(CNN) — Glitzy Dubai lures globetrotters with its modern architectural wonders and a bounty of luxury shopping, dining and lodging.
This United Arab Emirates metropolis boasts “sunshine, shopping, seaside, sports and safety” as key selling points on its tourism website.
Caroline Faraj is CNN’s chief operations director in Dubai and editor of CNN Arabic. Faraj, originally from Jordan, moved to Dubai in December 2001.
We asked Faraj to share her tips for visiting this dynamic city:
Where can you get the best view of the city?
At Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world. The tower’s observation deck, At The Top, is located on level 124.
To which restaurant would you take your loved one for an anniversary or other special occasion?
Try Pierchic at Madinat Jumeirah Hotel. This romantic restaurant is at the end of a pier that stretches over the waters of the Persian Gulf. Time Out Dubai named Pierchic as the best seafood restaurant in 2010.
Where is the best place to people watch?
The Dancing Fountain at Burj Khalifa. On a lake outside, choreographed water shows are put on multiple times each evening.
What is your favorite neighborhood?
Zabeel Park, where you can run, walk, play games, barbecue, rent a boat on a small lake or visit the space and science museum. This park stretches over about 117 acres in central Dubai.
What’s the best way to blend in?
Visit one of the souks (markets), like the gold market, or spice, textile or fish souks.
What’s the biggest misconception about your city?
Some come to Dubai with a misconception that you can do whatever you want in Dubai. To a certain extent that might be true, but there are restrictions, rules and the need to respect the culture of the country.
For example, with regards to consuming alcohol, only Christian ex-pats can apply for a license to buy alcohol from special shops, but visitors can find it in hotels, too.
Where do you go to relax?
I go to a spa, and the best one is at the Park Hyatt. The hotel’s Amara spa is on the banks of the Dubai Creek.
I also go sometimes to a resort to enjoy the beach.
What essential thing should visitors see/experience if they only have a few hours?
Take a creek tour in an abra, a small crossing boat. And if there is time, take the bus tour that gives you a quick briefing on the architecture and souks as well as the desert safari trip in the middle of the dunes.
Where’s your favorite place to spend a night out on the town?
Trader Vic’s with its Cuban live music.
Are there local specialty dishes or drinks that visitors must try?
If you like seafood, then I would recommend trying fish cooked the traditional way, which is either salt cured (called maleh), sun-dried (Al kaseef) or ground dried fish (sahnah).
What is a good local souvenir?
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates, so I would suggest the bottles that have sands in seven colors coming from the seven emirates.
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