Glitzy, glam, over-the-top and a little overexposed, Dubai lives for attention. On the surface it’s materialistic beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and by treating every visitor like a VIP, visitors respond by spending like VIPs, only to need resuscitating when the next month’s credit-card bill arrives. But this is the whole idea. We’re talking about a city that virtually invented the ‘shopping festival’ (Dubai Shopping Festival, or DSF), the simple premise of which was to get people to travel to Dubai and spend money. With myriad shopping malls, flamboyant hotels, a dizzying array of dining options and hip clubs and bars, it’s all just too easy. Driven by Sheikh Mohammed, a leader who doesn’t understand the word ‘no’, visitors and potential residents are flocking to this Middle East metropolis in increasing numbers with the promise that Dubai is like no other city on earth. And Sheikh Mohammed is delivering. However, whether you end up loving or loathing its ostentatious nature, under the surface another Dubai exists. Head to the Heritage Village during Ramadan or the DSF and you’ll witness a different Dubai, where local Emiratis take joy in their songs, dance and traditions. Spend a few fascinating hours by the creek, watching the dhow (traditional wooden boat) traffic and the abras weave along the waterway while smoking some sheesha. Walk the streets of the tranquil, restored Bastakia area or take a stroll through multicultural Karama or Satwa. You’ll find this Dubai a million miles removed from the credit-card frenzy of the five-star hotels. Whatever you end up preferring, Dubai is a fascinating experiment and a city-state that’s like no other.