Dubai is the quintessential home of sand, sun and shopping. A century ago, it was a tranquil town whose coral-and-gypsum huts housed Bedouin traders and pearl divers. Today the merchants have gone international and science-fiction skyscrapers stand alongside the mosques and wind towers of Old Dubai.
The audacity of the city's rulers is breathtaking. Running out of coastline to build hotels? Build vast artificial islands with 120km (74.5mi) of new beachfront. Need better connections with the world? Build up an award-winning international airline in 15 years.
The best time of the year to visit Dubai is between November and April, when the weather is coolest. The rest of the year you're more likely to be running from one air-conditioned environment to the next instead of getting out and exploring. Ramadan, which takes place at a different time each year on the Western calendar, is the Muslim month of fasting and is strictly adhered to throughout the UAE. That means that it's illegal, not to mention rude, to eat, drink or smoke in public from sunrise to sunset at this time. On the 'up' side, hotel rates drop to 50% of their usual cost.