The definition of a desert is: an excessively dry region of extreme temperatures with little or no life. The definition of Dubai is: a fully air-conditioned region of ultimate comfort, overflowing with life. But isn’t Dubai a desert? It is, but an unconventional one. Let us try and define it in more detail.
Dry and Developed
A few decades were sufficient to replace the Bedouin villages, camels and endless dunes from Dubai’s horizon with a shimmering skyline of palms, hi-tech skyscrapers and artificial islands. With the discovery of oil in the 1950s, the United Arab Emirates underwent a fairy-tale makeover. The ruling sheiks shared the riches with the population thus creating a cosmopolitan business and tourist hub with no VAT, zero crime rate and petrol cheaper than water.
Unique and Unbeatable
The uniqueness of Dubai lies in its contrasting nature – a modern Western façade covering the solid Muslim building blocks. Its most striking feature is the matchless desire for primacy: the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa with its 828m; the most luxurious hotel in the world – the ‘seven star’ Burj Al-Arab; the most expansive man-made islands in the world – the Palm Islands; and the biggest amusement park in the world – Dubailand (to be completed by 2020). Undoubtedly, Dubai wants to compete with the entire planet and so far it has always won by creating attractions beyond imagination.
For instance, can you ski in the middle of a desert? In Dubai you can. Inside the Mall of the Emirates, you can find Ski Dubai – an indoor snow mountain with 5 slopes that will make you forget the 45°C outside. Another human-made wonder is the underwater hotel, the Hydropolis, soon to be completed at 20m below the surface of the Persian Gulf. For an explicit example of Dubai’s opulence, think of the 2000 square metre surface of 22-carat gold used for the construction of the iconic Burj Al-Arab hotel, now a symbol of Dubai.
Brilliant but… Beware of camels
Despite its urge for modernity, Dubai’s traditions have remained intact. Visitors will notice many signs (such as the “Beware of camels crossing” street sign) that will lead them beyond the emirate’s diamond-encrusted surface to its priceless Arabian soul.
Instead of lingering in the mall, why not explore the colourful souks, or traditional outdoor markets, brimming with dried fruits, bright fabrics, sweet incense, hookahs and souvenirs. Get lost in the Dubai Gold Souk among the kilos of 24 carat gold (no price tags there: it’s all up to your negotiating skills!). The Deira Spice Souk will enchant your senses as you pass by the piles of cinnamon, yellow saffron and aniseed.
Why not ignore the Formula 1 and rather see a camel race or get to know the sheik’s favourite hobby, the falconry. If you are tired of Western comfort, head for a more adventurous accommodation at the Bedouin villages in the desert. Sleeping in tents, going on camel safaris, drinking tea with the Bedouins and covering your hands with henna tattoos will make you live a true Arabian tale.
Those who are genetically socialite will fall in love with Dubai. There is no better place for high-class entertainment and shopping all year long. Here, spending money is as natural as breathing..
Relatively low prices, no VAT and mind-blowing malls attract thousands of shopaholics, especially during the Dubai Shopping Festival.
After an intense shopping marathon you can relax (showing off your new golf sweater) at one of Dubai’s exclusive golf courses. Other sports will keep you busy at the Dubai Sports City, whereas bolder athletes can try sandsurfing and micro lighting.
A long day of activities requires an equally long night of fun in Dubai’s restaurants and clubs. As always, the best way to get acquainted with a new culture is through its cuisine. Although Dubai offers an impressive selection of menus, choose a typical Arabian dinner. You can climb up a skyscraper for a dinner with a breathtaking view on the side or enjoy Oriental delicacies with live music and belly dancers on a boat sailing down the beautiful Dubai Creek.
Naturally, after an arduous night of clubbing, the best place to recover in the morning is the fashionable Jumeirah Beach adored by the Dubai society.
Intriguing and Intercultural
An interesting fact about Dubai’s society is that about 85% of it is made up of expatriates. The many immigrants from Asia and Europe have imported their corresponding cultures resulting in a true melting pot. Yet, Dubai remains a traditionally Muslim state, where strict religious rules are respected by its entire multi-ethnic population.
Overall, once those simple rules are understood, everyone, not necessarily shamelessly rich, or posh or important, can find their own, Dazzling, Unforgettable, Brimming, Alluring, Inspiring definition of Dubai!
A guest post by Nazeli K. Kyuregyan.