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The U.A.E is located on the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Qatar, Oman and its biggest neighbour, by far, Saudi Arabia.

The Sheikhdoms of Abu Dhabi [or Abu Zaby], Dubai [or Dubayy], Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain [Umm al Qaywayn] and Ras Al Khaimah [Ra's al Khaymah] are strung out along the northern coast of the Peninsula on the Arabian Gulf [or Persian Gulf to some], whilst Fujairah [Al Fujayrah] is located on the east coast on the Gulf of Oman, which leads to the Arabian Sea, part of the Indian Ocean.

Dubai Creek is 14 kilometres, or 8.7 miles, in length and branches in from the Arabian Gulf, [sometimes called the Persian Gulf].

Long established for its ancient sea-routes, which reached as far as India and the East African coast, it is the heart and soul of the city. Indeed, the existence of the sheltered creek, as a waterway, is the reason why the settlement of Dubai was established here in the first place.

Originally, Dubai creek was only deep enough to accommodate smaller vessels, so goods had to be transferred to traditional Arab sailing dhows at the entrance to the creek, in order to export them.

Recognising the Dubai Creek's strategic importance as oil was being discovered in the Arabian Gulf, in the late 1950s, Sheikh Rashid of Dubai instigated a very expensive dredging programme in the 1960s, to deepen it, in order to handle much bigger ships. Dubai's trade immediately increased by 20 per cent after dredging. So, today, Dubai Creek functions as a vibrant port and a vital part of the city.

Just south of the creek entrance is Port Rashid and Dubai Maritime City, the busiest port area in the Arabian Gulf, with storage capacity for 20,000 containers and the ability to dock large holiday cruise liners.

Cruising in the sunny Arabian Gulf, especially during the winter months, is becoming increasingly popular, as tourists seek an alternative to the Caribbean.

Dubai Creek is itself very popular with tourists, especially since redevelopment work has transformed parts of the Creek's banks.

Visitors are fascinated by the day-to-day workings of the Creek. It is a great place to stroll in the evening.

On the Deira side, a broad well-lit promenade extends from the Corniche which faces the Arabian Gulf, all the way to the attractive purpose-built dhow terminal, known as the Dhow Wharfage, just below Al Maktoum Bridge, the main bridge across the Creek.

A much-needed new bridge is currently being constructed downstream of it, linking Trade Centre Road on the Bur Dubai side, with Union Square and Al Maktoum Hospital on the Deira side. Since Trade Centre Road is in a direct line with Sheikh Zayed Road, this route across to Deira is bound to prove very popular and reduce traffic jams at the other crossings.

Upstream from Al Maktoum Bridge is Al Garhoud Bridge. Between these two existing bridges, on the Deira side, lies the prestigious Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, occupying a large area of the Creek's shores.

The luxury golf course, surrounded by expensive villas, is stunning. It is open to non-members.

Opposite the Golf Club, on the Bur Dubai side, lies Creekside Park, over two kilometres in length and taking up all the land between the two existing bridges.

It provides pleasant paved walks and extensive land-scaped public gardens.

Further upstream, near Al Garhoud Bridge is the Wonderland Theme and Water Park, a kids-oriented leisure centre that includes a "desert Extreme" skate park, funfair rides, karting, paintballing and Splashland, complete with water rides.

The other major crossing point of Dubai Creek, is the Al Shindagha Tunnel at the entrance to the Creek, linking Port Rashid on the south side with Corniche Deira on the north side. Deira Fish, Meat and Vegetable Market is also near the tunnel.

The traditional way of crossing the Creek is by abra, or water taxi. These seemingly rickety, but water-tight, wooden boats have been ferrying residents and traders across Dubai Creek since Dubai was first settled. Originally, they were rowing boats, but now they have diesel engines.

Approximately 15,000 people cross the Creek by abra every day. The abras are commuter vehicles for thousands of manual and low-paid workers and boarding can be chaotic at peak times as hundreds of workers jostle for space on the stone steps where the boats pull up.

It is well worth hiring your own abra for a comprehensive tour of the Creek. A journey up and down the Creek should cost no more than 50 Dirhams. Agree a price beforehand!! It is a fascinating experience, enabling you to see the ancient and modern sights of the middle of Dubai.

The many dhows that dock alongside each other at the Dhow Wharfage, bringing in spices, textiles and other goods from neighbouring countries, are more than just vessels. In many cases, the seafarers who brave the waters of the Gulf and Indian Ocean live in these colourful wooden beauties, turning each into a makeshift home.

A stroll along this end of the Creek, yields a plethora of opportunities for holiday snaps!

The Dhow Wharfage is in sharp contrast with the ultra modern 5 star hotels found on the Creek, such as the Sheraton Dubai Creek and the Radisson SAS Hotel Dubai Deira Creek.

Deira old souk, near the mouth of the creek on the north shore, provides an even greater contrast with the modern luxury hotels. It is a wonderful experience for the senses just to enter the spice souk and to inhale the scents of Arabia and the East.

Chillies, cardamon and saffron are piled high outside the spice shops. The sweet aroma of frankincense fills the air in other perfume souk shops.

After passing through the antique souk, you reach the mind-blowing, renowned gold souk, near Baladiya Street, with windows full of all manner of exotic pieces. Truly beautiful!!

Across the Creek from the spice souk, on the south side, is the Bur Dubai Souk and the textile souk. Next to them is the Grand Mosque and Dubai Museum. This is a fascinating area!! Adjacent to these important buildings is the historic area of Bastakia Quarter, which is a picturesque heritage site. It is being carefully renovated and turned into a pedestrianised conservation area. A rarity in Dubai!

In complete contrast to the old souks and glitzy luxury hotels, the upper part of Dubai Creek is the Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, managed by the World Wildlife Fund [W.W.F] and the Emirates Wildlife Society.

The marshy ground is home to thousands of flamingoes, waders and other birds, many of which migrate to Dubai seasonally. There are three hides here from which to view the birds.

A great place to get away from the vibrant city for a few hours and relax amongst wildlife!

Dubai is an astounding place!

Dubai is not only growing at a truly phenomenal speed but it is the scale, design and sheer quality of the new developments that is making the world sit up in astonishment!

Dubai not only has the largest marina in the world [Dubai Marina], the largest man-made harbour [at Jebel Ali], the biggest artificial island and largest motorway intersection, it also has the world's tallest hotel, the spectacularly designed 1053 feet high, Burj-al-Arab, the only 7-star hotel in the world!

Beautifully shaped like the billowing sail of an Arab dhow and built on its own man-made island surrounded by the warm turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf, it is a truly global architectural icon. It represents Dubai, symbolically, like the Sydney Opera House represents Sydney and the Eiffel Tower, Paris. Access to Burj al Arab is via a causeway, courtesy of a Rolls Royce, or by helicopter.

The Burj-al-Arab is dazzling white by day and rainbow-coloured by night, when its facade is used as a canvas for spectacular light displays. Thirty types of marble and 86,111 square feet of 22 carat gold leaf are incorporated in the décor. It is pure luxury!

Not content with having the tallest hotel in the world, Dubai is now constructing the two tallest towers in the world, which will dwarf all others globally.

The first of these towers, the Burj Dubai, will be completed in November 2008. It will be at least 807.7metres or 2650 feet in height when finished. It has already surpassed the previous record of 1671 feet [509 metres] held by the "Taipei 101 Tower" in Taipei, Taiwan.

However, the second Dubai skyscraper, the Al Burj Tower, being constructed by Nakheel, the adventurous and highly innovative Dubai Government owned civil engineering company, will be even taller. Some even suggest that Al Burj could end up a kilometre, [1000 metres] high, but that has not been officially announced. We shall see!

To put the Burj Dubai and Al Burj Towers in perspective, one needs to remember that New York's iconic Empire State Building is a mere 1200 feet high. The Burj Dubai alone will be over twice that height! Astonishing!!

It is not only the height of Dubai's skyscraper buildings and hotels that is creating global interest; their architectural design is also outstanding. Apart from the Burj-al-Arab Hotel completed in 2000, there is the beautiful, wave-shaped Jumeirah Beach Hotel; the sleek lines of the twin Jumeirah Emirates Towers; Carlos Ott's National Bank of Dubai; Hilton Dubai Creek and several others. In fact, there are luxuriously designed 5-Star hotels all over Dubai, erected in double quick time!

International architects' drawing boards are stacked with plans for future Dubai cities-within-cities. Soon there will be the first underwater hotel, known as Hydropolis.

Dubai is constructing even greater wonders in the waters of the Arabian Gulf. The Palm Jumeirah, the first of three palm tree shaped islands has been completed, using sand dredged from the bottom of the sea and then blown up to form an island, in the shape of a palm, as the building land.

Close to 5000 villas and luxury apartments have been built along the
fronds and trunk of Palm Jumeirah. The shape of the fronds gives each villa its own frontage onto the sea.There are also hotels, restaurants, shops and other amenities.

The fantastically designed Trump International Hotel and Tower, reminding one of a lobster's claws, is being constructed on the trunk of the palm, near the shore.

In front of Palm Jumeirah, along the shores of Jumeirah Beach, there is a string of 5-Star Luxury hotels. Behind them is the superb Dubai Marina, the world's largest marina,which is surrounded by luxury apartment towers and offices. It is a sumptuous high class area of outstanding architectural and engineering achievement.

Alfresco waterside life has really taken off alongside the main pedestrian area of Dubai Marina.This is Marina Walk, where there are dozens of outdoor cafes.

Friday sees the setting up of Marina Markets around the stunning central fountain and dancing water features. Dozens of colourful stalls,selling arts and handicrafts are set up,making it a very popular holiday venue.

The second island of The Palm trilogy, The Palm Jebel Ali, is being constructed in Dubai Waterfront, near the man-made harbour of Jebel Ali, about 45 minutes drive south of central Dubai, en route to Abu Dhabi. The islands of the Dubai Waterfront complex curve around Palm Jebel Ali, like a claw, protecting the island from south-westerly winds and waves.

Dubai Waterfront is being created with the vision of becoming an unparalleled getaway for residents and visitors alike, with an array of luxury hotels, beachside villas, shoreline apartments, dive sites, a variety of entertainment and leisure activities and even water homes built on stilts that spell out an Arabic poem written by his Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the far-sighted ruler of Dubai. Yet another amazing development!

Further north in Dubai, above Port Rashid and Dubai Creek, the even larger Palm Deira is under construction in the waters of the Gulf. This is the third and final part of the Palm trilogy!

Just off-shore from Deira, the old bustling commercial district north of the Creek, Deira Island is being created, using dredged sand from the bottom of the Gulf. Leading from this, stretching even further out into the waters of the Gulf, is Palm Deira, a huge palm-shaped island, much bigger than Palm Jumeirah.

Every new construction is bigger than the last in Dubai!!

If the Palms appear to be fantastic feats of marine engineering, another scheme out in the waters of the Arabian Gulf, is even more mind-boggling.

This is known as The World. It is being constructed about three miles off Jumeirah Beach, in between The Palm Jumeirah and Palm Deira.

"The World" consists of sand islands constructed from dredged sand, in the shape of a world map! From the sky, the shape of The World will be clear.

Businesses and individuals from the various countries represented in The World, will be able to purchase their own particular island and build hotels, restaurants etc to represent their national culture on it. It is a fantastic idea. The infrastructure is still under construction.

Even the shopping malls in Dubai are phenomenal! The biggest, the Mall of the Emirates, has over 400 shops selling every product imaginable. It even has a Carrefour supermarket, Harvey Nicholls, Debenhams and a myriad designer-label shops, plus a multi-screen cinema. It also has a massive children's play area called Magic Planet, and dozens of cafes
and restaurants.

Another, very classy, shopping mall is BurJuman in Bur Dubai, in the city centre. This has over 300 stores selling top designer labels, as well as leading high street names.

There are huge shopping malls all over Dubai, plus the older Arab souqs.

The Gold Souq has to be seen to be believed! There are bargains in solid gold available here!! Shopping is one of Dubai's major attractions. Competitive trading is at the heart of Dubai's ethos!

There is also, very surprisingly, in the heat of this desert land, Ski Dubai Snow Park, in the Mall of the Emirates, off Sheikh Zayed Road, with over 6000 tonnes of man-made snow and five ski slopes linked by chairlifts and tow lifts, to suit all levels of skiing.

There is also a snow park for the little ones. Amazing ......and very popular in the extreme heat of summer, when the temperature can top 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside !!

It is just as well that Dubai's hotels, restaurants and shopping
malls have efficient air-conditioning systems. It can be very hot and humid during June, July and August, especially. The climate is very pleasantly warm during winter months, making the Dubai Shopping Festival in January/February every year, an extremely popular event, attracting millions of shoppers to Dubai from across the world.

It is often said that Dubai can be summed up by the four "S's"............SUN , SEA, SAND and SHOPPING!!

Well I think we can add a few S's to that list!! How about SNOW , SKIING, SOUKS , SHIPPING and STUPENDOUS

It's amazing to think that the ancestors of the current rulers of Dubai, the Maktoums, were living in tents and "barasti" or palm-frond shelters, less than three centuries ago! They were the Bani Yas tribe. Then, in 1833, 800 members of the Al Bu Falasah branch of the tribe moved from Abu Dhabi and settled around Dubai Creek.

This gave rise to the Maktoum dynasty, who based their early fortunes on searching for pearls and fishing in the Arabian Gulf, or Persian Gulf, as it was formerly known.

Under the protection of the British navy, which helped stamp out raids and piracy along this Trucial Coast, as it was known, Dubai evolved around its creek, an inlet of the sea, as a trading town.

Pearls were exported to India and Europe. Indian and Persian traders were welcomed to settle around Dubai Creek. The former settled in Bur Dubai on the south side of the creek, whilst Arabs, Persians and Baluchis [from Pakistan] lived in Deira on the north side.

At the turn of the 20th century, the liberal, open-minded ruler, Sheikh Maktoum bin Hashar instigated the tax-free philosophy that draws entrepreneurs and traders in droves to Dubai to this day.

In 1905 he showed great vision by calling a meeting of the Trucial leaders which foreshadowed the creation of the United Arab Emirates, just under 70 years later.

His descendant, Sheikh Rashid initiated many ideas of civic development, such as improving trading structures and building state schools. He was another leader of great foresight.

The pearling industry had started declining in the 1930's, so Dubai had become increasingly reliant on trading.

Then, the discovery of oil in the Persian Gulf,off Abu Dhabi in 1958, encouraged Sheikh Rashid to borrow a great deal of capital to dredge Dubai Creek, in order to service much larger oil vessels. This move increased Dubai's trade by 20 per cent.

Then, in 1960, the ever entrepreneurial sheikh opened a new airport charging lower fees than any in the region.

However, it was the discovery of oil in Dubai's own waters of the Gulf in 1966 that really improved the emirate's fortunes.

Dubai started earning a great deal of money from its oil exports. The emirate was now accumulating wealth.

However, the Maktoums did not sit back. They began putting their oil wealth to good use, knowing that one day it would run out. The oil wealth has been reinvested very wisely.

Sheikh Rashid, a very astute businessman, really invested heavily in the infrastucture and development of a modern trading and tourism nation. He was very far-sighted and not afraid to "think big".

Now his son, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the present ruler of Dubai, is thinking even bigger. The way that he is raising Dubai's business profile globally and announcing ever more spectacular, world-class developments is truly amazing.

He has great vision himself and his military training in the British Army ensures that he has created clear lines of command. He is blessed with the ability to make clear-cut decisions and the executive power to carry them out with enviable efficiency.

Is there any wonder that Dubai is attracting millions of tourists and shoppers from all over the world?

Why not visit Dubai and see these wonderful, spectacular developments for yourself, whilst enjoying the sun, the sea and the shops in luxurious surroundings? Go on, treat yourself!! Be amazed!!!