You can’t go to the United Arab Emirates and not visit the emirate that put this country on the map! Dubai is about a 90 minute drive from Abu Dhabi, making it an easy weekend getaway for those who want a bit of beach, partying and (more) shopping.
Dubai is a real city in the desert, filled with glitzy high rises and home to the largest building in the world – Burj Khalifa. It’s a city of extremes with a blended culture of Emirates and Indians, as well as the most expensive city in the Middle East.
Dubai now has a metro system, which I didn’t get the opportunity to use since my friend and I drove there, but it makes the city easier now to explore. We stayed at a 4 star hotel (there is no hotel really below this standard) in the center of the city, and checked out the nightlife which is limited to clubs located inside high end hotels. My friend had told me about the racism she encountered being African Canadian in a Middle Eastern country and for the first time, I also encountered it. Although up until this point I did notice strange glances at me from older men which I shrugged off, however while at this club we had several older (50+) Indian men, who were quite inebriated, try to ‘buy’ us for the night. Of course we politely declined and didn’t let it ruin our night. We were just there to enjoy the music and dance the night away. I then noticed that women don’t go to bars/clubs alone in the UAE, they travel in co-ed groups if going out. If a women (who was not Emirati) was alone then it was a sign that she must be ‘working’. It was a world of difference from what I had been used to, and for the first time I encountered culture shock in the Middle East.
The next day, still in shock especially when I was told my skirt might to too short, I explored the Souk, famous for gold, spices and souvenirs. Here you can also see the world’s largest gold ring. In fact Dubai is known as the city of gold because it seems to be an obsession here. I suppose because all these Dirhams are safer in gold bars.We also got samples of chocolate made from camel’s milk which was surprisingly very delicious!
From the Souk I could see Dubai Creek with little boats you can take for 1 Dirham to cross the creek. I got on the boat just before sunset, capturing some pretty awesome scenes. Then I finally felt that THIS is in fact Dubai, the simple life way before the glitz, gold and tall buildings took over. This was still how the locals crossed the creek, the locals who were immigrants from India and the Philippines, in a bustling marketplace, just trying to make enough money so they can send it home to their families. Finding these moments is tough in UAE, where everyone calls you ma’am.
The last place I wanted to explore was the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in Dubai with an indoor skating rink and an aquarium. It was interesting to see that hanging out at the malls was a family outing in Dubai. Women cloaked in a burka would be out on dates with their husbands, and most of these women, although cloaked, would have a face full of makeup and their nails did. This was amusing to me since culturally women wanted to hide their faces, but would still spend their time to look good.
Dubai and the UAE are fascinating due to their clash of religious and modern culture, which seem to harmoniously co-exist here. However it is not as modern as they present to the world. I am not a fan of feeling oppressed as a woman, or due to the color of my skin. I enjoyed the experiences I had however it didn’t feel like a place I could live or stay for too long. A major setback for me is the heat, plus the treatment of people based on their ethnicity. However my friends who have lived and worked in the UAE for several years have different perspectives, which is why we all need to explore and experience things for ourselves!