Located on the Persian Gulf coast between Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, Dubai is the most populated of the United Arab Emirates. It is also the scene of glittering excesses and a world hub for luxury tourism. Visitors wanting to contemplate incredible feats of architecture will be bowled over by the sheer scale of the Burj Al Arab Hotel, Emirates Towers, Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world (818m), the gigantic Dubai Marina, or indeed the Palm Islands project of three slightly surreal artificial islands, only one of which has been built to date. Thrill-seekers, meanwhile, might want to splash about at Wild Wadi Water Park, try skiing in the middle of the desert at the Mall of the Emirates, or marvel at the pockets of nature nestling in the heart of the city at Ras Al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, Creekside Park or Za''abeel Park. Catch your breath again in the discreet but proud historic district of the city: Dubai is not simply a creation where the future precedes the present but has a history dating back to the late 18C, when fishermen first settled here. Transformed into a city in 1833 when it was seized by the Al Maktoum dynasty - still in power today - who opened it up to trade, it became a British protectorate in 1892, before gaining independence in 1971. Things move fast! The country's ever-evolving economy is dominated by oil, although it did not escape the 2009 economic crisis unscathed.