Dubai: Why You Should Consider A Visit

December 10, 2013

Travel, United Arab Emirates

I had a very naive perception of the Middle East for the first 30+ years of my life, a picture that included arid land, deserts, camels and oil. Lots of it. It was never on my bucket list of travel spots as it seemed almost too foreign, way too removed from the world I grew up in.

Camel in Dubai

Then I discovered Dubai – skyscrapers, fabulous beaches, man-made islands and marinas, high-glass restaurants, cocktail bars, indoor skiing, and more. This city completely defied all my preconceived notions!

Dubai Marina view_from Palm Jumierah

Building a City from a Blank Canvas

Jim is particularly fascinated by the city design and how much they’ve achieved and built in the last 20 to 30 years.  The picture below should help you visualize what it looked like many years ago before the construction began in the 1990s. (Photo credit: www.maph.org) An unbelievable transformation.

Dubai before construction

Skyscrapers Galore

Which leads me to the 1st reason why you should see and experience Dubai – the impressive array of skyscrapers and architectural designs. I saw my first major skyscraper when I was 12 years old on the way to an organized day trip to New York City. As I stared out the dirty windows of the commuter coach bus, I knew I’d forever be a city girl, admiring the buildings that soared up into the sky.

On my initial visit to Dubai (March 2011), I had no idea it was a mecca for skyscrapers. The world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – is a structure I could stare at for hours, all 2,722 feet of it, and never get bored – though I might suffer a very bad neck strain the next day!

Burj Khalifa

Jim and I marveled at how many new buildings we recognized in the Dubai skyline in just a short two and a half year span from the time of our first visit. Four of the top 20 tallest buildings in the world are currently located in Dubai.

Beautiful Walks

The Dubai Marina was a non-existent place 15 years ago, a completely man-made vision and development that’s still transforming the neighborhood into a massive residential community. An “artificial canal city, built along a two mile (3 km) stretch of Persian Gulf shoreline…when the entire development is complete, it will accommodate more than 120,000 people in residential towers and villas” (Reference – DubaiMarina-Properties)

Dubai marina at night

Walking along the marina promenade was a spectacular walk, and an ideal area to leisurely stroll around on our visit. Not only was the weather perfect (80F or about 26C at the end of November), but the area was also scenic and lively. It was much more crowded compared to our Dubai visit two years prior, filled with expat residents walking, jogging and riding bicycles along the wide, immaculately designed paths, surrounded by brand new architectural masterpieces everywhere!

Me at Dubai Marina

If you like shisha (flavored tobacco smoked through a water pipe), then head to the marina to enjoy it as you sip on a fruit juice or tea at a cafe. Jim and I found a swinging cushioned chair at a cafe where we spent two hours people-watching and overlooking the canals.

Juice and coffee

Amazing Beaches

Our hotel offered a free shuttle bus to a private beach club on the Palm Jumeirah – the world’s largest man-made island – which overlooks the Dubai marina neighborhood and the Arabian gulf waters. There are additionally a number of public beaches all over the city, so it’s not difficult to find a fantastic beach spot to settle in to for the day! Over Thanksgiving weekend, we were sitting outside on the beach getting a tan and wading in the club’s lazy river, a first ever for me at the end of November.

Beach on Palm Jumierah island

Cocktails and Nightlife

Our nights out in Dubai were very different from the pubs we usually frequent (e.g. in order to scope out the best craft beer – a favorite activity of ours!).

Our first evening began with a taste of elegance as we had drinks on the 122nd floor fo the Burj Khalfia at Atmosphere. This was our view looking down on to the rest of the city below.

View from122nd fl looking down

The building to the left of the frame is the Address, a 5 star hotel, and though it appears tiny in the picture, it’s actually 63 stories high and 990 feet tall (approximately 302M). Should give you some perspective about just how high we were up in this building!

Jim&I -drinks at Atmosphere_new

On our last night in Dubai, we met a wonderful group of Australian guys at a fun Irish sports bar called McGettigans. From there we followed our new friends to a lively beach bar  – Barasti – with live music, where we could stand outside with a beer on the beach and look out to the Arabian Gulf. I couldn’t believe I was in the Middle East.

You should know:

Dubai is a muslim country and it is therefore illegal for muslims to drink alcohol of any kind.

However, Dubai’s known as being a more tolerant city compared to other parts of the UAE  for non-muslims and alcohol is available on many “licensed premises”, which includes the majority of the hotels in and around Dubai.

While it’s acceptable to drink inside those establishments, it’s not okay to be irresponsible, and NEVER okay to drive if you’ve as much as sipped on an alcoholic drink.If you’re a resident of Dubai, you’re required to apply for your own license to be able to drink alcohol at home, so there are strict rules.

From what I’ve observed during my recent visit,  it appears to be okay to enjoy a few drinks as long as you’re responsible about it.

A Diverse Array of People and Cultures

From talking to the locals and my own personal observations (I don’t know exact statistics), it appears that many of the workers in Dubai, especially constructions workers and taxi drivers, come from the Asian countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.. Below, a picture from the Dubai creek area where the many large souks are located.

Dubai creek area

Then there’s the native population of Emiratis, where the men are all dressed in long white robes and the women covered from head to toe in black abayas.

Dubai

A large number of European and American expats living in Dubai also add to Dubai’s diversity, along with tourists from other surrounding countries.

Overall, a very eclectic mix of people and cultures, but it seems to work…

Dubai as a Tourist Destination

As the city continues to develop at a fast pace and diversify, the main challenge will be maintaining the right balance, but I have no doubt that Dubai will continue to attract tourists for years to come.

Downtown Duba

Words of advice: There are plenty of “free” options, but Dubai is probably a better choice of destination for those in the luxury (vs. budget) travel category!

A sound and impressive infrastructure already in place, they’re doing everything they can to plan ahead and create bigger and better attractions. If Dubai is not already on your bucket list, I’d recommend including a spot for it.

It was a unique and memorable experience for me and I look forward to seeing how the city transforms over my lifetime.

UAE flag

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About Tanya

I’m a freelance travel and beer writer and a passionate and energetic 30 something - determined to enjoy life and see as much as possible along the way. Recently I lived abroad in London and traveled to 20+ countries within two years! As of January 2014, I'm back in the USA, and currently living in Charlotte, NC. But before all of that, my roots were set in small town America, where I spent the first 23 years of my life living, going to school, and working in the state of Pennsylvania.

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