Dubai for the rest of us

There's plenty written about Dubai, but this week I had the pleasure of emailing with a recent visitor to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who found an interesting and affordable country hidden behind the excess and the extreme luxury.

Stacy Burton of Reno, NV, wrote, "The hype about Dubai is about wealth and excess, but there are places of interest to a range of visitors—museums, souks for shopping (there were better prices on rugs and all in Sharjah at the Blue Souq than in Dubai), and the beach."

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In her exploration of Dubai, she also found culture in surprising places. "The modern shopping malls include the one with Ski Dubai—and one (Ibn Battuta) with exhibits on medieval Arab science and culture that are more detailed than those in the museums."

Burton spent part of her vacation time in Dubai, but also visited other nearby destinations. She wrote, "One of the best things we did was to take a day-and-a-half trip up the coast to Khasab, Oman, on the Musandam peninsula. It was an easy drive along the coast, through cities and towns that give a richer sense of what the country is like away from the high-rise construction and noise of Dubai. The coast is beautiful, and near the border with Oman you can see mountains being cut away (someone had told my friends that this was one of the places where rock was being quarried to be hauled to Dubai for building the Palm and World islands). When you cross into Oman the mountains become more dramatic. We stayed at a new hotel in Khasab, set above the sea."

Since Dubai is such a long way from the U.S., a trip really has to be worth the time and money it takes to get there. And while indulging in the spectacular frivolity that the city is known for is certainly part of the experience, Burton really convinced me that there's more to Dubai than its reputation.

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