It might come as quite a surprise to travellers and tourists alike to learn that Dubai is actually a city that backpackers DO visit and in many areas of the city, it's surprisingly affordable! Its central geographic location has always made it a popular stop-off point for holiday makers trying to reach Australia or the UK but these days, that practice has reached backpackers too. This makes Dubai a popular, convenient final destination for many travellers heading home from their travels and I too fall into this category.
Despite Abu Dhabi being closer to the equator by some good 100+ kilometres, I've actually found the heat in Dubai more difficult to bare. This has made it even more challenging getting out about but be assured folks, I've soldiered on and taken the brunt of the sun's harsh rays for you, the great viewing public...
Due to the UAE's relative proximity to the equator, there's some wonderfully strange phenomena to observe here. You see, the sun is so "high up in the sky" for a lot of the day that you hardly cast your own shadow. Imagine then for the moment actually being on the equator line whereby you and your shadow are just one. Weird, huh. I tell you if I ever make it back on the road, reaching an equator city would be pretty cool and a bucket-list check point - if I had one.
I've visited several of the largest malls here in Dubai including Deira City Centre Mall, The Mall of the Emirates and The Dubai Mall to name a few. The latter being the largest in the World. But wait, why on earth would I be visiting large shopping malls largely filled with designer brands!? Well my friends, firstly the 'malls' themselves are considered tourist attractions here. You see, they're so epically large that in addition to providing excess clothing ranges, they also offer facilities outside of the ordinary - how very Dubai. Let's see, I stumbled upon a pretty large aquarium (with scuba divers!), an ice-rink, waterfall and ski center to name the majority of the indoor sights within the mall!
Other reasons for seeking out a mall or three is that they are properly air conditioned. Combine that with some free wifi access, fast-food eateries, plenty of coffee 'n donut shops and you can suddenly see how spend several hours can be spent here which allows for the perfect reset in between one's 40 degree walking exploration.
Dubai - aka 'Little India'.
Dubai is an extremely popular city for people from all over the world to come and try to work in. I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised considering the likes of London and Sydney have been the multicultural epicentres for many years so why should this be any different. Did you know that local 'Emirates' account for sometime like just 10% of the population here!? That leaves a big void to fill but filled it certainly has been, namely with Indians and Filipinos largely filling the remaining 90%. With so many mixed nationalities and cultures such as Arabic, Indian and Filipino, this results in English being the common language. It really is an English speaking world out there...
Dubai is similar to Abu Dhabi in the sense that both cities offer very few hostels. I've been staying in one of three here in Dubz and this one is only one month old. As you know, I tend to stay in smaller dorm rooms to the point I reckon I've spent 95% of my entire dormitory experiences in 4 bed dorms and probably like 98% in no greater than 6 bed shares. This time however I had little choice but to dive into that smaller 2% bracket as I'm in a 12 bed dorm!!
Mercifully though I've had a decent, pleasurable stay here and have met lots of people which is testament to my opening paragraph. I had previously contemplated staying in
some mid range three star hostels here for several of my final few days but truth be told, I've gotten on very well with a co-owner of the hostel and spending some time with her as made living in this small, restricted room tolerable and bordering on enjoyable. If it wasn't for our friendship, I'd have for sure returned to the more expensive option so both myself and my wallet really thank her. At less than £20 GBP per night folks for accommodation in one of the worlds most luxurious cities, let it be known to all of you that suddenly Dubai becomes affordable.
Paolo - how much did you pay again mate? :--) In-fact you should do the sums man and see if you paid £18 for every hour or something.
The tallest building in the World: The Burj Kalifa
Naturally I was always going to visit this but I chose to not pay the £25 GBP to go to the 125th floor or thereabouts. I could afford it but I've seen a lot of vantage points this year and they all have the same, short term effect. That said, I'm far from against the idea and so yet again it serves as a deferred possibility (as per previous post) for if the lads and I come back out here in November. I can completely understand why they'll want to 'do' the tower and by then, I'll probably also want to see it from the top too and not just the bottom. BTW, you can actually go even higher and pay even more if that's your thing...
Honestly though, it is staggeringly tall and elegantly beautiful in its simple aesthetic design. What an engineering masterpiece. Let's see what Saudi Arabia can deliver in the next few years then with plans to go higher.
Admittedly the one thing I didn't get round to seeing but wanted to was The Dubai Fountain which is in the area of the Burj Kalifa lake and said to offer a spectacular water display of an evening. Next time for sure...
I reckon this area personifies Dubai. It's relatively newly built, fresh, clean, modern, sublime and just pretty much perfect upon initial inspection. Having walked around the Marina and JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) for nearly three hours, I didn't feel any pomposity or anything people might perceive from Dubai and its residents to be like. The area wasn't congested which made it instantly more enjoyable allowing me to maximise my enjoyment here admiring the many skyscrapers, mini boats, shops, walking areas and public beaches. If I sprouted a money tree, I can happily say I would love to spend some more time in and around this peaceful, enjoyable area.
Ha, I wish... :-)
The Burj al Arab
The original icon of Dubai remains as stunning now as it did 15 years ago when it was built. Well, I say that from a far of course. The security check point of the man-made island was as far as I could reach but I still managed to get some teaser snaps before going on to snap it in full view:
I didn't actually visit the Palm islands which might initially sound surprising but if you think about it, there's only so much you can enjoy and appreciate on the man-made island. What I mean is that the view you seek of this simply mind-blowing development would be either high up at either the Burj al Arab, the Burj Kalifa or by jumping out of an plane! Certainly staying on the Palm and enjoying the water parks, hotels and whatever else is naturally appealing but that isn't going to happen any-time soon. Incidentally did you know this is also the largest man-made island in the world?
I hope this post on Dubai as sweetened any previous pre-conceived sour taste you may have had about Dubai. I understand and accept that unsubstantiated judgement is
part of human nature and it's something we all do including myself. Whilst we might not be able to stop ourselves doing this, we can do something about the counter-information we are presented. This in this post for example. If you come out here for a holiday I could almost guarantee you'll have a great time as there really isn't much to dislike. Well, after you've accepted the busy, congested roads (though there is a metro) and once you've adapted to the desert heat and ambient temperature. Consider then that the temperature would be currently labelled as 'pretty warm'. Lol. Wow. Anyone fancy a holiday here in July? No, I didn't think so. Me neither...
There will be people who'll say the UAE has never appealed to them. Having spent close to two weeks in the UAE, it's hard for me to fathom such ignorance. Although beyond the scope of this post, there is plenty of activities to do here for the semi-adventurous type of person. If, however, you're more of a beach goer/sun seeker who likes an afternoon stroll and salivates over the thought of fine dining in the evening, Dubai offers this in abundance in its tranquil, beautiful surroundings.
Combine all of this with the warmth and friendliness of the multi-cultured people, suddenly it's very easy for me to understand why people come here for holidays and also why people with fire in their bellies consider relocating their entire lives here. Spend time in Dubai with your eyes and ears open, you'll come to appreciate it's actually really quite a pleasant place to be. Then consider I have been residing nowhere near the exclusive, expensive Jumeirah beach front. Truth is then that Dubai offers a vast contrast in areas such as living accommodation but I must point out that even the less affluent areas do not exude signs of poverty; on the contrary everybody is happy. I didn't see a single homeless person or beggar in nearly two weeks.
Needless to say I've had such a pleasant experience in the UAE that I can honestly say I have my fingers crossed for the end of November and if you're at all interested in joining me, get in touch...