An inside look into the city of gold.
The hype surrounding Dubai is definitely true. The dazzling lights, neck-craning skyscrapers and beautiful beaches––all of which are in the middle of a desert. Dubai is a hot spot for travellers and expatriates and it is quite easy to see why. But aside from all the glitz and glamour, there are so many more unique and breathtaking cultural experiences that this city has to offer.
- City Nightlife
Dubai may not have any casinos, but it is quite similar to Las Vegas in many avenues. Not only does the city stand tall and shine bright with its multitude of skyscrapers, but it is also host to the world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa.
Now, inside the buildings are a whole other show. The grand entrances, friendly service and spotless grounds leave my jaw on the floor. Heading into each building–-I must add that every third building in Dubai is a hotel––I was greeted by restaurants and clubs, one better than the next.
The lounges in Dubai boasted an amazing sound; an energetic crowd with music that would put a person in a trance. The city does not sleep. Most places close around 3 am, with many options open well after 4 am.
- The Food
Hands down, Dubai has some of the best restaurants I have ever been to. From the service and ambience to the vast menu and flavourful foods. They have endless options from all corners of the earth, as well as their own mix of Middle-Eastern cuisines. My favourite places to eat are Aura, which boasts a view of Palm Islands from 50 floors up, Nammos Dubai, a famous Greek restaurant owned by the one and only Christian Dior and Atmosphere, with a clear view of the city from the Burj Khalifa. Although eating out is pricey in Dubai, you often pay for the experience.
However, I will emphasize that the street food is just as amazing as the authentic road chai (tea with milk), normally only 2 dirhams (or 70 cents). They also make amazing salads like tabouleh and fattoush, with some Mana’eesh (a bread with spices and herbs) and the creamy yogurt that comes on the side (labneh). And for those of you with a sweet tooth, I was on cloud nine after trying Kunafe, a famous Middle-Eastern dessert. It is a spun sweet dough that sandwiches melted mozzarella cheese, coated in sugary rose syrup and topped with pistachios. The options are endless, and you, for sure, will not sleep hungry.
3. Dubai Screams Contrast
Dubai oozes with luxury, expensive designer materials and elegance, but it also has tiny little souks (old shopping markets), small stoned streets and $2 meals. When I landed and started going around the city, I realized that the image social media had of Dubai was quite different than its reality. Not in a bad way, though. In fact, it was quite refreshing.
I got to see how, on one end of the city, there were multi-billion dollar buildings and a beautiful city landscape, while on the other side, you have tropical vibes with sun-kissed beaches and soft sand.
The famous Sheikh Zayed road stretches through most of Dubai, covering the beach and city side. However, only a few minutes off this road, away from all the grand architecture, are century-old fortresses and tiny pavilions. These pavilions have many small stalls serving dirt cheap yet savoury comfort meals at 1/10th the price of a normal restaurant. There are also small clothing shops with apparel for under $10 at local souks. In contrast, the big malls like The Dubai Mall or Emirates mall are home to designer clothing, accessories and jewellery, which would cost an added four zeros.
While some of the richest sheikhs, CEOs and celebrities live in Dubai, the city is also home to many labour workers with no minimum wage. Many labour workers earn around a dollar an hour. This makes the wage gap between rich and poor people massively large, where one in 100 people can earn around one million dollars a year. To add to this, there is no added tax in Dubai.
4. The Culture
What really stands out in Dubai is hands down the culture. From delicious Middle-Eastern pastries to the heavenly look of the mosques, and exotic Arabic music to the conservative-yet-elegant nature of the locals who dress in embroidered khaleeji (robes). Coming from a Western country with a totally different culture, this side of the world was quite eye-opening.
Fun Fact: I learned that since every four cars are designer (because they are so common they aren’t valued as high), the real value of a car is placed on the license plate. In Dubai, license plates go up to a maximum of five numbers; the fewer numbers on the plate, the higher the value. License plates with one digit are reserved for rulers and sheikhs and those with two or three digits can go for millions of dollars.
5. Insane Architecture
The city’s infrastructure is too good for it not to have its own section in this article. First off, keep in mind that only 30 years ago, most of this city was barren desert land. Now, it has a population of almost 10 million people.
The Museum of the Future is a hollow, oval-shaped building with Arabic calligraphy written all over it. The first hotel I stayed in happened to overlook this masterpiece!
The Burj Al Arab is yet another building right on Jumeirah Beach. It overlooks Palm Islands as well as the city skyline. This is also the world’s only 7-star hotel and costs a whopping $24,000 for one of the presidential suites.
Lastly, is the well-known and impressive Palm Island. This man-made island is shaped like a palm leaf and covers an expansive part of the ocean. Each leaf is home to million-dollar villas and the best of hotels and restaurants (Aura is also located here).
There are many other places with remarkable architecture, but in my opinion, these three definitely take the cake.
From the nightlife to cuisines, the stunning landscapes and buildings, and even the friendliness and safeness of the city, Dubai will always leave a mark on my heart. There is simply so much to see in Dubai that no matter how much I write, it will not fully satisfy how impressive this city is. You will simply have to go there to experience the galore yourself!