Design in the Desert: The Architecture of Dubai and Abu Dhabi Featuring Expo 2020

Where a few decades ago there was mostly empty desert, today Dubai is home to one of the world’s most distinctive and rapidly growing skylines.  With the help of massive cash investments from the government and foreign investors, hundreds of imaginative skyscrapers have sprung up. These include ambitious building projects such as the Burj Al Arab, designed to mimic the shape of a traditional sail; the Palm Jumeirah, a man-made archipelago on an unprecedented scale in the shape of a palm tree; and the Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world. The variety of designs is highly eclectic — the result of influence from both Arab and international architectural and design firms. After exploring the highlights of Dubai, travel to the neighboring emirate of Abu Dhabi — the capital of the UAE and home to extravagant architecture such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Learn about the complex relationship the two emirates share when it comes to designing buildings and the economics behind their growth. Delve also into the darker side of such rapid expansion — accusations of worker abuse and human rights violations. On the way, stop by Expo 2020, the first World Expo to be held in the Arab world, where over 190 countries will participate in crafting exhibits themed to ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. 

Come away with a balanced perspective and new insight into this fascinating and dynamic part of the world.    

Nov 7-13, 2020

Nov 14-20, 2020

7 Days

6 Nights

UAE

Asia

Architecture & Design

Itinerary
7 Days, 6 Nights

Trip Cost, Per Traveler

$5,695 double occupancy
(Single supplement: $895.00 )
$500 Deposit
or Call 855.890.5298
Phone Hours - M-F, 7AM – 5PM PT
Print Itinerary
Expedition Highlights

Visit Expo 2020 Dubai, the first World Expo to be held in the Arab world, to see the architecture of the future.

Immerse yourself in Dubai’s culture as you explore a local textile market, visit the Dubai Museum and travel by water taxi to the spice and gold souks in Deira.

Spend a full day exploring Dubai’s architecture, including the Palm Jumeirah, the Dubai Marina, Burj Khalifa and the Atlantis Hotel.

In the opulent Burj Al Arab, Dubai’s iconic hotel in the shape of a ship’s sail, dine at the renowned Al Mahara restaurant, which, instead of walls, boasts a floor-to-ceiling aquarium.

Travel to Abu Dhabi to see many of the city’s architectural wonders, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the new Louvre Museum.

Day 1

Welcome to Dubai

Arrive at Dubai International Airport and transfer to your hotel. Gather this afternoon for an introductory presentation on the architecture of the UAE. Discuss the history of the Emirates as well as current building projects and delve deeper into the sites you will visit throughout the trip. Afterwards, head to the magnificent Burj Khalifa for a special experience: You’ll travel to an observation deck on the 124th floor for unparalleled views of the city and then enjoy a welcome dinner overlooking the Burj Khalifa fountain, where a nightly water and light show will dazzle your senses. (D)

Day 2

The Two Sides of Dubai

Depart for the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest malls in the world. This massive complex is much more than a shopping center. It is also home to Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, as well as a remarkable architectural achievement. This unique structure includes five ski slopes and a 400-meter ski run. Learn from your expert just what kind of planning was required to create a snowy 85-meter-high mountain in the desert. After lunch, explore the cultural side of the city today as you experience Old Dubai. Walk through the local textile market, then board a water taxi to reach the spice and gold souks in Deira. This evening, dine tonight aboard the Bateaux Dubai. Enjoy dinner and drinks while gliding on Dubai Creek channel in luxury as your expert expounds on the city’s architectural history. (B, D)

Day 3

Architectural Dubai

Take part in a packed, all-day architectural tour of Dubai. This full itinerary includes the most unique and ambitious architecture in the region. Begin at the Nakheel Development Center, a government-owned organization responsible for many of the largest building projects in Dubai. Continue to one of Nakheel’s projects — the Palm Jumeirah. Ride the monorail for an up-close look at this man-made archipelago crafted in the shape of an enormous palm tree. Other visits today include Dubai Marina, home to hundreds of skyscrapers constructed within the last five years. Pause for lunch at the Souk Madinat Jumeirah. After lunch, explore Business Bay and downtown Dubai. Dine this evening at a restaurant overlooking the waterfront of the creek. (B,L,D)

Day 4

Expo 2020

This morning, check out of your Dubai hotel and travel to Expo 2020 Dubai. Upon your arrival at the Expo, receive an orientation talk from on-site staff, then explore the pavilions of over 190 participating countries, all themed towards the future under the banners Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability. As the afternoon comes to a close, depart for Abu Dhabi, a 1.5-hour drive away. Along the way, your expert will discuss the complex and often competitive relationship between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Each seeks to outdo the other, investing in ambitious and costly building projects — with mixed success. (B, D)

Day 5

Cultural Pillars of Abu Dhabi

Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an elegant place of worship that took an international team nearly a decade to complete. The grounds are large enough to accommodate 40,000 worshippers, making it the largest mosque in the UAE. It was designed as an international project, utilizing materials and artisans from Morocco, Pakistan, India, Italy, Greece and many other countries. The ornate carpet in the main hall is considered the largest in the world. Reflecting pools that run alongside the arcade shine light onto the mosque’s 96 columns, which are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. See the Sheikh Zayed Bridge, said to be among the most intricate ever created. Enjoy lunch together before visiting the newly constructed Louvre in Abu Dhabi, with its distinctive metallic roof designed to imitate the effect of light filtering through palm leaves. Spend the evening at leisure. (B, L)

Day 6

Exploring Abu Dhabi

Depart for a full day exploring the architecture of Abu Dhabi. Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an elegant place of worship that took an international team nearly a decade to complete. The grounds are large enough to accommodate 40,000 worshipers, making it the largest mosque in the UAE. It was designed as an international project, utilizing materials and artisans from Morocco, Pakistan, India, Italy, Greece and many other countries. The ornate carpet in the main hall is considered the largest in the world. Reflecting pools that run alongside the arcade shine light onto the mosque’s 96 columns, which are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. See the Sheikh Zayed Bridge, said to be among the most intricate ever created. Head to YAS Marina Circuit — the home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — and pass by the nearby Ferrari World, an indoor theme park notable as the largest space frame structure ever made. Tour the under-construction MASDAR city, a planned city that seeks to run exclusively off renewable energy. Pending its opening in 2017, visit the newly constructed Louvre in Abu Dhabi. This evening, toast the end of your trip to the United Arab Emirates with a final farewell dinner. (B,D)

Day 7

Departure

Travelers depart for Abu Dhabi International Airport for individual flights home. (B)