In 15 years, Dubai has gone from a backwater refueling stop to a playpen for the rich, thanks to one of the grandest building schemes that the modern world has ever seen. But is there any reason for normal people to visit?
Then Beatrice stopped smiling. Her tiny, perfect features warped and contracted, and she began to cry. "Keep waving, sweetie!" encouraged her mother from the sidelines. "You're all right!" But Beatrice had had it with the waving. She had had it with the music and the vibrating carpet ride and the laughing crowd. She scooted herself toward the edge of the carpet. "Be careful, darling!" her mother yelled.
On the screen, we watched Beatrice clamber off the carpet and disappear. And then there was only the magic carpet, zooming emptily through the skyscrapers of Dubai.
Arabian Courtyard Al Fahidi St., Bur Dubai, 011-971/4-351-9111, arabiancourtyard.com; from $95 (high season $215; deals can be found online)
Toscana Souk Madinat Jumeirah Mall, Al Mina, 011-971/4-366-8888, risotto $13
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, 011-971/4-301-7438, burj-al-arab.com, Regular afternoon tea $61
Thai Kitchen Park Hyatt Dubai, 011-971/4-602-1234, fish in banana leaf $5
Blue Barjeel Al Ghubaiba Rd., Bur Dubai, 011-971/4-353-2200
Shahrzad Hyatt Regency Dubai, 011-971/4-209-1234, chicken polo $20
Basta Art Café Bastakiya Quarter, Bur Dubai, 011-971/4-353-5071, cappuccino $3
Ski Dubai Mall of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Rd., New Dubai, 011-971/4-409-4000, skidxb.com, $38 for two hours' skiing
These places have been inspiring more than just vacation ideas for centuries. Long revered for their gorgeous scenery and spiritual power, here are ten natural wonders—from a ceremonial Mayan lake to the home of Shiva—that are the stuff of legend.