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 of new beachfront. Need better connections with the world? Build up an award-winning international airline in 15 years.
Need some publicity? Stage the world's richest horse race, million-dollar lotteries, international tennis and golf tournaments, and a month-long shopping festival. Need a few landmarks for people to recognise? Up goes the world's tallest and most lavish hotel, perched on an artificial platform, and a city skyline to boggle the eye.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track