Byline: Ross McCarthy
WHEN my hotel in Dubai was hit by a sand storm it was as if it had been laid on especially as part of my Arabian adventure.
And then when it then started to rain quite heavily in this normally arid place where any kind of precipitation is cause for celebration I thought I must be dreaming.
But, then again, there is something fantastical and unreal about a part of the world where camels and luxury cars rub shoulder to shoulder and where wooden dhows, the traditional Arabian ships, sail against an ultra modern back-drop of glistening high rise buildings.
Dubai, located on the southern shore of the Gulf in the south eastern part of the Arabian peninsula, is the second largest of the seven Emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates, formed in 1971.
It has a sub-tropical arid climate, with temperatures ranging from 10 - 30 degrees centigrade in winter and reaching as high as 48 degrees in summer.
Built up on the back of oil money Dubai has grown up very quickly and is still expanding.
A visitor hoping to see castles and ancient monuments would be disappointed although it does have a very impressive underground museum where its short history is imaginatively illustrated.
What it does have in abundance, though, is sun, sea and sand, with just a little Arabian magic sprinkled on top and during our soggy winter months that might sound a tempting proposition.
I have to confess to not being the biggest shopping fan in the world but for those looking for a bargain there is a lot to offer, particularly in the way of clothes, bags and electrical goods.
A visit to the gold 'souk', where row upon row of jewellery stores provide an eye dazzling experience, left me in no doubt as to why Dubai is known as the 'City of Gold' while my nose was assailed by a cornucopia of pungent smells when I popped into a spice store.
Worth going to see is the Jumeirah Mosque while a trip on one of the river taxis, which patrol up and down the busy Dubai Creek, is recommended if you want to experience city life in this bustling and cosmopolitan trading centre which plays host to international exhibitions, major conferences and sporting events.
For part of my trip I stayed in the 400 room Emirates Towers hotel, a triangular tower, which soars high above Dubai's central business district and is the third tallest hotel in the world. …