The second largest of the seven emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has area of some 3,900 sq km and an estimated population of 695,000 (1996). Oil contributes just 20 per cent of economic production. Trading, manufacturing and services - including tourism - account for 80 per cent.
Sunny, blue skies can be expected most of the year. Rainfall is infrequent and irregular. Temperatures range from 10.5C to 48C. The mean daily maximum is 24C in January to 41C in July.
The official language is Arabic but English is widely spoken and understood.
Islam is the official religion of the UAE and there are a large number of mosques throughout the city. Other religions are respected and Dubai has two Christian churches, St Mary's (Roman Catholic) and Holy Trinity (inter-denominational).
Dubai has a relaxed dress code, but care should be taken not to give offense by wearing clothing which may be considered revealing, such as low-cut dresses, very short skirts, or tight jeans. Men should always wear a shirt or top in public. Swim wear should be confined to the pool or the beaches.
Alcohol is available in hotel and club restaurants and bar, but not in restaurants outside the hotels.
Tipping practices are similar to mast parts of the world. Some restaurants include service charge, otherwise 10 per cent is adequate.
Normal tourist photography is acceptable but ii is considered offensive to photograph Muslim women. It is also courteous to ask permission before photographing men.
The fleet of sand-coloured taxis operated by Dubai Transport Corporation is equipped with fare with fare meters. Other taxis are not and fares are negotiated between driver and passenger, starting at a minimum of around Dh5 - Dh10 for short local journeys.
Self drive cars are available and the rental company will arrange temporary local driving licenses for visitors. Renters must produce their passport, two photographs and either a valid international license or national license from most developed countries.
The monetary unit is the dirham (Dh) which is divided into 100 fils. Its exchange rate against the US dollar is approximately $1 = Dh 3.67.
Both local and international banks in Dubai provide full commercial banking services. There is no exchange control and the dirham is freely convertible. Bank hours are 8 am to 1 pm, Saturday through Wednesday, although some also open from 4.30 to 6.30 pm. (Thursday, 8 am to noon). Exchange houses are open from 8.30 am to 1 pm and 4.30 to 8.30 pm.
American Express, Diners Club, Visa, Master Card etc., are generally accepted in the main hotels and larger shops but some retailers offer better bargains for cash.
Normal shopping hours in Dubai are from 9 am to 1 am and 4 pm until 9 pm or later. Some boutiques in the residential areas do not open until 9.30 or 10 am. Shopping Malls: 10 am -10 pm. Most supermarkets stay open until late at night seven days a week, while some remain open 24-hours-a-day. All shops close for prayers on Friday from 11.30 am to 1.30 pm. Shopping malls and most shops are open on Friday evenings until late.
While boutiques, some electronics shops, department stores and supermarkets may operate on a fixed price basis, most other outlets consider friendly negotiation a way of life.
Officially the metric system is followed, although British and American standard weights and measures are understood by most merchants.