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The UAE's oasis in the desert

Dubai flashes the epitome of luxury in the self-proclaimed 7-star hotel, the Burj al-Arab. It thrusts the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, into its otherworldly skyline; and dusts visitors in icy powder on the 5 runs at the indoor Ski Dubai. It can all be very snow-in-the-desert-look-at-me.

Dubai: PromenadeThe Promenade

There are literally thousands of shops to while away the hours in air-conditioned comfort but for a look at the 'real Dubai', hop out into the open air. It will be warm but haggling over textiles, gold and spices in the old souks is all part of the allure. Though you could be forgiven for missing it amid the glistening modernity – there's an old town too: for distinctive archways and original homes, explore the Bastakiya district.

Dubai: Arabian PalaceArabian Palace

The multinational population dishes up any cuisine you wish from Afghani to Vietnamese, so you'll not go hungry, whatever you fancy, on holiday in Dubai. The weekend is Friday and Saturday, and brunching is a favourite local pastime. High season is September to May; booking ahead is a good idea in this playground.

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