Dubai in Pictures: 20 Beautiful Places to Photograph
Dubai's skyscraper skyline and contemporary architecture are the city's number one photography subject, but after you've marveled at this uber-modern facade, there is plenty more for keen photographers to explore.
The old Dubai district of Al Fahidi makes for a perfect contrast with all that high-rise glitz, while some of the most spectacular images of the Emirate of Dubai come not from within the city but out in the desert of the Dubai Conservation Reserve and in and around Hatta village in the emirate's slice of Hajar Mountain scenery.
Keen photographers should note that due to strong sunlight, the best time for any photography in Dubai is at sunset.
1. Dubai Skyline
Most visitors to Dubai want to capture a photo of Dubai's iconic skyline. One of the favorite places to do just that is from the observation decks on the 124th and 148th floors of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
For your best chance of a good shot, without haze, book your ticket for sunset hours, when the views tend to be the clearest and the light at its best. Alternatively, night shots of the cityscape are equally, if not more, dramatic.
Although the best skyline pictures featuring the 828-meter-high Burj Khalifa itself are all aerial shots, you can still get great photos of it from the ground, including from around the Burj Khalifa lake area.
2. Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
For desert sand dune vistas with the chance of spotting mountain gazelles, sand gazelles, and even an Arabian Oryx, head out of the city on a day trip into the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
Most of the UAE's wild desert landscapes are part of other emirates (The neighboring Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Sharjah are both home to exceptionally beautiful dune-scapes) but this 225-square-reserve is Dubai's own desert environment.
Here, you'll find fields of undulating dunes in various shades of orange and pink rippling out to the horizon that make for dramatic desert photographs.
3. Al Fahidi Historic District
The Al Fahidi district (also sometimes referred to by its old name of the Bastakiya Quarter) is Dubai's painstakingly restored heritage district, where you can get a glimpse of what Dubai looked like before the oil money rolled in.
The skinny lanes here, rimmed with cinnamon- and sand-hued buildings, all built in the traditional Gulf architectural style, are highly photogenic. Make sure to look up to check out the wind towers on the building roofs, which provided natural air-conditioning.
Many of the buildings here now house craft boutiques, small museums, and art galleries, and a couple have been converted into hotels, so there's plenty to keep you occupied after you've taken photos.
4. Dubai Aquarium
For up-close images of sharks and rays head to the Dubai Aquarium in the Dubai Mall, where the viewing tunnel (with 270-degree views) provides ample opportunities for underwater photography without getting your feet wet.
Although the larger marine life are the stars of any visit here, there are plenty of smaller fish to be seen as well, with a total of 33,000 sea life creatures contained in the aquarium.
The glass-windowed tunnel, with its three-story building height, is the perfect place to spot them as they flit past through the aquarium's blue water.
5. Hatta Dam
The Hajar Mountain village of Hatta is the easternmost outpost of the Emirate of Dubai, 135 kilometers from the city.
With its fresh, cooler mountain climate it's a welcome escape from the sticky humidity of the city in the summer months.
Most visitors are also here though to kayak or boat trip onto Hatta Dam and take photos of this manmade lake's dramatic scenery, with jagged mountain slopes rising straight up and surrounding the dam's turquoise water.
You can snap great pictures both from the water and from the observation points above the dam.
6. Jumeirah Beach & the Burj Al Arab
Along with the Burj Khalifa, the luxurious Burj Al Arab hotel is Dubai's most iconic piece of architecture.
You can get good photos of the building, with its sweeping sail-like exterior towering over the manmade island it sits on, from the golden-sand stretch of Jumeirah Beach.
For interior photos, particularly of the soaring lobby, with its over-the-top decoration dripping in gold leaf, book a table at one of the hotel's restaurants, or the afternoon tea experience at the hotel's Skyview Bar.
7. Dubai Fountain
While everyone wants to zoom up in the Burj Khalifa's elevator to the observation decks for photos of the skyline from above, way down below is Burj Lake with its boardwalk dotted with large modern art sculptures and the city's Dubai Fountain display.
The fountain's regular displays shoot water over 150 meters up in the air.
There are one to two performances during the day, but head here after dark for the evening performances if you're looking for pictures with the most dramatic potential, as the fountain sprays are backlit at night.
8. Madinat Jumeirah
Just west of the Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach, Madinat Jumeirah is a development complex of luxury hotels, retail, and dining outlets, set within palm-fringed gardens with a canal network winding through its heart.
All of Madinat Jumeirah's architecture has been inspired by traditional Gulf style, with some of the buildings topped with wind towers.
If you hop aboard one of the abras (small ferries) here on the canals, you can get great photos of the lush garden landscape of the complex as you cruise along the canal.
9. Dubai Frame
The Dubai Frame in Zabeel Park is an architectural oddity built in the shape of a picture frame.
Although its purpose as a tourist attraction is to provide another viewpoint over the city for keen photographers, the frame itself, sitting amid the lush expanse of parkland, has become a popular photographic subject itself.
If you head into the Dubai Frame, to the observation deck at the top, you can also snap photographs of both Dubai's financial district and downtown skylines to the west and the city's older districts rimming Dubai Creek to the east.
10. Hatta's Hajar Mountains
Although the UAE's Emirates of Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah are better known for their Hajar Mountain scenery, the area surrounding Hatta village in the easternmost point of the Emirate of Dubai offers up plenty of jagged Hajar Mountain vistas as well.
The mountain bike trails that wind out into the barren mountain heartland, looping around Hatta Dam and the village, are the best place to take in the dramatic landscape of jagged, orange-tinged peaks.
There are also great photos to be had of the rocky mountain expanse, rising up from the desert floor, from the highway on the way to Hatta.
11. Dubai Creek
Dubai Creek cuts through the city's older districts of Bur Dubai and Deira and is a top spot for taking photos of the districts.
You can either hop aboard an abra (small ferry) to cross between the districts, or hire an abra privately for an hour of cruising for a more relaxed experience.
From on the waterway, you get great views of the restored waterfront Al Fahidi Historic District buildings, as well as Deira's waterfront.
It's particularly atmospheric around sunset.
12. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
If you're in Dubai during the winter months and you enjoy wildlife photography, don't miss a visit to Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, just south of Dubai's Downtown district.
Large flocks of pink flamingos over-winter here in this lagoon and mudflat area and are easily spotted by even novice bird-watchers.
There are bird hides and viewing platforms scattered across the area to aid photography, and bird-watching enthusiasts can spy over 150 bird species who make their home in the wetland area here.
13. Sheikh Zayed Road Skyrises
The brash and unashamedly modern face of Dubai is best seen along Sheikh Zayed Road where high-rises tower above the wide road of, at times, unceasing traffic.
The section cutting through Downtown Dubai (near the Burj Khalifa) with the high-rises of the Financial Center, such as The Gate Building and the Emirates Towers, is particularly good for photographs.
The skyline photos here are particularly good for night shots.
14. Dubai Marina Skyline
For a different perspective on Dubai's famed skyline, take to the waters of the Gulf to look back on the skyscraper views from the sea.
Various boat trips are available, including sunset traditional dhow dinner cruises and the one-hour trips run by the Dubai Ferry from Dubai Marina, which cruise along the coast offering a variety of city views.
The best light for capturing the skyline from the sea is around sunset, but for the most dramatic photographs of Dubai's coastline, hop on an evening cruise for images of the city's skyscrapers lit up from the sea.
15. Jumeirah Mosque
Dubai's Jumeirah Mosque is one of only a handful of mosques in the UAE open to non-Muslims (by the mosque's official tours only) and is well worth a visit to photograph the intricate design details of the prayer hall's interior, as well as white-on-white domed façade.
The mosque is thoroughly modern, but its architecture closely follows traditional Islamic architectural design in both its exterior and internal decoration.
For the most dramatic exterior shots, it's worth heading back here after dark when the Jumeirah Mosque is lit up. In early morning, the mosque's white exterior snapped against a blue sky is also equally impressive.
16. Kite Beach
Some of Dubai's best beach photography opportunities are on Kite Beach, at the eastern end of Jumeirah.
This is Dubai's main water sports beach, with plenty of kitesurfing activity (hence the beach's name) happening offshore, so you can snap great action shots of the colorful kites and the kitesurfers on the waves with the white-sand beach in the foreground.
The best time to head here is on the UAE's weekend (Friday and Saturday) when most of the kitesurfing takes place, though this is also the time when the sand is at its most crowded. If you're looking for empty beach shots, try for a morning during a weekday (Sunday to Thursday) instead.
17. Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House
In the Al Fahidi Heritage District, don't miss a visit to Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House if you're interested in architectural photography.
This courtyard mansion was once home to the ruling family of Dubai. It is now a museum displaying exhibits that showcase Dubai life in the early 20th century before oil was discovered in the UAE.
You can wander through the rooms and out to the terraces to snap photos of the building's preserved traditional Gulf mansion-style architecture replete with ornate stone-columned arcades, mashrabiya (intricately carved screens), and wind towers.
18. Deira & Bur Dubai Souqs
The markets of Deira and Bur Dubai, particularly Deira Spice Souq, are the best places in town to capture photographs of Dubai's traditional retail spirit, which has long since been taken over by the city's vast malls.
Bur Dubai Souq on the waterfront of Dubai Creek is a thronging commercial hub selling everything from pots and pans and textiles to souvenirs. In the evenings, it is a particularly good place to come for photography.
On the other side of Dubai Creek is Deira's Spice Souq, which is one of the city's most atmospheric souqs, with vendors displaying colorful piles of different spices that make for great close-up photos.
19. Dubai Miracle Garden
For some of the most surreal and fun photography opportunities in town, head to this garden where around 150 million flowers are used to make sculptural art, as well as cover sprawling formal gardens.
Among the many colorful scenes to snap, some of the best are the village made from flowers, the huge sunflower field, the umbrella tunnel, and the floral Emirates A380 airplane, but you'll find plenty of quirky photo opportunities while strolling around.
The Dubai Miracle Garden is open from approximately November to April every year.
20. Dubai Creek Harbour
Although not finished, this newly developed area, on the southeastern bank of Dubai Creek, has become one of the most popular areas for families to head for sunset strolls in central Dubai.
It's also a great location for interesting images of the city.
Come here to snap a more unusual photo of Dubai's skyline. In particular, the sculptured arches that line the waterfront marina walkway here provide an unusual frame to the sky scrapers and the Burj Khalifa beyond in the background.