubai Marina

Burj Khalifa

Seaplane City Excursion

An absolute must do is to take the seaplane flight over & around Dubai. It isn’t cheap but worth every cent. I was lucky & had an exceptionally clear day, the views were breathtaking. I can highly recommend it. 


  • Photographic Interest 100%
  • Weather 100%
  • Sightseeing 100%
  • Fun Factor 80%
  • Repeat Visit 100%


Visit my portfolio of images that I shot during two visits to Dubai in 2012 & 2016


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Did You Know?

Dubai has a hot desert climate. Summers in Dubai are extremely hot, windy, & humid, with an average temperature of around 41 °C (106 °F) & at night around 30 °C (86 °F). The hottest month is  August. The highest recorded temperature in Dubai was 52.1 °C (126 °F), in July 2002.

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