Dubai is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the fact that you get to enjoy both camel rides and seeing the tallest skyscrappers in the same city is simply amazing! People gather every year to explore and seek job and business opportunities. Interestingly, over 80% of the working population is a mix of Philipinos, Indians, West Africans, East Africans, Europeans, to name a few. It’s amazing to see how much such a young city has developed in just a few years. For some history about how this spectacular city came into existence, click here.
Where is Dubai?
Dubai is located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It’s a city-state (states are known as Emirates) located in the Middle East.
What’s the currency?
Dirhams (Dhs), with most places accepting dollars and credit/debit cards - so in case you don’t have Dirhams, you could swipe; but just for extra precaution you may want to inform your bank that you’ll be using your card in a different Country beforehand.
What’s the time difference?
Dubai is an hour ahead of Kenya, in case you are anywhere else in the world, find the accurate time here.
Am I supposed to dress in a particular way when visiting Dubai?
Dubai comprises of over 80% foreigners, so they are very considerate of the different cultures present. Therefore, there is freedom of dressing. However, you may need to cover-up when visiting places like Abu Dhabi (which is about an hour and a half drive from Dubai) where women are required to dress very conservatively. Also, remember to always carry your sunglasses and a litre of sunscreen!
Which time of year is best to visit?
Many say it’s better to visit during the winter (around Nov-March) as temperatures are cooler. Though I think the summer is not too bad either (May-Aug) because as much as temperatures are very high, you’ll barely feel the extreme heat because hotels, malls, buildings, vehicles and trains are all well fitted with air conditioners. However, the limitations of summertime is that some places are closed full-time until the winter, like the Global Village which is the world’s leading destination for culture, shopping and entertainment.
GETTING AROUND THE CITY
Before we talk about your shopping spree, let’s talk about how best you can get around the city. If you’re adventurous, the train is a good option. You could also consider renting a car, but be careful with the traffic rules especially because some things may differ from what you are used to, like which side of the road to drive on, speed limit, as their traffic laws are very strict.
Trains are used by the majority working-class and a number of tourists making their way to the mall every day. The trains are centralized in particular places, you have to be careful not to miss the drop-off points. They have automated voice machines both in Arabic and English and a well-drawn out map which updates the passengers on how long it is until the next drop off point. Tickets are bought at the station.
It is also at the train that you may experience some limitations due to language barrier. If you happen to lose your bearing, you may just need to ensure you have sufficient internet bundles on your phone. Better yet, first things first, on arrival, ensure to get a local phone line. It’s quite an interesting experience to see such a variety of different people, it reminds you that the world is bigger than all of us.
PLACES YOU MUST VISIT IN DUBAI
Here you get to see a different side of Dubai, more of the old town and ‘ordinary’ lifestyle compared to modern Dubai. It reminds me of Old Town Mombasa. There are 3-hour night cruises which give you a good view of this side and also small boats which move people between the two places. It’s a lovely place where you can shop for many items like spices and outfits at very affordable prices.
Standing at over 828 metres, it’s the tallest building in the world (with several other records as well). It sums up as a hotel, residential building, restaurant and tourist attraction. It is quite the site to behold and looks even more spectacular at night as it glitters from top to bottom. You could buy tickets to go to the top most floor, whose view is nothing short of breath-taking as you are quite literally on cloud 9. Next to it, another site to behold, is the Dubai Fountain- the world’s largest choreographed fountain system with amazing musical performances.
Also see places to visit in Zanzibar here
This is the largest mall in the world equivalent to 50 football (soccer) fields. Even 6 hours there is not enough to go round the entire mall. It’s a hub of the biggest designer brands of clothing, perfumes, jewellery, makeup, restaurants and great sites and entertainment like a giant aquarium, ice skating, basically everything you’re looking for. Not forgetting my favourite place in the entire mall, Kinokuniya Library -a huge library with so much to offer; autobiographies and catalogues from top designers (Chanel, Versace, Ralph Lauren etc), a variety of games for those lovely indoor weekends, endless shelves of cook books for the food lovers, a special section for the kids and so much more. Dubai Mall is quite the show-off.
Burj Al Arab
Not only is it the tallest hotel in the world, it’s also named the world’s only 7-star hotel. It hosts some of the most expensive rooms which go for over 10,000 dollars per night! It stands on a manmade island which gives a lovely beach view. It looks like a sailing ship!
Fun fact: 24-carat gold leaf was used to embellish the interiors
Read on amazing adventures in Maldives here
Where to stay in Dubai
There are many different options of where to stay depending on which view you’d like from your hotel room and your budget. Even 3 star hotels are really good. A lovely affordable hotel I recommend with exquisite service is Studio M Arabia, which is near both the airport and train station.
How can I go to Dubai and how much will I need?
Travel agencies have made it easier to go to Dubai, because not only do they plan the tour and schedule visits for you, but they have affordable packages. The trick is to pay at least 6 months in advance and you’ll be surprised at the good deals you’ll get. Do your research and get at least three different packages to compare.
What a beautiful world!
PHOTOGRAPHY: Matilde and Jorge