At the start of the millennium British visitors began flocking to Dubai – one of seven United Arab Emirates. Six years on, the imposing opening of The Palm Jumeirah offshore complex (aka 'the eighth wonder of the world') and The World Islands, continent shaped man-made islands at Jumeirah, looks set to ensure Dubai's status as the 21st century star.
An architect's dream, Dubai's ultra-modern skyline puts New York's into the shade. It boasts some of the most exuberant concepts ever conceived – buildings which pinnacles resemble the nib of a pen; office blocks shaped like super-slim cylinders and hotels built to represent a blown sail or breaking wave. In between are smaller sandstone buildings – often palaces or masks – whose design harks back to Arabian times as our picture books would portray them.
But Dubai is about more than weird and wonderful hotels. Sun and sand (the beach variety) form the backdrop to bargain-hunting in modernalls and traditional souks, adventure treks into the desert, Arabic culture-cramming and golf. With a choice of international courses golf, Dubai has earned an impressive reputation among professional golfers and keen amateurs alike.
Away from the fairways Dubai is a shopper's paradise. Super modern air-conditionedalls like Bur Jaman and City Center juxtapose familiar names like Benetton, Laura Ashley and Debenhams with local Arabic ones. The souks provide a more atmospheric experience. A headache aroma comes from huge bowls of spices in the city's spice soup while the much larger gold souk boasts a wide array of chains, Julio Iglesias style and more discreet.
15 minutes away, Jumeirah Beach makes an ideal holiday base. Here luxury beachfront hotels line up alongside one another behind miles of white sand beach and the shallow aqua waters of the Arabian Gulf.
From Jumeirah 4-wheel drive jeeps pick up daily for the Sundowner dune-bashing ride over the red dunes of Murgham to a Bedu encampment, complete with belly dancer. Active-city breakers can also try camel racing, sand skiing, wadi bashing or even go skiing in the world's largest snowdome. Lounge-lizards will probably prefer the hotel sun deck.