Second Look :: Dubai

[trip style = urban + active & adventure + sun + luxury]

{Editor's Note: Following our first look at Dubai and our nonstop Emirates flight via Seattle, we wanted to dive deeper into the destination. In the New Year we'll showcase more marvels, but for now a picture's worth a thousand words...}

I have SO MUCH to report on Dubai, I'm not even sure where to start. At the risk of taking up your entire morning with a 5,000-word essay, I've opted to be your tour guide through a city that juxtaposes modernism with tradition, sand with skyscrapers, souks with malls, and mega monuments with everyday structures.

An international hub of record-holding proportions, I give you Dubai in 30 photos.

The Burj Khalifa At 160+ storeys high {nearing a kilometer in height}, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure in the world.

View from the top overlooking the Gulf Coast.

The Observation Deck, 124 floors up. The elevator took one minute to soar skyward. Aside from your ears popping, you don't even feel the rapid elevation change. General admission tickets cost 100 Dirham {about $30 usd} and can be purchased online or at the entry desk in the Dubai Mall. Trips up to the Observation Deck sell out quickly, so if "The Burj" is a must-do, online ticketing is recommended. Immediate, VIP'ish entry costs 400 Dirham {about $110 usd} and will get you to the top tout suite.

Directly below are the world's largest mall {The Dubai Mall} and the world's largest dancing fountain {The Dubai Fountain}, a Bellagio-style musical water feature, but bigger, of course. With water propelled 150m {equivalent to a 50-storey building} into thin air, 25 color projectors and nearly 7,000 lights, the choreographed aqua extravaganza is best viewed at night.

Looking up another three dozen floors from the Burj Khalifa's observation deck.

The Spice and Gold Souks About to take an abra {boat} across the Dubai Creek.

My abra captain.

Views from the creek.

Day-to-day life outside the Spice Souk.

Vendor at the Spice Souk. I purchased camel milk chocolate at this stall.

Scenes from the Souks.

Visiting the Jumeirah Mosque Traditional homes outside of the mosque.

Skirting skyscraper shadows, the Jumeirah Mosque is the only mosque in Dubai open to non-Muslims. The tour guide joked {with more than an ounce of seriousness}: "Please take photos, we want to spread the word about Islam." Tours lasting approx 1.5hrs are available Sat, Sun, Tues and Thurs at 10am.

All women entering the mosque must wear headscarves and dress conservatively. I transitioned my everyday scarf---which you need in Dubai for the heavily air-conditioned interiors---to a head covering for the tour.

The intricate interior.

The Desert Aside from dipping my toes into the Persian Gulf and scaling the Burj Khalifa like Tom Cruise {just kidding, I took the elevator}, venturing into the Arabian Desert was my top priority in Dubai. At once vast and voluptuous, the dunes---illuminated in magenta hues at sunset---are a sight to see and a treat to touch. If you don't have a BFF in town to show you around, numerous tours and desert safaris can be booked through Emirates' on-the-ground tour operator, Arabian Adventures. The private dune and dinner safari is recommended for those who want to see the desert in {solo} style. *Sand dune drives can aggravate motion sickness, however your driver can adjust the impact if you start to feel sick.

[Photos taken by @tripstyler while a guest of Emirates in Dubai. Note: all portraits were taken with individual permission.]