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Originally published Friday, April 5, 2013 at 10:01 AM

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Dubai: a water world in the desert

In the desert of the Arabian Peninsula, thank desalination plants for such an incongruously abundant water world.

NW Traveler editor

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Right, because flying for 14 hours to go down a water slide--water, it should be noted... MORE

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IN DUBAI, a city playground in the Middle East desert, nothing succeeds like excess.

The glitzy enclave has lavish shopping malls; uber-luxurious hotels and restaurants; neighborhoods built on artificial islands; even an indoor ski slope. And, oh yes, the tallest building in the world, the more-than-160-story Burj Khalifa.

One Dubai hotel, the 1,539-room Atlantis, goes all out with a watery motif. The hotel's dramatic aquarium is fronted with an almost three-story-tall sheet of glass. For human water play there are massive swimming pools, water slides (including one nine stories tall) and inner-tubing streams. You can snorkel with sharks or feed rays in artificial pools.

In the searing desert of the Arabian Peninsula, where conserving water was a way of life for centuries, thank desalination plants for such an incongruously abundant water world.

And, thanks to the long reach of Emirates Airlines, which has helped turn Dubai into a bustling crossroads of international travel, you can hop on a nonstop Seattle-to-Dubai flight and be in the desert, and the Atlantis water world, in just a little more than 14 hours.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times' NWTraveler editor. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.

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