Get to Know a City: Dubai

Get to Know a City: Dubai

Dubai. The name speaks to many degrees. Luxury. Innovation. Success. Daring. Awe.

Dubai is all of this and more. As old as 1095, the region has seen inhabitants for at least 8000 years prior to that, the city was merely a small settlement for many centuries as trade steadily grew. The town began its true rise in 1912 when Saeed bin Haser Al Maktoum who helped form the merchant class of Dubai that would grow its various industries over the next few decades. Following the formation of the United Arab Emirates in the 70s and rising oil prices in the 90s, the city prospered as its infrastructure grew with the development of a variety of free zones (areas of low taxes).

But who is Dubai?

skyline_dubai
Where is Dubai? How do I meet it?

To clarify some confusion, let’s set a few things straight. Dubai can refer to Dubai the city or the Emirate of Dubai, the federal state where the city is located. For this article, we’ll focus on Dubai the city, the capital of the Emirate of Dubai and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, the country it resides in.

But where is that?

Well, the United Arab Emirates is located east of Saudi Arabia and on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf. Though it is one of the smaller countries in Arabia, it is by far one of the most prosperous. A part of the Arabian desert, this rich city has easy access to the sunny and rugged sand dunes that are popular for desert safaris and dune buggy excursions.

And traveling there is probably easier than ever, with flights available to Dubai International Airport (DXB) through Emirates Airlines and flydubai, alongside over 90 other airlines.

Placed right on the coast, the Dubai Marina receives regular cruise services from Royal Caribbean international, MSC, Princess, and more.

How does Dubai feel?
How does Dubai feel?

Let’s be blunt. The Arab Peninsula is hot, and Dubai is in no way exempt from this, despite the chilly Ski Dubai. The coldest you’ll see it get is the mid-50’s F (13 C) and 84 F (29 C) with highs in the low 100’s F (40 C), so you might need a sweater from November to mid-April, but chances are you can rock the short sleeves for most of the year.

You’re probably thinking you can escape winter and are planning your New Years in Dubai, but know that others have already thought of this. November to March is the best time to visit for its clear blue skies and great weather, but it’s also its peak tourist season.

When you’re packing, keep in mind that your beach attire should stay at the beach, and you’ll want lots of formal wear when you go out. Revealing clothing will get you many side glances outside of the resorts and beaches, so if you plan on exploring the city (which you definitely should) you’ll want breathable and respectful shirts, pants, and dresses.

What are Dubai's best features?
What are Dubai’s best features?

Dubai is a city of amazing architecture that’s impossible to miss, and we’re betting you’ll want to see it all on your next trip. For your ease, a Dubai sightseeing tour is the best option, granting you easy transfers throughout the city to the Burj Al Arab, its rich Gold Souk, the massive Dubai Mall, and famous Palm Jumeirah. Along the way, you’ll get to climb to the top of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, and take a scenic ride on a classic Abra boat across the Dubai Creek.

Now that you’ve seen the city’s most well-known attractions, you’ll want to dig a little deeper. If you’re looking to discover the rich Arab culture, then an in-depth Dubai tour is a great way to experience Dubai from its time as a small fishing village all the way to the modern marvel it is today.

If you’re on vacation with your family and want to escape the resort then there are plenty of great attractions for you. The city hosts two expansive and fun-filled water parks, the Wild Wadi and Atlantis Aquaventure, as well as SkiDubai, the Middle East’s only indoor ski resort, and the Dubai Dolphinarium.

Ultimately, one of the city’s best attractions is the winding sand dunes just outside of it, which are perfect for sandboarding, dune bashing, camel safaris, and evening dinners at classic desert camps. It’s the missing piece of adventure that will complete your next vacation to Dubai.

Be aware that whatever you do, Dubai is not for the budget traveler. From flights to hotels, you’ll likely break the bank getting here, so you’ll want to have a quite a bit saved up for its great activities. Packaging tours and passes together is always the best option to see all you can at a discounted rate, and always keep an eye out for sales.

beach_dubai

Dollar United Arab Emirates dirham
Language Arabic, English
Cultural Etiquette Remember that Dubai is a Muslim city and being aware of Islamic culture should be key in your travel plans. As we mentioned earlier, breathable but formal clothing is the most respectable attire you can choose. Some areas you can relax in shorts and t-shirts, but if you’re planning on visiting the old city or the mosques (such as the impressive Jumeirah Mosque) you’ll be expected to cover your shoulders, arms, and legs. Women will also be required to wear a headscarf within the mosques.

Despite the modest attire, Dubai is also a friendly city and prides itself on hospitality, and you’ll find yourself warmly greeted by hotel staff, tour guides, and business partners.

There are some gender politics to be aware of when meeting others. If you’re greeting a member of the opposite who is Muslim (especially if they’re female), wait until they extend their hand first before shaking hands, and don’t be surprised if it’s not offered. They don’t mean any disrespect; it’s merrily a norm.

Alcohol is largely abstained from in Dubai outside the hotel bars, so don’t plan a big bachelor party here. Rude gestures, bad language, and lots of noise should be avoided as well. Dubai is still an extremely fun city, no alcohol required.

Dubai is still an extremely fun city, no alcohol required.

For more information on cultural etiquette in Dubai, check out the guide on Dubai.ae.

Food The city is rich in Arabic food with plenty of expertly measured spices and freshly made dishes, all the while catering to any dietary restrictions, including vegan and gluten-free restaurants.

To avoid any awkwardness (and save some money) know that alcohol is rarely served outside hotel bars, meaning the prices are going to be rather high.

Restaurant Etiquette Because of Dubai’s focus on hospitality and service, you’ll feel quite guilty if you don’t tip regularly. Some restaurants include service fees in the bill, but it is still customary to tip.

Taxis are relatively cheap throughout the city and a tip of AED 5 or 10 is a good way to end your ride.

Something that sets it apart from most Western countries is that you are expected to tip bag packers at superstores, but no more than a small amount of change, as they’ll be serving many customers throughout the day.

Above all, always remember to say thank you and give a small tip.

Safety Very safe. Having your passport on you at all times is a good practice, but beyond that you won’t have much to worry about on your trip.
Getting Around There are a variety of options, including the fully automated Dubai Metro, which currently only offers the Red and Green line running along the coast and throughout the downtown area, and there are plans for further expansion.

While the Metro connects the two major districts, there is also the Dubai Tram which runs along the area just south of the Palm Jumeirah and the Palm Jumeirah Monorail, which services the archipelago.

The city also houses one of the largest bus networks in the world, offering services all around the city.

Taxi cabs are also relatively cheap and travel all throughout the city.

Emergency Services Police: 999
Firemen: 997
Ambulance: 999
Additional Resources Visit Dubai has plenty of information regarding events, accommodation, and itinerary suggestions.

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John Gray

A poet by heart and an editor by trade, I have traveled across the world in pursuit of my studies and to criss-cross destinations off my bucket list. While a student at the University of Iowa, I traveled to Cuba, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, where I lived for 6 months. I am currently planning a return trip to see the Great Barrier Reef and Western Australia.

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