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Myths about Dubai & The UAE

October 25, 2014

 

  • The myth:Everyone is super rich
  • The truth:Everyone is not super rich! It is true that the brilliant rules of the UAE allow a tax free income, but really in the UAE, you see people from all walks of life, making all sorts of money. Maids who work in the homes of locals or expats can notoriously make as little as 1000 AED a month. It is even common to see locals from all sorts of the financial spectrum, some seeming to have a very healthy income, and those who have a modest one.There is most certainly money to be made, but you still have to live to a budget as you would in any country, you’ve also got to really try to stick to it as there are far too many places to spend it!

 

  • The myth:Everyone lives in 5 star and 7 star high rises or compounds
  • The truth:Everyone does not live in 5-7 star high rises or homes, however there are many middle class homes that look like compounds. There are also many apartment complexes.

 

  • The myth:The weather is too hot to live/ do anything here
  • The truth: The weather is hot & humid, but you are still able to live, explore, go to the beach, and tour the city

 

  • The myth:Every woman must cover in Burkas, head scarves, Hijabs
  • The truth:This is one myth that is widespread and comes to the forefront of most people’s minds when thinking about Arab or Muslim-majority countries. The UAE is widely considered one of the most forward thinking countries with regards to gender relations in the Arab and Muslim world. Unlike the UAE’s neighbour, women here are allowed to drive. Women also make up half of the university population and are full participants in the workforce. Emirati women wear abaya (voluminous black gown) and shayla (a head covering) but unlike Saudi Arabia or Iran it is not enforced but more of a national custom. You will even sometimes run in to Emirati ladies who do not wear the shayla or even the abaya. Expat women are not expected or asked to wear abaya or shayla and are pretty much allowed to wear whatever it is they like provided that it is modest i.e. no overt displays of cleavage or short-shorts (unless it is in the appropriate place like a beach). Of course is also truly depends on where you are in the Emirates. Dubai is a lot less conservative than Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi is less conservative than Sharjah. So, the best thing to do is to just adjust your clothing to wherever you’re going in the Emirates so not to cause offence.

 

  • The myth: Everyone drives sports cars
  • The truth:Everyone does not drive a sports car, however I saw many many nice ones, much the same as driving down South Beach in Miami. Although the cars in Dubai were most likely own and not rented

 

  • The myth:Dubai is a country
  • The truth:Dubai is not a country, it is a city of the UAE. Many also think Dubai is the capital, Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, which is smaller than Dubai

 

  • The myth: It is not a massive sandpit with oil refineries everywhere
  • The truth: Dubai is very much a city like any other. It actually is probably more up to date and modern in architecture, construction and technology than most other major cities. Abu Dhabi is surprisingly green, as is Al-Ain. The desert that surrounds Abu Dhabi city and Dubai is yellowish with lots of little plants growing all over. You’ve really got to drive out a little bit to find real desert.

 

  • The myth: No meat country, Dubai is a Muslim country, therefore haram (forbidden) meat is banned.
  • The truth: The UAE is a forward-thinking country that has found a way to successfully cater for its expat population while respecting the laws and traditions of its own people. Most supermarkets have specific non-Muslim sections selling otherwise forbidden meat products, and numerous restaurants also have licences.

 

  • The myth: You cannot drink in Dubai & you need to have a liquor licence in order to buy alcoholic beverages from liquor shops.
  • The truth: Alcohol is sold in hotels, most hotels have clubs and bars inside them, and in some stores in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (and other Emirates that have fleeky hotels). Most other states allow the selling of alcohol, but like Abu Dhabi require a alcohol license (although, if truth be told, it is hardly enforced). Sharjah, I believe, is the only Emirate that is completely dry. It is worth mentioning though, that during holy nights or special holidays within the Islamic Calendar hotels, bars and restaurants enforce dry nights.

 

  • The myth: All public displays of affection are banned.
  • The truth: This is false but there’s one thing you must remember: displays of affection with someone to whom you are not married are illegal under the UAE penal law of 1987. You will see plenty of married couples holding hands in the malls and our advice would be, if you’re married, to be respectful of local customs and not go any further than that.

 

  • The myth: All food is imported
  • The truth: It is easy for one to assume that livestock and crops cannot possibly grow in the arid desert climate of Dubai. Indeed, most foods in supermarkets are brought in from all over the world, from Australia to Zambia. However, there has been a significant shift in recent years towards more sustainable produce from local farmlands. More than 80 different varieties of crops are grown in the UAE and in 2012, almost 60,000 tonnes of cow milk and 15,000 tonnes of chicken were produced in Dubai.

What is your perception of Dubai and The UAE?

Featured Lifestyle Travel

Dubai Conception

October 20, 2014

I’ve always wanted to go to Dubai. My sister and I, talked about going to Dubai for over a year. I finally mustered up the courage to book tickets and click submit. That took a lot of staring at the computer screens on many occasions. Prior to going to Dubai, I had only traveled across the US and much of the Caribbean.

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Dubai certainly breathes by the mantra “bigger is better”. This trip was amazing from beginning to end. Lucky we sat in a 2 person row on the way to London, so I was laying all over my sister as she was on me. Reminded me of our adolescent days when we took car rides to Virginia Beach and we were cramped up in the backseat. #Goodtimes We endured a 7 hour flight to London, a 3 hour layover, and 7 more hours to Dubai. The layover was much needed to stretch our body and walk around. Plus, if you have ever been to London, the airport is like a mall with plenty of shopping to do and things to see. I managed to watch movies 90% of the time on both flights to Dubai, however, I can’t say the same for the return. I slept pretty much the entire 14 hours, minus waking up food. I think I was to excited on the way to Dubai to sleep and ready to get off the plane on the way home.

I booked our trip with Gate 1 Travel, which was amazing, being that it was our first really big trip. I didn’t want to have any mishaps and I especially did not know what I would have been booking. Our booking included EVERYTHING, ALL of our flights, Breakfast every morning, 3 dinners, all of our tours, all of our transportation to/from the airport and to/from our tours. In addition, our tours also included a very thorough and knowledgable tour guide who very very informative with the architecture, history, culture and community of Dubai.

Now for starters, let me just start of by saying Dubai is not what most people perceive it to be if they are visiting for the first time. Although there are many Muslim women who cover up in Hijab. What I learned about Dubai is that the UAE is comprised to people from all over the world. It is made up of about 19% Emerati, 23%  Arab and Iranian, 50% South Asian, and 8% from other expatriates, including Westerners and Easterners. Much to my surprise, I also observed many Africans here. Dubai does not grant citizen ship to those that live there, even if you were born there. In order to reside in Dubai you must have a working visa or a school visa. You can not just live there or vacation there for a lifetime, without one of the two. Would be nice though. Arabic is the official and national language of the UAE. Apart from Arabic, English is widely used as a second language. It’s actually pretty easy to maneuver in Dubai, as all the signs are also in English.

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Another thing I learned, is Dubai’s government really cares and puts money back into its communities and people. There are no taxes in Dubai, both working or sales tax don’t exist. You take home what you make. Many of the homes, which they call compounds and that would be consider to be mansions belong to normal “middle class families”. The streets are so clean that you literally could eat off of them, the mall was the same. I thought it was just so funny and interesting that mothers would let their babies just crawl on the floor. Now my sister is the ultimate germ-a-phob and she even said ‘I see why people let their babies on the floor. It is literally that clean.From the airport our transportation picked us up as soon as we received our luggage. We stayed at Crowne Plaza Dubai-Deira, Dubai, which was very close to everything, so our taxi rides were pretty feasible. Our trip started with a fabulous day discovering one of the world’s most futuristic cities with its dramatic skyline. We began at Dubai Creek, cutting through the heart of the city and winding our way from the trading port of the Gulf to the Ras al Khor bird sanctuary on the desert edge of the city.

We drove past the Jumeirah Mosque with its unique architecture and the Dubai Marina with amazing views of the man-made Palm Island (Also known as Atlantis), the artificial archipelago in the Persian Gulf. Of course, we were surrounded by the astonishing aquarium inhabited by thousands of marine species from around the world. Then we continued past Dubai’s signature landmark,The Burj Al-Arab, which is the celebrated sail-shaped hotel.

 Then, we briefly walked through the colossal Dubai Mall to get to one of the sights I looked forward to the most. We climbed 162 floors (by elevator haha) to the very top of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.The view from here is unequal to any panoramic view I have ever seen in the world.
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On to the Dubai Museum, housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, the Dubai World Trade Center, and the bustling alleys of traditional spice and gold souks. The Gold Souq, which is located near the Deira Fish Market, as well as the spice, textile, and perfume souqs reminded me so much of the markets in The Bahamas. If you’ve been to any market in the Caribbean it will remind you of the same, however with much better quality items. We took the Abra Water Taxi along the nearby Creek to catch a better glimpse of the souq, other merchants, and views of skyscrapers from the water. At night we went to the club. All the clubs are inside hotels, due to the drinking laws in Dubai. (Read my post on Myths about Dubai) The club was not what I expected. It was very American lol The DJ played all the hip hop songs as in the states (some old/ new school). The drinks were strong but also expensive. We danced all night and had a great time.

The next day, we had a lazy day. Our hotel had a spa, so we spent the day at the pool, getting massages and relaxing in the wet sauna at the spa. Next to the pool we had a cabana where we ordered food and Shisha. The food was great and the shish was great as well. I had been waiting to smoke Shisha since we had arrived. We spent the afternoon exploring the city again. Walking around downtown, observing the architecture, the people, the culture.

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The following day, we set off on our excursion. I previously booked a 4×4 sand dune bashing, Camel Ride, Quad Bike, sand boarding and Camel Farm Tour, which was absolutely amazing. (See pictures for more info) We selected an early morning tour so we could have the rest of the day to explore other things. Im glad we did, we returned in time to still eat brunch and before the other group left for the afternoon tour. They did not return until about 8pm. My sister and I spent the rest of the day exploring. We caught a taxi back to the gold soul to do some shopping and then over to the Dubai Mall, which remember I said was colossal to of more shopping. Our tour guide informed us that “ if you spent 10 minutes in every store, it would take you 1 full week to see the entire mall!” First, we ate in the food court, which was not only the best mall food court food I had in my life. It was pretty good Indian food as well, and I eat a lot of Indian food. Yeah, so we spent 4 hours in the mall, and only covered probably 1/8 of the mall. It ridiculously big, but who doesn’t love shopping!

IMG_3128IMG_3134IMG_3136On the last day in Dubai, we traveled to Al Ain, the Garden City of the UAE and one of the oldest settlements. Al Ain, a green city with an incredible number of public parks, it is also the birthplace of H.H. Sheikh Zayed, the Former President of the UAE. We took a visit to The Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum, which was the residence of Sheikh Zayed and his family between 1937 and 1966. The tour also included a visit to the most important museum in the UAE, Al Ain National Museum which houses artifacts of ancient times that have been discovered in and around the city, ancient Arabic manuscripts and royal treasures. We went to see a traditional camel market and to the Hili Archaeological Gardens, the excavation site of a Bronze Age settlement that dates to back 3000 B.C. In the evening, we returned to Dubai to enjoy the evening at our leisure. Again we walked the city, stores, and took part in some souvenir shopping with some others from our group members.

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The next morning, we took an 1.5 bus ride with our group. Here we stayed at the Marriott Hotel Downtown, Abu Dhabi, which also had a club/bar terrace and club/bar rooftop lounge. Westarted off the day with a city tour of the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, also known as the Arabian Jewel. Then we drove past Jebel Ali, the largest man-made port in the world before arriving at the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, iconic symbol of Abu Dhabi. Next, we continued along the city’s glamorous Corniche, with blue waters glittering on one side and shimmering skyscrapers lining the other. At the Breakwater, we paused to take photos of the city’s fabulous skyline. Then, on to Heritage Village, a reconstructed traditional “oasis”. Here, we took a journey to the past, to experience life in Abu Dhabi before oil revenues altered the landscape. Many different aspects of desert life are attractively displayed in the open-air museum along with workshops where craftsmen demonstrate traditional skills while women sat weaving and spinning. Afterwards, we stopped at the Zayed House for a fascinating sneak peek into the life of the late Sheikh Zayed, ‘Father of the Nation’. We enjoyed our final night in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates exploring Yas Island, Ferrari World-Abu Dhabi. After eating Indian food for a week, which was always delicious, but we got a little burnt out. So we went to Buca Di Beppo which was inside Yas Island Mall. It was the best Italian I had in a long time, in Abu Dhabi, go figure right! On our last night, we stayed out late with some of group in the hotel at restaurant terrace where we ate and smoked more shisha, then we headed to the rooftop to do the same with the locals.

Being able to make these memories and share them with my sister was an amazing and unforgettable experience. Although I considered myself well traveled previous to this trip. I was sadly mistaken. I met so many people who had visited and traveled across 30-40-50 countries. I thought to myself this is really really possible. I also thought to myself….I have a long way to go. This trip enlightened me to another level.

Dubai Conception…The conception of a travel movement …Chasing The Sun