I had the opportunity to travel to Dubai this past winter holiday. I had a great time and wanted to share some of the things I learned while experiencing the arab world.
Let’s start with the positives.
Infrastructure is incredible.
This is really a first world civil engineering endeavour. Sidewalks are wide. Roads are perfectly paved. The main city highway, Sheik Zayed Road, is 12 lanes wide; 6 going and 6 back. Everything is state of the art and brand new. This makes sense, considering the city’s been built since the 1960’s and Dubai has hired brought in the best talent from across the world to take on the task. Even the beaches have running lanes, food and amenities plazas, and free charging and wi-fi stations.
Tourism and entertainment are well-developed.
There are a lot of services, all closely located, to provide tourists and locals means for entertainment. For example, the hotels all have famous bars, restaurants, and nightclubs; such that a tourist can have a one-stop-shop for fun. They have huge plazas and hotel areas like the Madinat Jumeirah, where you can find everything from restaurants, to shops and indoor souqs. In addition, there are a ton of outdoor tour companies allowing you to explore and experience the best of the Dubai desert. I went on a Desert Safari tour that ended at an Arabian Camp with a Turkish and Arab belly-dancing show, and a free camel ride.
The views are beautiful.
Hands-down Dubai has some of the most spectacular views you can experience. It’s a gorgeous city. The view of the Burj Al Arab from Jumeirah Beach, the view of the Burj Khalifa from the base. It’s all bigger than life; newer and bigger than anything you’ve seen before. I’ll just leave these here to make my point.
Now, onto the cons.
There is a strong cultural bias towards male emirates.
This is reinforced by the fact that Dubai operates under Sharia Law. From what I was told, locals are over-privileged. Once they marry, they get government funded housing through their Social Welfare Programs. In addition, there are many cases where locals get higher salaries, up to 10x the base salaries, on the basis of nationality and not merit. To add to that, there are local customs like status-based license plates and a sense of entitlement over expats and foreigners. I was told “Always avoid conflict with a local. They can put you in jail at will, simply because you’re not from here.”
It’s a derivative culture.
Some people compare it to a middle-eastern Epcot. Everything in Dubai is about reproducing the best of the international world. They have an Atlantis on The Palm similar to the ones in the Bahamas but bigger; and Dubai Fountains at the Burj Khalifa inspired by the Bellagio Fountains in Vegas. In addition, the Dubai neighborhoods sound like they’re from a video game. Take these for example: Silicon Oasis, Business Bay, Arabian Ranches, Emirates Hills, Internet City. All of it seems like a perfectly designed first-world out of a GTA 10.
Finally, a list of my top recommendations while in Dubai and Abu Dhabi:
- Beaches: Jumeirah Beach Residence, Kite Beach
- Parks: Wild Wadi Water Park
- Dinner and Drinks: Madinat Jumeirah, Caramel, Left Bank Souk Al Bahar
- Sightseeing: Atlantis on the Palm, Burj Khalifa At the Top
- Tours: Desert Safari in Sharjah
- Culture: Karama, Spice Souk, Gold Souk, Abra Ride on Dubai Creek
- Mosques: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center @Abu Dhabi
- Shopping: Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Yas Island Mall @Abu Dhabi
Anyways, I would definitely recommend travelling to Dubai. It’s a great way to experience the Arab world in a very tourist-friendly and safe way. Dubai is expensive, so make the most of coupons, deals or and having local hosts who can house you and show you around.