1001 Arabian nights - why exploring Dubai made me feel like a Sheherazade...
Although I’ve been to Dubai more than 6 times in the last 3 years, I discovered it properly during my last trip in June '17. A fellow traveller who I met on the plane recommended it to me last year during my flight to Europe. With its audacious architecture, spectacular skylines, flourishing contemporary art scene, hot weather and some pretty beaches Dubai has got a lot more to offer than one could have imagined. Despite the rumors, Dubai doesn't consist of concrete only. Although it doesn't have many ancient buildings, it has the biggest skyscraper on the planet - so called Burj Khalifa. It's stunning and definately worth checking out. It’s incredible how fast the city is being developed. 30 years ago there was nothing there except for the dessert whereas now we've got one of the biggest metropolis on earth!
Dubai, known as the entertainment capital of the Middle East, is a city full of greatness: galleries full of contemporary Arabic art, cosy teashops, crowded 'souks' - markets filled with gold, spices and fine Emirati cuisine, a sleek metro that zips through the sky like something out of Blade Runner, man-made islands, giant shopping malls, indoor ski, water parks, clubs and bars, desert, luxurious hotels, fountain shows… well there’s certainly plenty of attractions in Dubai.
So before I tell you about all the little details you should know before heading there, let's talk about the aspect of adventure and why exploring the place made of gold made me feel like Sheherazade.
In my opinion, adventure is good for everyone. First of all, adventure travel feeds our dreams and builds our confidence. It broadens our horizons and fosters our effectiveness which is a very significant skill. As a result of that, we grow as human beings and develop our inner skills.
Furthermore, experiencing wilderness and nature contributes greatly to our soul development. Not only does it have a calming effect but it leaves us calling for more. That's what 'dreaming bigger' denotes in my mind. Touching and uniting with nature can also improve our physical health. The benefits are endless.
Lastly, going on adventures may raise our tolerance to certain things eg. uncertainties in life, lack of material things, shelter and so forth. Placing yourself in situations where things don't always go as planned and getting out of your comfort zone may turn out to be exactly what you need. It might leave you speechless, amazed or over the moon. However, it will certainly help you learn how to cope with uncertainties and lack of things in life. It will help you grow and nurture your soul. So, what are you waiting for?
This particular trip made me both amazed and over the moon. I didn't do my homework and didn't realize how hot it was going to be. Although, I'm a fan of hot weather, at times I was out of breath. I am too tolerant though to allow such tiny things impact my trip. Even starvation during Ramadan wasn't too bad. I took part in a few tours and safaris. Drinking or eating were prohibited. I believe we have to respect other cultures, therefore I followed those stringent rules even though I'm not a Muslim.
So, why did I feel like Sheherazade? Perhaps because of the number of men who approached me including a guy who claimed to be a taxi driver. Even though I didn't tell them many stories, certainly not 1001! It was enough to keep them going and to keep me safe just like those stories that kept Sheherazade safe. I'm glad I've sailed away from my safe harbour. I had a chance to explore, dream and discover another masterpiece, another way of life...
That's enough of my mystery though. Let's do your homework and look at some important details.
Climate in Dubai
Did you know that it’s always summer in Dubai? At least it feels like it every time I land in there. Best time to visit is during October-March though, when temperatures are slightly lower and bearable. The surprising fact is that it only rains there 6 days a year! If you’re heading here for sun, sea and sand, spring and autumn are ideal, when you can bronze your body during the day and cool down after the sunset. Summer is the cheapest time to visit Dubai, but get ready to get sunburnt! Temperatures can easily go over 50 degrees Celsius in July and August. My proper trip started during summer when temperatures reached 45 degrees C. I felt out of breath at times! How to get there If you like Emirates airlines, you can easily get here. All Emirates flights have a stopover in Dubai, which is convenient for those who want to visit and explore the city. I usually fly from Australia with a stop over in Asia and from Asia I fly to Dubai where I can stop over or fly to my final destination.
Cost As far as the cost of food is concerned, it is not difficult to find restaurants that serve a good meal for approximately 20-30AUD unless it's Ramadan! A meal with wine can easily reach 50AUD per person. In particular, dinning in fancy restaurants can get a bit pricy. Fortunately all the restaurants were closed while I was there due to Ramadan - a popular fasting period celebrated by Muslims. So, I only ate breakfast and that was it until late at night. Finding food was rather tricky. I kind of starved and went hungry for a while especially during trips and tours with local guides. I managed to drink some water when noone was looking while I was out. Drinking wasn't allowed even during the day etc. So, avoid going there during Ramadan at all costs unless you fancy starving all day :)
Hotels / Accommodation Dubai is not really known for its hostel style accommodation, however, hotels in Dubai are not so expensive comparing for example to Europe or the USA. You can easily find a great hotel for 100AUD/night, 5 stars hotel as Kempinski or Sheraton if booked in advance can cost you less than 400AUD/night. I personally opted for one of the 4-5* hotels found at booking.com as my hotel was purchased with Qantas points that I collected. It was quite good although I was tempted to stay at airbnb. As I enjoy all types of holiday, whether I stay in a 5* hotel or an airbnb type of accommodation, I am happy to savour and make the most of it. I find that airbnb can provide us with more authentic experience than a luxurious hotel. However, as Dubai has got a very different culture and religion, I didn't feel confident to book airbnb for myself in there. Visas
Visas: GCC nationals do not require a visa. Citizens from the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and most Western European and Far Eastern countries are entitled to a free, 30-day extendable visit visa on arrival. Others must obtain a visa through a local sponsor or hotel. Brazilian travelers: You should request your visa online one month before your trip. In case of flying with Emirates you can request your visa here. Otherwise you should contact your travel agency or your airline company.
Local laws and Etiquette Dubai, although a Muslim emirate, is one of the most liberal of all emirates in the Middle East. Islam is an important aspect of UAE daily life. If you want to be accepted, don’t forget: 1. Dress modestly: women should wear skirts to the knees or longer, tops with sleeves, and nothing too tight or revealing; men should wear trousers/jeans and tops with sleeves. While you’ll see foreigners wearing less, this is highly offensive to Emiratis. Personally, I wore my typical clothes - maxi dresses etc and I got away with it. I didn't cover my hair. You should wear swimwear only at the beach or hotel swimming pool. Otherwise you will risk being fined or jailed. I decided not to swim at all as men kept approaching me. It was better to be safe than sorry.
2. Don’t display affection with the opposite sex in public, especially during Ramadan when it’s forbidden (along with eating and drinking in public during daylight hours). Holding hands, kissing or getting cosy with your other half could lead to arrest and imprisonment. Also, sex between those who are not married is illegal and can lead to severe criminal sanctions.
Homosexuality: Homosexual acts are illegal and subject to severe punishment.
3. Don’t use rude gestures in public, no matter how angry you might be with the guy who just cut in front of you! Again, this can get you in serious trouble in Dubai.
4. It is against the law to drink in public, or to be intoxicated in public; so always take a taxi directly to the hotel after clubbing at a pub. Alcohol is available in hotel and club restaurants and bars; restaurants outside hotels are not allowed to serve alcoholic beverages.
5. Never shake hands with an Emirati woman unless she offers her hand first, and don’t photograph women without permission. I didn't know that before going there.
6. Don’t photograph Sheikhs’ palaces, police stations, military buildings, ports or airports.
7. If you go clubbing, don’t wear sneakers and shorts. Otherwise you’re not be allowed to enter any club. Dubai also has some interesting laws when it comes to nightclubs. They all must close at 3.00am, 21 is the official minimum age allowed to purchase alcohol though some clubs can also refuse entry to anyone under 25. I decided to use the pub and club in my hotel only. It was safer that way.
8. Drugs: The UAE laws on drugs are extremely strict, and include the death penalty or life in jail, don´t bring drugs at all costs! I'm not one of those who smokes but this is just a warning for you guys.
In general, Dubai seems to be safe for women travellers. Although I was approached by quite a few men in Dubai, I was fine. The only time when I felt uneasy was when I landed at 5 Am and a guy who clearly wasnt a taxi driver tried to get me into his car. I'm glad I remained awake. Crime Dubai has a very low crime rate, however, you are advised to take care of your valuables in busy public places and when using the public transport.
Lingo in Dubai
Hello! Welcome! – Ahlan or Marhaban Hi! – Salam! Good Morning! – Sabah el kheer Good Bye! – Ma’a salama Thank You (Very Much) – Shokran (jazeelan ) You’re Welcome! – Al’afw Yes – Na’am No – Laa
Shopping mall nearby Burj Khalifa
More shops full of gold
I ♡ Dubai. This photo was taken by a guy from India who insisted on having a coffee with me. I couldn't get rid of him.
Spectacular fountain show takes place every day at 1pm and every 20 minutes from 6-11pm.
Views from my room. I can't get enough of marvelling at the sunsets...
Souks with gold
I was approached by many guys who called me Shakira in those souks...
A shop with herbs, spices and teas
Dubai Museum is another place that is worth visiting.
The most famous temple in Dubai with no toilet for women!
Rooftop pool. 50'C outside:)