If I had to describe Dubai in one word, it would be excessive. Dubai is an equal mix of Las Vegas’s gamblers and New York’s ritz. I mostly chose a layover in Dubai because a colleague back home told me I HAD TO. He described Dubai as exquisite, lush, and some of the best fun I would have. So, I was off to experience such an exalted phenomenon they call Dubai.
I knew Dubai was going to be hot, filled with foreigners, and tons of alcohol. Now that I have spent three days, I can confirm my expectations.
During the day, Dubai looks like an ordinary city. People are wearing suits, heading to pray 5 times a day, and eating at a variety of (Lebanese, Indian, Pakistani) re
staurants with a Starbucks run mid-day. It looks quite colorless and dry.
Once you head below the surface, you start to find a whole new Dubai. Transportation is extravagant. All bus stops have air conditioning, wifi, and mini-marts located inside. Head down into their metro stops, you might th
ink you are in a mall. There are ATMS, shops, grocery stores, wifi, coffee houses, and tunnels to other streets. I would their extravagant transportation stops is a combination of the hot weather and their grandiose attitudes.
I decided to hit up Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world, during the evening so I could see the sun set over Dubai. It was beautiful- I could see many of the oil refineries miles into the Persian Gulf. Once the sunset, I looked at onto Dubai’s multiplicity of sky-high resorts, buildings, restaurants, you name it- they have it. The lights reflected the energy of the city.
Upon the end of Burj Khalifa, I walked around the Dubai Mall. Holy cow! I had high expectations for sumptuous malls since living in D.C. and visiting the Mall of America- but this one has them all beat. There were Lamborghinis, Prada, Coach, giant chandeliers, 5 star restaurants, etc. I am not one for malls or buying things. I happened across one store and one scarf would have cost me 180 dirham- at a bargaining price! That would have cost me close to $70.
Due to the conservative nature of Islamic countries, there is no alcohol… but, believe me, Emirians have found a way around it. Every hotel has its own restaurant and bar. People go crazy for them. So, my new Swiss friend Diana and I headed to the Armani hotel. It was a gorgeous view and definitely the classiest place I have ever had an Italian drink.
Many Muslim countries take Friday as their Saturday due to their weekly call of prayer at 10 am. Lucky for me, I was there for their Brunch day. After 10 am prayer and worship, most people head to brunch. My friend told me to head to Atelier 7, a cheap brunch restaurant. However, when I entered I thought he lied to me. It was all you can eat and all you can drink with the buffet having sushi, salmon, full lobster legs, steak, and all sorts of desserts. Come to find out, most brunch places are double the price I visited. Some of the most expensive locations cost about 1,000 dirhams whereas mine only cost 200 dirhams (about the cheapest you can get).
So, everyone is drunk at 4 pm. But they don’t stop. I headed out with my new friends and we headed to some beach parties and a dance party called Indulge. To my surprise, people are dancing and not stopping. It is common to keep the party going while dancing from 4 to 8, grab a quick bite, and then from 9 to 2 or 3 am, everyone heads to the bars. People literally party for 15 hours straight. And they thought Americans go hard. I couldn’t even make it the latter part of the night. I, also, personally couldn’t get myself to spend the money. It is common for most people to spend about 2,000 dirhams on one day alone and not look back.
On my last day, I woke up and walked around the Al Fahidi District, some of the older district close to my Air BnB. I visited the coffee museum and the Dubai Museum. I decided to grab something to eat before I grabbed my bags and headed out to the airport and a lady overheard me talking to the waiter. She came over to me and asked where I was from in the states (once I heard her American accent, I knew I could be honest- if they are not from America, I tend to tell them the Chicago area just to make it easy.) I told her Iowa. Turns out she is a teacher in Dubai but went to Luther and is from Western Iowa. Her daughter was visiting with her boyfriend and they both just graduated from Central. I ended up joining them for lunch and we conversed over our mutual connections. The boy even was a religion major!
My Dubai experience was bountiful, for sure. I appreciate the welcoming environment, it definitely was a lovely vacation.
Off to see what a less luxurious location has in store for me.