It’s in the far south of the city that you get the best sense of Dubai’s amazing recent growth. Barely ten years ago this entire area was largely desert, virtually undeveloped apart from a discrete string of luxury hotels lined up along the beach. Then the developers arrived, and skyscrapers began shooting up out of the sands on a daily basis. Five years on, and there’s now a shiny forest of densely packed high-rises fighting for elbow room between the sea on one side and Sheikh Zayed Road on the other.
Centrepiece of the southern city is the new Dubai Marina development: a long inland lagoon, lined with expensive yachts and hemmed in by dozens of closely packed towers. Running around the Marina is the attractive Marina Walk: a broad pedestrianised waterside promenade lined with a long line of cafes and restaurants strung out between the northern end of the marina and the Marina Mall. If you want to get out onto the water, various kiosks around the Walk offer a mix of pricey boat charters alongside much more affordable dhow cruises up and down the marina.
Rising high above the northern end of the marina you can’t fail to notice the landmark Cayan Tower (formerly known as the Infinity Tower; 330m), the latest in Dubai’s ever-growing collection of iconic – and slightly wacky – skyscrapers, instantly recognizable thanks to its distinctively twisted outline, which rotates through 90 degrees from base to summit – rather like the famous Turning Torso in Malmö.
Just north of here rise the city’s most dramatic cluster of super-tall skyscrapers, packed densely together – none of them particularly attractive, although the impression of sheer height is impressive, if nothing else. Tallest of the lot is the Princess Tower (414m), the second highest building in Dubai (almost exactly half the height of the 830m-tall Burj Khalifa) and the 22nd highest in the world – and also the world’s highest residential building.