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edited by Teresa Favi

December 13, 2021

An itinerary for the discovery of Dubai

An itinerary to discover the emerald city where the future was already yesterday. Mauro Marzocchi, Secretary General of the IICUAE, takes us on a tour of the heart city’s places

I began discovering this country in 1985. I was export manager, and I was invited to participate in a fashion fair in Dubai with our associate companies. At the time, the city was purely Asian; there was no trace of the Dubai of today. It was made up of the old part, the Creek (around the arm of the Persian Gulf sea that runs through the city like a river) that was its beating heart. Then there was 2nd December Street with a few shops, which already was the location of the World Trade Center, the white building that still houses the Italian Consulate and continues to have its own aesthetic that has not aged. Sheikh Zayed Road, the most beautiful road in Dubai that today has 16 lanes, had only 4, two in each direction without a traffic barrier. In 37 years, which for Europe is almost nothing, Dubai has been completely transformed with skyscrapers, 34-lane roads, artificial islands, and spectacular shopping malls. There were very few Italians here. 

Burj Al Arab the jewel of Jumeirah beach (ph. Christoph Schulz)

Burj Al Arab jumeirah. The birth of tourism

Those who, like me, chose to establish themselves in Dubai did it because they liked the location, the warmth, the beautiful sea, and the spice market. Then, in 1999, the Burj Al Arab was inaugurated, and I would call it the cornerstone of the new Dubai. At this point, we decided to invest in this country. Even now, Dubai’s success with tourism is due to its warmth, social tranquillity, and safety. To this, we must obviously add the relative distance from Europe, the cold one I mean, because you land at the airport in 5 and a half hours. In the winter, the temperature gets up to 23-25° (our April) and then increases. We have six months of beautiful weather and six very hot months.

Businesses and companies arrived after tourism. First came the big companies, then the small and medium-sized ones, and a contribution that we also gave. Italy’s commercial success in Dubai is now a mature and greatly expanding phenomenon. Keep in mind that our country exports about 50% more to the Emirates than it exports to Brazil and India.

Aerial view on Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai Downtown at down (ph. Leonard Von Bibra)

Made in Italy in Dubai

Italians are loved because there is a very high per capita spending capacity here, the fourth highest in the world. People from the Emirates make up only 10% of the population of Dubai, but they are heavy spenders. Anyone arriving in Dubai will see a swarm of Ferraris, Maseratis, and Lamborghinis, to just mention cars. If we delve into the world of restaurants, all the greatest Italian names are present. There are 200 of them! Shall we talk about fashion? All the most notable Italian fashion brands are here, most concentrated in the top fashion location, the Dubai Mall. But we are also the second country in Europe, behind Germany, to export industrial machinery to Dubai.

No trip to Dubai is complete without a desert excursion (ph. Dario Ciraulo)

The spirit of Dubai 

Hospitality and international character. I am still struck by how easy human relations are here, facilitated, I think, by the fact that almost everyone here is a foreigner. There is a vast sea of languages and cultures concentrated here. So, we all feel like we are citizens of this country. No matter where you go, you feel this hospitality. As we were saying about the international character, one thing that jumps out at you as soon as you arrive in Dubai is that, despite being in an Arab country, it actually seems as if you are in Milan, New York, or Melbourne. It is an international metropolis to all intents and purposes, even in how people dress and behave and in their lifestyle.

aboard a light boat along the waters of the Creek the arm of the Persian Gulf sea that runs through the city like a river (ph. Philipp Katzenberger)Deira, the old Dubai (ph. Mod Omar Elsharawy)

The not to be missed places

There is truly so much to see. Obviously, people don’t come here for museums as they do in Florence, Rome, London, or Paris. This is spending tourism linked to lifestyle, shopping, and the highest level of entertainment. Deira, which corresponds to the old part facing the sea, with the Gold Souk and the Spice Market, is not to be missed and should be considered to be the starting point for enjoying modern Dubai. Deira also gives the idea of what Dubai was like; you are in Asia. Once you pass the Creek, you find yourself in a sparkling modern metropolis, where you must definitely see the tallest skyscraper in the world, the Burj Kalifa, with its deck on the 125th floor from which you can see the whole of Dubai. Another beautiful view can be had from the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the famous Sail on the sea, which continues to exude a unique aesthetic and architectural charm despite being twenty years old. There is also a fabulous Zoo, which is not get the publicity it deserves. It is a very beautiful place in terms of size, number of animals, and their care. The Dubai Marina is a true community on the sea, a vast area dedicated to young tourism full of hotels, clubs, and restaurants. We should point out La Mer, an exclusive area of Jumeirah where there are shops and restaurants on the sea. It is a good place to enjoy beautiful walks, a bit like along the waterfront in Italy, but on a larger scale. To enjoy life on the sea, I would absolutely recommend going to Al Mamzar (just 20 minutes from downtown). There are vast beaches of fine white sand, and the water is like what you would find in the Caribbean.

Ain Dubai is the huge Ferris wheel inaugurated to coincide with the opening of Expo 2020. At over 250 metres high, it stands on Bluewaters Island, off the famous Jumeirah Beach Residences. It offers a 360-degree view of the Dubai skyline


Hawking is a very exclusive, traditional, and historic hobby practised especially by those from the Emirates. As for horseback riding, the Arabs’ passion for horses is well known, and there is a spectacular hippodrome, the Meydan, for galloping and show jumping competitions. However, endurance riding is the real horse sport of the sheikhs and the most popular in the Emirates. For years, Italy has hosted the endurance riding world championships. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is also well-known internationally as an endurance rider and has always participated successfully in competitions, as have his family members.


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