Dubai and Cape Town Comparison as a Vacation Locations

Subject: Tourism
Pages: 9
Words: 2280
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: College


It is well known that the city of Cape Town is the second biggest metropolis in South Africa. “As a vacation destination, the city is well known for the natural landscape and ambiance in the Cape floral kingdom such as the popular attraction sites of Table Mountain and Cape Point” (Meer 1). The city is also known for its attractive harbor and its game parks, which act as excellent vacation points for local and foreign tourists.

On the other hand, Dubai is situated on the Arabian Peninsula south of the Persian Gulf and is one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has been ruled by the Al Maktoum dynasty since 1833. As part of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has the same monetary, political, armed forces, and legal structures as the other six emirates and shares a similar framework through a federal system. However, each of the emirates, including Dubai has control over several internal utilities, for instance, community law enforcement and provision and maintenance of internal amenities.

Dubai is the largest emirate that follows after Abu Dhabi when considering the habitable area, but unlike Abu Dhabi, Dubai is the most densely inhabited of all emirates. Shopping is the leading tourist attraction to Dubai due to a diverse array of low priced products. There are also ancient attractions such as written accounts documenting parts of Dubai’s history and modern attractions such as Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest man-made structure.

Cape Town as a vacation destination

Cape Town is the governmental capital of South Africa and Africa’s most attractive destination for tourism (Meer 1). It is a metropolitan city located along the shore of Table Bay, and it is well known for the Cape floral kingdom. Often referred to as The Mother City and The Tavern of the Seas, Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, and hence well defined seasons are a common occurrence (Zive 4).

The natural scenery and favorable climate make Cape Town the most sought after destination by tourists going to vacation in Africa. The city has attractive beaches, well-maintained infrastructure, and has managed to minimize the urban influence on the environment giving Cape Town a natural ambiance (Meer 2). The most well-known feature is Table Mountain, which has been recorded as a landmark site by the city (Richmond 21).

Tourists frequently visit this mountain because it has a serene ambiance, and hikers looking for adventure will be seen climbing the mountain along the trails, Platteklip Gorge being the most popular of all trails (Meer 11). Climbing the mountain can also be done using a cable car and the cable ride does have an exceptional view of the land and the sunset and evening cruises are a preferred activity, especially by couples (Zive 7).

Robben Island, which was a prison during the apartheid era, is another popular destination. It is a 40-minute boat ride away and what makes the prison prominent is the fact that former South African president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in that facility which has now been converted to a tourist destination. Pilgrims, journalists, and biographers have often been to this island trying to retrace Nelson Mandela’s steps (Richmond 28).

For nature enthusiasts, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens are a major attraction, in particular, during spring when the flowers are blooming. The gardens are well planned for, and the apparent layout is attractive hence many tourists carry a camera with them whenever they visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens to take memorable photographs of nature’s beauty (Richmond 25). Wine Desk Waterfront is a pleasant place for wine lovers since it is a vineyard farm with several wineries on the property. Tourists usually receive a guided tour of the farm and wineries and later have a pleasant lunch with the other visitors on vacation (Zive 5). There are also tours in which visitors have taught the art of making wine and there also other outstanding activities such as wine tasting which appeal to some visitors.

Cape Town also has the Table Mountain National Park, which provides a spectacular view of a diverse number of wild animals in their natural habitat. Tourists get guided tours through the parks and come up close to some of the wild animals. The most common animals in the Table Mountain National Park are the black rhino, lions, cheetahs, a variety of bird species, and different primates (Meer 15). These sites are a particular attraction to film and documentary producers seeking a new perspective on their production or inspiration for new content.

Besides, there is the Artscape Theatre Centre, where performing arts are carried out (Richmond 22). Various kinds of dances songs and plays are performed at this particular location, and tourists seeking different forms of art with African connotations are frequent visitors to the Artscape Theatre Centre. One remarkable aspect of Cape Town is that no two beaches are the same. Different beaches have a different ambiance and tourists can end up touring all the beaches just to determine which one suits them best especially during summer (Zive 3). Additionally, The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival is an annual event that takes place on the second day of each year, and it is colorfully celebrated to usher in the New Year.

The highlight of the day is the competition between different minstrel teams where the teams try to out-dance each other and use visually enticing items like bright costumes or colored umbrellas to garner points. This unique event is a major attraction to individuals and families on vacation due to the visual attraction of the event as well as the rich diversity of cultural activities involved. Cape Town also has the highest number of buildings with the Cape Dutch style of architecture which is evident in most old government buildings and some residential buildings in the city (Meer 18).

Dubai as a vacation destination

Also known as the shopping capital of the Middle East, Dubai attracts a large number of tourists every year who visit the city to shop for products as well as for the long hot summers and short warm winters. Regional and international tourists from virtually every continent visit the souk districts which are found on either side of the creek in Dubai where commodities are sold at a relatively low price (Krane 89).

The souks are famous for their charged trading atmosphere, and tourists visit the souks to take part in the bargaining of goods, which is considered engaging (Stern 191). Furthermore, an interview by Monassar (7) indicates that “Dubai has a large number of modern shopping malls such as BurJuman mall, Mercato shopping mall, Dubai Lamcy plaza, and Deira City Centre and stalls which sell exotic products such as perfumes, antiques as well as other products such as vehicles, designer clothes, jewelry, domestic equipment, electronics, and sporting equipment at a relatively low price compared to international prices”.

Apart from supermarkets and department stores where the price of products is fixed, most shops, stalls, and various other outlets regard bargaining and friendly negotiation as part of the business process and, hence conciliation for products is encouraged (Dallen 51). To promote both domestic and international tourists, Dubai holds the annual Dubai Shopping festival which is held during January and lasts for the whole month (Stern 193).

During the Dubai Shopping Festival, there are music concerts, exhibitions and the whole of Dubai goes into a shopping frenzy with almost every legal product being traded at a negotiable price (Krane 90). Dubai has been able to develop at a rapid pace due to the economic advantage the region has due to oil revenues hence features of Dubai’s old culture are not widespread. Monassar, (9) interview still states that “due to the oil revenues, Dubai’s infrastructure is among the best in the world, such as underground railroads, bridges, and roads.” Visiting the location around the creek is the most prominent option by tourists since that area divides Dubai into two halves known as Bur Dubai and Deira (Stern 195).

The Bur Dubai side of the Creek offers sightseers with the essence of the old city of Dubai with buildings such as Heritage Village presenting tourists with a vivid perspective of old Dubai. Adjacent to Heritage Village is the Diving Village, where tourists go to learn about the different forms of Middle East pearl diving and fishing methods as were carried out in the past(Stern 196). There are also other attractions such as the Dubai Museum which was established in the refurbished Al Fahidi Fort which is a landmark considering it was put up in 1799 (Stern 198).

There is the Heritage Village of Hatta which is located some miles southeast of Dubai City and situated between the rocky Hatta Mountains. The unique factor about the Heritage Village of Hatta is its rich and documented history dating back more than two thousand five hundred years. The village is made up of more than 20 buildings, with each building having a different dimension from the rest, and the buildings also have varying interior designs and building materials utilized (Dallen 55).

To help to preserve the rich content of the village, renovation of the buildings is done using the original materials, for instance; sludge, grass, sandalwood, hay, and palm fronds. Another cultural site is the Sharia Mosque, which is more than 150 years old a marvel to archeologists due to the elaborate design and composition put in its architecture, bearing in mind the same building materials are utilized all over the structure, and it incorporates a garden, a prayer hall, a fountain, a court, and courtyard, restrooms and additional utility rooms (Stern 199).

As for the accommodation, Dubai has the widest variety of tourist accommodation facilities among all the emirates. All the mainstream hotel chains such as Hilton, Serena, intercontinental, and Ritz have investments in the emirate making accommodation costly for tourists hence investors usually opt to rent out apartments and villas to tourists on a short term basis and this arrangement is usually more profitable and convenient for the parties involved (Stern 197). The most prominent of all hotels is the Burj Al Arab, which is considered a 7-star hotel and also a significant landmark and identity to Dubai (Krane 92).

Dubai was also the pioneer in the creation of Palm Islands which are artificial islands that are found in the Persian Gulf, off the coast of The United Arab Emirates on which key business and housing infrastructure is built (Dallen 54). The islands such as the Palm Jumeirah, the Palm Jebel Ali, and the Palm Deira, all of which were or are being constructed through land reclamation are major tourist attractions in Dubai. The islands are reclaimed to taking the shape of a palm tree with a crescent at the apex, and the motive behind their construction is for the islands to hold a significant number of residential, vacation, and amusement hubs (Krane 94).

With all the palm islands completed, it is estimated that the reclaimed land will append more than five hundred kilometers of beaches to the city of Dubai (Stern 199). The Palm Jumeirah and the Palm Jebel Ali consist of more or less one hundred million cubic meters of rock and sand while Palm Deira is estimated to consist of about one billion cubic meters of the same substances (Dallen 56). Tourist attractions to the palm islands include over one hundred comfort hotels, private residential coastline villas, and apartments, yachting marinas, various theme parks, bistros and cafes, shopping malls, sports facilities as well as health and beauty resorts(Stern 201).


Dubai has a limited variety of tourist attraction locations with most of the emirate being converted into a metropolitan region. For Dubai to attain the diversity currently achieved in Cape Town, it is imperative that the emirate takes into account the different natural features located in Dubai and capitalize on them. One option would be to reclaim part of the unused desert and convert it to a habitable region for animals. Subsequently, the emirate can import a variety of wild animals and release them in the reclaimed area and hence creating a mixture of urban and primitive zones in the region with water being drawn from the ocean and purified.


When comparing Dubai and Cape Town as two vacation locations, it is important to identify the different amenities offered by the two tourist destinations. Cape Town has by far the largest variety of tourist and vacation locations when compared to Dubai. The main reason for the significant difference is the concentration of Dubai on shopping as the main tourist attraction which holds the emirate at a disadvantage when compared to Cape Town. One cause of the limitation of tourist attraction sites in Dubai is the fact that Dubai is an Islamic-based region and hence some activities and animals are proscribed or restricted. Another disadvantage Dubai has over Cape Town is that Dubai is mainly a desert hence most vegetation has to be grown artificially.

Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate allowing a variety of fauna and flora to grow naturally in the wild. Consequently, Dubai has tried to negate its shortcomings by investing heavily in urban infrastructure hence creating a modern delight using artificial products. Structures such as the Burj Al Arab as well as Burj Khalifa and the shopping festival are modern phenomena but they are not sufficient or diverse enough to attract a large number of tourists and are more likely to attract investors. The Palm Islands, on the other hand, have the propensity to attract curious individuals and because accommodation in the Palm Islands and Dubai as a whole is quite expensive; more tourists will visit Cape Town for vacation.

Works Cited

Dallen, Timothy. Shopping tourism, retailing, and leisure. UAE: Channel View Publications, 2005. Print.

Krane, Jim. City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism‎. London: St. Martin’s Press, 2009. Print.

Meer, Ramon. Cape Town Vacation – Travel Guide. 2010. Web.

Monassar, Ali, Abu. Personal interview. 2010. Web.

Richmond, Simon. Lonely Planet Cape Town. New York: Lonely Planet, 2009. Print.

Stern, Steven. Stern’s Guide to the Cruise Vacation. 2009. Web.

Zive, Nicci. Cape Town-A Dream Vacation! 2010. Web.