For most of us living in the western world, the thought of the Middle East brings visions of heat, sand, camels, political unrest, women in burkas, men in white robes, and run down buildings. However, you are in for quite a surprise.
In the last 13 years, Dubai has become a city beyond your wildest imagination. Dubai’s feats include the worlds tallest building, the only 7 star hotel in the world, the worlds largest mall, an indoor ski slope, and a lot more. They really have developed man made islands that look like a palm tree from the air, with dozens of man-made beaches, both public and private. Unlike any other middle-eastern city, Dubai is clean, safe, with more foreigners than locals, and a thriving nightlife. It will remind you 0f an American metropolis, with the best hotels, restaurants (including your favorite chains of fast food and coffee) and hospitality that you only expect in the west.
Of course, what this also means is that Dubai has lost its personality somewhat. But no matter; you can get to old and more traditional Dubai from anywhere in the modern part of Dubai in less than 20 minutes by car. There, you will find the old Gold Souk, older buildings and more locals as well as working-class Indians and Pakistanis from the sub-continent.
Back in the modern (new Dubai) section of town, Dubai impresses in that they have developed special commercial zones that bring the right people, companies and perhaps commuters together. For instance, the university and schools are in one area, hospitals, clinics and surgeries are in one area, internet city holds all the internet companies, while media city holds, you guessed it, all the media companies. It is a little surreal, yet refreshing to see so much planning go into a city.
Housing has bounced back sharply from the fiasco of 5 years ago when property values fell by 90%. But despite the bounce back, given Dubai’s desirability, prices are still reasonable. While most people drive to Dubai, and given that temperatures tend to fluctuate between warm and hot throughout the year, most people own a car or hail a taxi (which is relatively cheap). But tourists and the working class alike, sometimes use the metro, a two-train system that covers a lot of ground, is impeccably clean and surprisingly easy to use.
From the airport, it is most convenient to take a taxi to your hotel. The maximum you can expect to pay for a taxi ride from the airport is AED 100, which is roughly £20 or $30. Most rides won’t cost you that much. In fact, AED 100 is about the most you will pay for a taxi, and that too if you go from one corner of Dubai to the other. If you take the metro, your cost will be less than AED 10 per person, but from the airport, that would take a while. At some point during your stay. you should make it a point to ride the metro. It is a very pleasant experience indeed.
For night life, there are more spots than I have room for here. Needless to say, you will have access to anything. In fact, if you think you will be hard pressed to find a drink, you couldn’t be more wrong. It is true that one has to be affiliated or connected to a hotel to serve alcohol, but there are plenty of bars, wine bars and clubs that have done exactly that. So you will find your poison quite easily. It also means that a lot of nice clubs and lounges are at big hotels. The Address in Downtown is one such hotel. There is of course Burj-al-Arab, the Fairmont and many more such hotels with amazing night life.
Food in Dubai is nothing short of spectacular. If you long for familiar restaurants, you get the best of UK and US. Wagamama, Nandos and Chilis come to mind right away, but more importantly, they have restaurants like Zuma, an upscale Japanese restaurant with six locations worldwide including one in Dubai, Nobu and Buddha Bar, all of which have a few select locations worldwide. Keep in mind, there are plenty of other local, but upscale and expensive restaurants. Bottom line, if you want cheap eats, there are plenty of those, but if you have money to spend, there are plenty of establishments that will help you empty your wallet.
Dubai seems to have become a destination for professionals everywhere to live and enjoy life, earn a fantastic tax free living and explore Asia, Africa and Europe from the hub that is Dubai. If I were in my twenties, I wouldn’t mind locating to Dubai for the same reason. So when you go, prepare yourself. You have no idea how much Dubai will surprise you.