Welcome to Dubai!
Dubai is an amazingly futuristic city built in the Arabian desert on the coast of the Persian Gulf. For 200 years it was a tiny trading post but in one single generation has exploded into a metropolis of expats, funded mainly by oil wealth. The city strives to out-do the rest of the world by making bigger, better and more luxurious structures. They figure that in 10 years their oil reserves will be dried up so they are preparing for the future by changing over their oil rich economy to more of a tourist based economy. As of today the transformation is well on it’s way with the economy being %80 business and tourism and only %20 oil.
Located in the United Arab Emirates, it is a Muslim country so please respect their laws and cultures. Alcohol is usually illegal in Muslim countries but is tolerated in the UAE due to its thriving tourism based economy. The UAE actually Prides itself on being one of the most Multicultural cities in the world. But strictly enforces its laws and culture. For the most part you have to make sure that your shoulders and knees are covered at all times including men and women. The only time you’re allowed to be in swimsuits and bikinis is when you’re on the beach or in your hotel. There is signage posted every where which tells you where it’s acceptable to be in swimsuits and where it is not. Being intoxicated in public is highly illegal, so when out clubbing at night it is acceptable to be intoxicated however when leaving the club you should make sure you get a taxi right away and head either home or to your next destination. I advise against walking around the city intoxicated, but if you are make sure you are not drawing any attention to yourself. You may be stopped by the police and could face severe penalties.
When in Dubai I recommend for men to wear nice collared shirts and nice full-length pants. For women tops that cover your shoulders with pants or long dresses and a nice jacket over top. Traditional dress in Dubai for men is the Kandura, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton and traditionally, women wear an Abaya―a long, black flowing light coat over their clothing. This is worn over their western clothes or a traditional long- sleeved full-length dress known as a Jalabeya. A black scarf called a Shayla is then draped over the head.
Try not to take pictures of women wearing the Abaya or the Jalabeya. In Dubai it is heavily frowned upon to take pictures or even talk to the women without the husband’s consent. Even accidentally snapping a picture and having them in the background may get you in trouble so be cautious of this.
Also public displays of affection are illegal in the UAE. Holding hands, kissing and even hugging can get you into serious legal trouble.
You’re not supposed to share a hotel room with the opposite sex, unless you are married. The hotel has the legal obligation to ask you for a wedding certificate if you plan on sharing a room with the opposite gender. However most hotels have a don’t ask don’t tell policy. You shouldn’t have any trouble.
This city has many crown jewels including the tallest building on the planet called the Burj Khalifa. At 830m High and boasting 163 stories you can ride the fastest elevator in the world complete with ear popping action to the 124th & 125th floor observation deck for around $50, which once you get up there is actually super impressive. The view is unbelievable, especially at sunset.
At the base of this incredible structure lies a man-made lake with an impressive display of fountains that you may Marvel at which far exceeds the scale of the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.
Another Crown Jewel of the city is the hotel Burj Al Arab. The world’s only 7-star Hotel where a single room will cost you around $1,500 per night but comes with your own private Butler and all the extravagant am entities that you can possibly think of. If something in the hotel is the color of gold then yes it is actual gold. It boasts a tennis court on the roof where many famous people have done commercials from Andre Agassi to Tiger Woods hitting golf balls off of it into the Persian Gulf. I highly recommend that you go at least have afternoon tea in the lobby.
The Dubai Mall is also located at the base of the Burj Khalifa and has an impressive 2 million square feet of shopping area & entertainment with a staggering 1200 stores and also includes an aquarium and a full sized hockey rink.
The Mall of the Emirates has an indoor ski hill called Ski Dubai with five runs including the worlds first indoor blackdiamond run.
Other impressive attractions include but are not limited to the Palm Jumeirah, the Palm Jebel Ali And the World man made Islands. They are constantly adding new crown jewels every year with rumors of rotating skyscrapers, a Las Vegas strip ten times the size of Las Vegas’s current strip, and even a Disney World in which would Trump Orlando’s!
I was coming from Thailand heading to Dubai. A couple of months earlier, a Malaysian Airlines flight disappeared in the South China Sea. So when I was searching for a flight to Dubai from Phuket, it was no surprise that the Malaysian Airlines flight was well cheaper than any others! So I thought to myself what are the chances of two going down within a month. Mmmmm, not very likely! So I went ahead and booked it. When I boarded this flight I saw that it was a large plane with probably 200 seats on board. And there were literally only 10 of us that boarded! A bit concerning! And then finally they shut the doors, pressurized the cabin, the ten of us looked at each other, studying each other and you could tell we were all thinking the same thing! “These are the people I’m probably going to disappear with!” But anyway the flight went really well, in fact the seats were plush leather and I had the whole three seats to stretch out across and have a cozy nap. I woke as we were descending over the desert! All you could see was sand for miles and miles. With that and the fact that I was all alone on this trip heading into the heart of the Middle East for my first time, that overwhelming feeling of nervousness and fear in which I’ve grown so fond of, like the best drug possible, struck upon me! I could only think of a quote from one of my favorite movies, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, “What the fuck are we doing out here in the middle of the desert?”
I step off the plane and as I approach the UAE customs officers, I see them all in their traditional white Kanduras. It made me a little more than nervous as I approached. I handed the guy my passport ready for his interrogation. But he barely even looked at me, put a stamp on one of the back pages and handed it back to me and waved me through! Easy as that.
I grabbed my bag and jump in the taxi and head to my hotel, The Al Marooj Rotan, which I got for a reasonable $130/ night. It was a five star resort with a gigantic swimming pool, multiple restaurants and anything else you could possibly want. I checked in and dropped my bag in my room and immediately head to the hotel’s British pub where I got a Guinness for $13 and a great British pub meal. Now there’s a lot of parties and festivities going on at this Pub while I was in there eating so I ended up making a couple of friends. Some expats from Australia and United States living in Dubai but serving in their respective military’s. Drinks were had, laughs were shared and new international friends were made!
The next morning I wake up and immediately jump on Tinder to make some new friends. For anyone that hasn’t traveled much, you may not know, but Tinder is one of your best tools for making new friends when traveling to a new city. There are many guys that set their settings to match with other guys. They usually use a big bold gigantic heading that says ‘I’m not gay, I’m just looking for travel friends’. Haha and it works, I’ve matched with guys on Tinder and met up with them and became single serving friends for the night and went out for a good night of partying. A gay time with minimal gayness involved! Not that there is anything at all wrong with that!
While I was in Thailand I had made a friend Mido from Abu Dhabi, he gave me his contact information and said since Abu Dhabi is only about a 45-minute drive from Dubai that he would come up and party with me. So the next day I toured around Dubai and went to the Dubai Mall then went to the Burj Khalifa, up to the 124th floor observation deck. When i got back to my hotel, I gave Mido a call. He was pumped and drove up immediately and we went partying that night. He took me to an array of Clubs, but being that it was a Wednesday night, there wasn’t much going on that night. In the UAE, the two days off for the weekend are Friday and Saturday instead of the western Saturday and Sunday. So Mido said that he had friends coming up and they were all going to hit the town again on Friday night.
Dubai has many extravagant clubs always located inside of hotels. Because liquor is technically illegal in the country only hotels get liquor licenses. When you go to a normal restaurant to eat they will most likely not have alcohol available.
I wanted to go skydiving in Dubai at a place called Skydive Dubai. But upon looking into it I realized that it was going to cost $1,000 Canadian for one jump over the Palm Jumeirah Islands. Which would have been incredible but I was not willing to dish out that kind of money. So instead I opted to rent a helicopter for a personal helicopter tour of the city.
Later that evening I had a Dune bashing Safari booked. They come and pick you up from your hotel in a Toyota Land Cruiser and take you out to the desert where you meet up with a whole bunch of other Toyota Land Cruisers and go bashing around and over the sand dunes. Then later on, they’ll take you to a camp and serve you an authentic Arabic BBQ meal complete with belly dancers and all. I highly recommend doing the Dune bashing Excursion because they actually do beat the shit out of those Toyota Land Cruisers in a very professional manner. The drivers are great and very experienced. You may fear for your life at some point in the adventure, but hey, it wouldnt be worth the money if you didn’t! The area of the desert where they do this is a Toyota Land Cruiser graveyard with pieces of Toyota Land Cruisers everywhere, including bumpers, rims and even windshields laying around everywhere in the sand.
I woke up and did my usual routine. Head down to the coffee station where by day number four, as soon as the coffee lady seen me coming, she automatically started making my Americano one cream/one sugar. The service in Dubai is absolutely impeccable. on a side note, I also frequented the British pub quite often in my 6 nights at the resort. The staff all new my name and I knew theirs. One night they were totally full, and the door lady pulled a table from out back and set it up for me while turning away other guests. Now that makes you feel special. I cant say it enough, the service in Dubai is astounding!
I had my coffee and walked to the Mall of the Emirates and checked out all the extravagances. Then I headed back to my hotel with the intention of getting a private car to take me to the gold souk. Since private cars in Dubai are not that much more expensive then taxis and you feel a bit more classy in them. When I got there I asked the hotel lobby man for a private car! The normal guy that new my name wasn’t there. It must have been his day off. So this new guy recommended to me that I walk one block to the metro and take the subway down to Old Dubai. I told him that I didn’t exactly want to do that and I want a private car. But he explained to me that it will be much cheaper. It will only cost me $5 and it’s only 10 stops away, he explained. So i reluctantly agreed and headed toward the Metro. I get there and buy a MetroCard. Then I get on the Sardine packed Metro and I waited the 10 stops like he had said. I got off and there was no gold souk anywhere in sight. Immediately getting off the Metro there was a guy on the street with a bunch of couches and Furniture randomly assorted on the sidewalk. Of course he picked me out of the crowd obviously because I was the one that look like a tourist in my nice black collared Armani shirt and designer jeans. He began with his sales pitch to sell me a coach to which I explained, “I just got off the metro and I’m walking and I’m from Canada, how am I going to buy this couch?” I asked him where the Gold Souk was and he pointed in a direction.
It was 45 degrees and the first four days of this vacation I was dressing up nice in collared shirts and jeans but that was okay because I would walk a block and stop into a place and catch some air conditioning and then carry along another block until I started to sweat and then dip into another place for some air conditioning. Also i was taking Taxis exactly for this reason. But now I was in the heart of old Dubai or at least that’s where I think I was. There were no real fancy buildings in sight and the streets were shoulder-to-shoulder with people walking everywhere. Now I was in an area where I was obviously a foreigner and everybody was staring at me. I walked about 5 blocks before I found a building with air conditioning and dipped in but by this time it was way too late. I was pouring sweat from head to toe, the gel in my hair had let go, my black collared shirt was soaked. I looked like an absolute mess! I caught some AC and then was determined to find the gold souk I had no Wi-Fi and was not going to use my phone so I couldn’t look it up. I asked a couple of people on the street and everyone i asked kept pointing in contradicting directions. I kept walking asking more people and this continued for about 30 more blocks of me doing figure eights around Old Town Dubai. After 45 minutes of these Shenanigans and me pouring sweat I decided to say fuck this and grab the first taxi I saw. “Take me back to my hotel please”, I exclaim to my new Lord and Savior of a taxi driver. The whole taxi ride back I was preparing my hate speech to give to that doorman. If he had it just let me take a private car like I wanted in the first place, none of this would have happened and i’d be happily window shopping some 24kt gold right now! But when I arrived back to the hotel, the guy must have gotten off shift because there was yet a different door man. Long story short, i headed to the British Pub and I cannot tell you anything about the mysterious gold souk because I never found it. and at this point I question if it actually exists!
The next day I went down to Jumeirah Beach District to meet up with Mido and his friends in an area I hadn’t explored yet. And yes, my regular door man was back and I got my private car of luxury. After a great day on the beach, we all went back to my hotel room to get ready for Dinner and a good night out of clubbing. Mido took us to an excellent place called Saroja Restaurant and Cafe in Jumeirah Beach Residence. It’s authentic Arabic Cuisine and is absolutely delicious but they do not serve alcohol in this establishment. But I highly recommend it.
We then all went out to another wild assortment of great clubs. there is no shortage of hotels and hotel clubs in this city. For a place that is strict on alcohol consumption, it is actually one of the classiest and best party places in the world. However recreational drugs can get you the death penalty or at the bare minimum a life sentence in the UAE. So if you are a recreational party drug user, do not expect to find any. We then headed out to varying clubs such as Cirque De Soir, a club with staff members randomely walking around dressed up as creepy clowns and circus freak side show acts, randomly sneaking up on you just for fun! adds an element to a bar that I had never experienced before! then over to a club called People, by Crystal! this club was amazing. And the night got hazy after that one!
It was my last day in Dubai. I was flying out at 10 p.m. that night. waking up with a solid hangover was a good way to start. Hell I’d seen all the sites I wanted to see. The gang from the night before met up at a beach bar called Barasti. We spent the entire day getting a good solid day drunk going at the beach. By evening time when I said I had to leave, all my newest best-est international UAE friends tried to convince me not to go! “Change your flight!” they were all proclaiming. Oh how i wanted to stay. but i was off to complete my very first complete trip around the Earth. I was heading to Amsterdam yet again for my third time. I was sad to be leaving this great city, and such wonderful newly made friends from the other side of the planet in which I had only recently confirmed to myself that actually existed. You look back at these experiences and think to yourself how nervous you were when you landed. fearing the unknown. running the worst possibility’s through your head. And now six days later you, don’t want to leave. Ever!
And for all of us Canadians, the biggest shock about Dubai for me was a Tim Hortons on every few corners! Yes you read that right! I counted 5 Tim Hortons when I was there. I’m not sure how many there are in total!
The city of Dubai is simply impressive that in one of the world’s most inhospitable Landscapes, lies one of the most hospitable cities on planet Earth.
I didnt even scratch the surface of all the amazing things this city has to offer!
Landscape – 10/10 (for urban reasons)
food – 9/10
Price – $$$$
Alcohol Price – $$$$$
Locals – Incredibly friendly and all speak perfect English