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Dubai is glitzy and relentlessly cosmopolitan. The ambitious skyline is comprised of architectural marvels and is constantly changing. A fast-growing metropolis with a fast lifestyle, it’s easy to lose track of time and your wallet. Away from the high-rises and artificial islands lie traces from its old fishing settlement days and beyond that, the enigmatic dessert.

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Burj al-Arab

This iconic sailboat-shaped, 5-star hotel, one of many great hotels in Dubai, but this one is built on an artificial island is the epitome of opulence. Whether to consider it gorgeous or gaudy is up to interpretation, but none can deny its striking appearance. If you aren’t staying in the hotel, your best bet to look inside is to have a reservation at one of its restaurants either submerged in the sea or hoisted above near the stars. The recommended option is the afternoon tea package, which includes seven courses and unlimited champagne.

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Burj Khalifa

Dubai prides itself in always striving to new heights. They certainly took this to heart as they built the Burj Khalifa, which currently takes the competitive title of being the tallest skyscraper in the world. Watch the sunset from the observation deck or join the moneyed, hi-so crowd at Armani/Privé Nightclub. For an extraordinary introduction to Burj Khalifa, come watch the fireworks shoot and sparkle from the tower during New Years Eve.

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Dubai Fountains

In the center of downtown are the Dubai Fountains, an enchanting display of dancing water and abstract light patterns, choreographed to music. During its 14 daily performances, the water shoots up as high as 50-storey building. The beam from the fountain can been seen from space on a clear day. It is 25% bigger than the Fountains of Bellagio at Las Vegas, making it the biggest fountains in the world.

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Gold and Spice Souks

Head over to Deira, the old commercial district of Dubai and get lost in the tantalizing scents of saffron and cardamom. Here you can haggle for high-quality 18 and 22 carat gold, while feasting on local street food. The bazaar is a sensory feast and makes for a nice change of pace from the postmodern architecture.

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Desert Safari
For a more thrilling excursion, disappear within the depths of the desert. Barrel through large dunes in a 4X4, ride a camel, or sandboard through the endless sea of sand. Go looking for the Arabian oryx and gazelles that inhabit the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. At night, stuff yourself on a Middle Eastern spread and admire sensuous belly dancing under the canopy of stars.