Living in Dubai has felt so different to anywhere else I have lived. Not just because of the vast desert, cactus and roaming camels, but the way of life, the law, the culture and communities that make up this incredible city.
If I could describe Dubai, I would say it is definitely a playground for the rich, where everything can be done. The biggest, the fastest, the tallest, whatever it is, you can pretty much find it here.
All over the city, construction is happening and in just 20 years, they have built some of the best businesses and tourist attractions in the world. The population has grown tremendously, and currently there are more expats living here than UAE residents. Something I love the most about Dubai, is the traditions and vibrant culture that make this city so dynamic.
Living in a country where prayer and religion is so important, has been such an eye opener to me. I have learnt that nothing stops prayer, you can be driving down the motorway and cars, trucks, lorries will be pulled over in the hard shoulder, and men/women will be on the side of the road praying on the floor. Now that seems so dangerous and in the UK that would never be allowed, but here it is, which makes it so interesting to see happening all over Dubai. Muslims pray 5 times a day and every mosque calls them to prayer at certain times. You can often be laying on the beach or walking around the mall shopping and all of a sudden you hear Adhan calling Muslims to prayer. It’s such a beautiful sound.
If you are wanting to visit a mosque, I would recommend doing it in the UAE. There are so many picturesque ones, the architecture and designs are amazing, some allow tourists to go inside. You do have to cover up before entering, there will be staff at the entrance to hand you a hijab to put on, if you aren’t wearing the correct attire.
The location of Dubai definitely has its challenges, after growing up in the countryside surrounded by lush green grass, it has been such a contrast moving to the desert with sand nearly everywhere you look. I experienced my first sand storm here, it was definitely not pretty. Visibility is low, sand and dust are blown all across the city and lingers the air, you find yourself holding your breath and walking with your eyes shut if you haven’t got a mask/goggles to put on. You do try and find yourself staying indoors and avoiding going out on those days because it can be quite dangerous and sand hitting your legs at wind speed is quite painful, but never the less experiencing a sand storm has got me another tick off my bucket list.
The hardest part I have found getting use to is the way of life, this place has one of the highest percentages of immigrants in the world, and this is the city I have realized that racism exists in so many different forms. Here it is important what country you come from, social status plays a key role like no other place I’ve been too or lived in before. It’s also the first time I’ve seen special areas allocated for ‘gold members’ and ‘women only’ in public. At attractions you will find special que lines for women only, and on public transport seating areas are divided. In Dubai there is a hierarchy and when it comes to finding a job and receiving a salary, depending on where you are from, depends on what salary you can expect and if other nationalities get priority over you for the position. Once again after growing up in the UK, where everyone is deemed equal and valued no matter where you are from, this has definitely been a real wake up call. If I could take anything away from this reality check it would be to remain humble, and never take anything for granted. I have seen and heard stories of how people here survive on the little money they earn, how they need to send it to their families. The only benefit when it comes to earing money here, is the UAE does not have any federal income tax. So, every month what you earn and work for is yours, you get to keep. But never the less, I’ve learnt that it really does matter where you are from, as that will depend on if you live to work or work to live.
Dubai isn’t what everyone says it is, yes granted there are many laws/rules that are different to other countries, but it’s not what people portray it as. Many people’s concern when traveling here, is whether or not they have to cover up. Well let me tell you, it is okay to wear normal swimwear on the beaches, you do not have to worry too much about covering up when out and about. You should always be mindful about what you will wear for the day and where you are going, but unless entering a place of worship you shouldn’t worry. About the other laws, there are some I will never understand the reasons behind such as, ‘no affection in public’, this is something I have always thought is a strange restriction, but one you must respect to risk being deported, fined or being imprisoned. Also, Dubai’s licensing laws require venues serving alcohol to be attached to a hotel or private clubs. It is illegal to drink in the street or a public space. Crime rate here is so low, I actually feel safe walking around in the dead of night than I would walking down a street in the US in broad daylight. Although I don’t make it a habit of wondering around at night alone, the point is I don’t feel I’d be in any danger if I did, beyond perhaps a rude whistle from a fellow expat spilling out of a club. Horror stories do get around on the internet, or in the news about expats who get arrested and put in prison for things westerners take for granted and their own country would see as minor incidents. The easy way to avoid this is to know the laws/rules before you go, and respect the countries wishes.
The weather is hot, hot, hot! Dubai doesn’t have four seasons, it is either winter or summer and when it’s winter, it still feels like summer. It can reach temperatures of up to 50c and for 4 months of the year most people leave the country, travelling to escape the heat. A lot of the theme parks, gardens, and outdoor amusements close during this time, as it just isn’t comfortable and everyone hibernates in the day. The malls are all air conditioned and after 4pm people disburse into the shops, cinemas and any other indoor location with an air conditioner. Every mall is awesome, each different in their own way, the Mall of the Emirates has a ski slope in it! Who wouldn’t want to ski in the desert! The Dubai mall, the biggest in the world, is one everyone has to experience at least once. The giant aquarium is one you cannot miss!
Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, The Burj Khalifa is 830m to the tip, the views from the top are staggering. Fun fact – The tower is so tall that residents that live above the 80th floor, have to wait an extra two minutes for the sun to go down, before they can break their dawn to dusk fast during Ramadan.
The dancing fountains and light show, has to be one of the best things I have seen here. The way the water is timed so perfectly so it dances to the music is amazing, the lights and laser show that is projected onto the Burj is awesome too. You have to get there early, to get a good spot in the crowd, the atmosphere is what makes this free show all the more spectacular.
Now let’s talk about Camels!
I’m just laying on the beach minding my own business, then all of a sudden one camel, two camel comes strolling along the beach. One of them ‘casual’ moments! Of course, the ones on the beach are with their owner, he parade’s them up and down until tourists offer him money for a ride, but just having Camels lying next to your beach towel, seems so surreal. Oh, so fascinating in the moment.
I love being able to go out into the desert on safaris, having BBQs while watching the sun go down. There’s definitely something special about watching the golden sun, sink over the sand dunes. There are so many incredible things for tourists to do in Dubai, and so many opportunities for work and business growth. I kind of see Dubai as being in the centre of the world, so travelling is made so much easier which ever country you want to visit, because it seems you’re already half way there. It really has been incredible experiencing living in the UAE, it’s definitely a country that has educated me more so on culture, religion, social status and how the other half live.