Middle East Heavyweight



Little is known about the early inhabitants of Dubai, although stone tools and third and fourth-century pre-Islamic ceramics were discovered in the area. A Venetian merchant visited the area in 1580 and remarked on its pearling industry. Early in the 19th century, the Al Abu Falasa clan of Bani Yas clan established Dubai. On 8 January 1820, the sheikh of Dubai and other sheikhs in the region signed the General Maritime Peace Treaty with the British government. When Britain pulled out of the treaty in 1971, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and five other emirates formed the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite the formation of the UAE, border disputes between the emirates continued. These were finally settled in 1979, the same year the Jebel Ali port was established. Jafza, the Jebel Ali Free Zone, was established around the port in 1985, to allow foreign companies to import labour and export capital with no restrictions.

Getting There

South African Airways and Emirates fly direct from Johannesburg to Dubai. Qatar Airways stops over in Doha; and Ethiopian Airlines in Addas Ababa. KLM, Kenya Airways and British Airways also land in Dubai, although these flights also involve a stopover. All airlines land at Dubai international Airport.


Dubai International Airport, the main entrance into the city, processes about 40 million passengers a year. By September 2012, 6,000 flights to over 200 destinations were being processed every week by 130 airlines. The airport has been described as busy but efficient. Emirates built its own terminal here, at a cost of $4.5 billion. Until its codeshare agreement with Qantas, Emirates was the only airline to use this terminal, named Emirates Terminal 3. It is the largest building in the world by floor space (1,713,000m2) and handles 43 million passengers a year. In 2009, the airport installed a Category 11 landing system, which allows planes to land in low visibility conditions, such as fog.

The airport’s Business Class lounge in Terminal 1 is available to Business Class passengers whose airlines do not have their own dedicated lounges, as well as approved card holders. Stow your luggage, get a little work done, grab a shower or a nap and climb aboard your flight relaxed. The Emirates Business Class lounge is located in Emirates Terminal 3.


Residents of most African countries require a visa to enter Dubai, which needs to be prearranged. If you book your ticket with Emirates, they will be able to assist you in getting the paperwork you need.


Expect year round sunshine in this tropical desert climate. Summer temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celcius, with high humidity. In winter, temperatures drop to a much more manageable 23 degrees. The rainy season is between December and March.

Getting Around

Public transport is plentiful and safe. You can catch a chartered bus, metered and non-metered taxis, or the state-of-the-art driverless Dubai Metro trains. Dubai Transport Corporation metered cabs have vehicles dedicated to women and families, identified by their pink roofs. If you wish to rent a car, you will need an international drivers license and will need to show your passport when you collect your car. Driving takes place on the right hand side in the UAE.

Things To Do

You’ll never be bored here. There are so many things to do, so your only potential problem is finding the time to fit them all in. The world’s current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, reaches a little over 800 metres into the desert sky. The observation deck on the 124th floor, At The Top, offers the best view of the sprawling city. A tour of the Burj Khalifa takes about an hour and a half, although once you’ve bought your ticket, and been whisked upwards at 10 metres per second on the high-speed elevator, you can stay as long as you like. Visit www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/ for more information. Atlantis, The Palm is a 1,539-room, ocean-themed destination resort situated on the Palm, a man-made island to the east of the city, stretching into the Persian Gulf. Developed by the same guy credited with Sun City in South Africa – Sol Kerzner’s Kerzner International, in a joint venture with Istithmar – Atlantis, The Palm is home to the Aquaventure Waterpark and Dolphin Bay, where you can swim with a pod of these friendly marine mammals. Visit www.atlantisthepalm.com for more information. Or you can shop up a storm in any of Dubai’s 70-odd shopping malls, or spend some time in the sand dunes outside the city, or go snowboarding at Ski Dubai, part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest malls in the world. Alternatively, take a dhow cruise down Dubai Creek. The list is endless.


The UAE has little tolerance for what it perceives as drugs, and ignorance of the law will not earn sympathy. What we consider over-the-counter, self medication, may very well be interpreted as unacceptable drugs by UAE officials. It’s not unheard of to suffer prosecution for being in possession of controlled substances. If you are taking prescribed medication, take the doctor’s prescription with you to avoid confusion. If you’re in the habit of carrying over-the-counter pain killers and the like with you, make sure you check your medication with a UAE embassy before you depart.

Dubai App

Definitely Dubai is freely available on both the Apple iTunes store and the Android store. Use it to locate attractions, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. There’s a map of the city, a guide to restaurants, hotels, shops, spas and salons, a currency converter, useful numbers, special deals on a range of services, and an events guide.

Kate Kennedy

Fact File

Population: 2,106,177
Time zone: GMT +4 hours
Plugs: Three-pin square, British style
Dialling code: +971
Currency: UA Dirham
Language: Arabic, but being the melting pot Dubai is, English is widely spoken
Religion: Islam



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