After spending a week in Dubai, I learned a couple of things, so here are some FAQ’s about Dubai:
What was it like? – Take NYC, mix in Vegas and add Europe sprinkles on top. The city is huge, and very spread-out. It’s dusty (hello desert), but overall very clean. They have everything you could want there. Literally. I saw every major US chain, including ones that have gone out of business in a lot of places (UNO Pizzeria, Bennigans, Johnny Rockets, the list goes on and on…) but it feels sooooo Western. It’s something like 60% of the population are expatriates. It’s also hot, in case you forgot.
Was it what you expected? – Not in the slightest. It’s almost shocking how far you travel to get to Dubai, to have it feel like you are literally down the road. But it’s a pretty cool city since the buildings are larger than life. It all looks like the set of a movie.What WAS different? – Obviously there was Arabic writing in addition to English on most everything. A lot of people do wear traditional clothing. Dishdash for the men – Long white usually cotton shirt. Think long sleeve white robe that goes to your ankles. They even have pockets! And an Abaya for the women – black long over-garment that usually covers everything. A lot of women wear head scarves and the men also wear a Keffiyehs (headscarf) held into place by two black ropes on the head. They LOVE their accessories-Purses, shoes, jewelry, makeup. And everyone hangs out in the mall. It’s so fascinating to observe. While they wear traditional clothing, people also wear normal western clothes as well. I wore tank tops and brought a scarf just in case,but felt comfortable. I choose not to wear shorts and stuck with more flowy pants or long skirts. It was hot, so I wore a pair of dry fit shorts underneath my “bottoms” and that was an awesome move! They do prefer you not to wear workout clothes around, so I didn’t wear leggings at all when we were there. The most attention we got was when we walked through the mall dressed up after going out for drinks. But that was more because people were probably thinking why are you so fancy in the mall on Wednesday? Other differences are obviously the money (it’s impossible) and the lack of alcohol. You can really only get it in hotels and it’s not cheap. About 50 AED or about $14 for a Foster’s. Not happening. We have had drinks, but mixed drinks, because then it at least feels better to spend that kind of dough.
It also seems like everyone’s day starts later. Like the mall is open from 10:00 AM – Midnight and then even later on the weekend.
Did you feel uncomfortable? – No I can’t say that I did. I mean I was more aware of my surroundings, but it’s like you would be in NYC or anywhere that you travel. There was one time where we ended up on the docks, in an area of all male workers. It was very obvious that we were out of place and that was somewhat tense, but nothing happened and we just decided to leave. No big deal.
Were the people nice? – Yes very. We only ran into a couple that weren’t, but hey that happens everywhere!
What was the food like? – This is an interesting question. The food is what you want it to be. Because there is anything you could ever want, you can choose your own food destiny. If you want to be American, you can be American, if you want to be Lebanese, be Lebanese, the choices are endless. We did struggle to find Middle Eastern food though, because they do have predominantly western choices.
Are the cars crazy? – Yes and no. The cabs are regular (nicer than most because they are newer), but there are crazy cars also. We saw some Lamborghini’s parked at the mall, many Bentley’s around town and of course some Rolls Royce’s. There are nice cars yes, but it’s not ALL of them. We rented the Rolls Yaris though, and that was cool. Hehe.
Could you communicate with the locals? – Absolutely. We did not struggled with language really at all. The most that got lost in translation could be easily figured out with a few follow-up questions. It was fine.
What was the weather really like? – Hot. And Humid. A tropical desert. This is a new one for me. I had no idea that was a thing. And it was still super hot when we were there (October). From our hotel we could see the mall, but you could’t walk because it was so hot. Then add in the humidity and we were sweaty messes. Sexy.
Do you notice the wealth? – Not at first. Then yes. We learned that if you are a true Emirati, the government provides a lot for you, so you take home and keep a lot more of what you make. The expatriates pay more taxes, so that’s how the economy is sustained. There are TONS of nice stores in the mall and also normal stores as well. People shop all the time and it was unusual to see a local without a shopping bag of some kind in their hand. There are lots of nice cars and it seems more normal to have a Bentley. It’s a very fascinating place. One funny thing was when I opened up Uber, there was an option for Uber Chopper…yeah no joke.What’s the deal with alcohol? – As I said before it’s hard to find. None of the restaurants in the mall that we found had alcohol. They all had cocktails, but I’m almost positive they were all virgin. You had to be in a hotel mostly to find it, and then it was super expensive. I spent the most I ever have on cocktails at the Burj Khalifa. Totally worth it though. I did monopolize on the hotel happy hour as well and that was much more reasonable. But they definitely “hide” the alcohol. In the end it saved us money, so fine by me! Anything else you want to know, just ask!