There are not many places in the world where I’ve thought to myself, “I would love to live here”, but Dubai was one of them. From the first day I set foot in this cosmopolitan metropolis in the middle of the Arabian desert, I fell in love. That was five years ago, and I’m still here.
Dubai is a city within an Emirate of the same name. It is one of the seven Emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The earliest recorded settlement was in 1799, when the Al-Maktoum tribe moved here from what is now Saudi Arabia. Dubai was originally based around a creek, an old trading port now known as Dubai Creek. The Sheikhdom was formally established in 1833, and the region remained under the Al-Maktoum’s control after protection from the United Kingdom. Dubai Town, as it was known, became a trading port famous for its pearl exportation until the late 1930s. In 1966 oil was discovered in Dubai and the country’s revenue sharply increased and the population started to grow. Borders were established with the other Emirates and the country gained independence in 1971, and the United Arab Emirates was born.
In the 1990s, Dubai moved its business focus from oil, and started to build a tourism hub, focusing on real estate, aviation and finance. Since then, public transportation systems have been built, districts established and the new millennium saw some of Dubai’s most iconic creations, including the 7-star Burj al Arab hotel, and the Palm Jumeirah – a man-made island in the shape of a giant palm tree. The transformation that has taken place over the last 20 years is nothing short of incredible. Dubai is now a global city with a population of 2.1 million and growing, with expats from all over the world continuing to seek new lives here.
Watch this amazing time lapse video to see how Dubai looks today…
The weather is what you would expect based in the desert, hot, dry with little rain. The best time to visit Dubai is between October and May when the weather ranges from 20-35C. During the summer months humidity rises, and temperatures soar to just below 50C – best to avoid these months!
Religion, Language and Laws of the land:
The local language is Arabic, however after becoming a hub for tourism and multinational companies, the business language is English, and majority of people speak good English. There is no pre-requisite to learn Arabic to visit, live or work in Dubai, but it’s nice to learn some of the basics when speaking to locals. Check out the link below to get an idea of some everyday phrases: http://www.commonusefulphrases.org/common-useful-basic-arabic-phrases.html.
The religion of Dubai is Islam, with approximately 75% of the population being Muslim, 9% Christian and 15% other. You will see numerous mosques scattered throughout Dubai. They are beautiful-looking buildings, and five times a day you will hear the call to pray coming from the speakers in the mosques – a sound that reverberates around the city. It is important when visiting Dubai to respect the Arabic culture and beliefs. Dubai is one of the most tolerant cities in the Middle East, but the laws of Dubai should still be fully respected. For more information, check out Ramadan in Dubai.
Public displays of affection are generally frowned upon and in most cases not tolerated, with the exception of holding hands with a partner. The majority of modest western clothing is acceptable, and when visiting the beach or waterparks, it is perfectly acceptable to wear bikinis and swimming trunks. In malls and similar public spaces it is respectful to cover your knees and shoulders, especially women, but in general most modest clothing is accepted throughout Dubai.
Non-Muslims are allowed to drink alcohol in licensed bars and nightclubs, which tend to be inside hotel grounds – of which there are many! Possession and use of recreational drugs, like in most countries, is illegal and punishments for residents and tourists alike are severe. There is also zero tolerance when it comes to drink driving.
As long as you follow these basic rules and you are respectful of Dubai’s Islamic culture, then you will have no problems.
The local currency is the Arab Emirate Dihram, with one US dollar equating to around 3.65 AED. To give a clearer idea 100 AED = $27, 18 GBP, 19 Euros or 1664 INR.
Dubai is easily accessed from most countries in the world. A large flight network transits into Dubai’s International Airport (DXB), and the airport is served by the majority of international airlines. Dubai also has its own globally renowned airline; Emirates, feeding over 130 destinations worldwide www.emirates.com. Most parts of Europe can get to Dubai within 8 hours, America 15 hours, Asia 8 hours and Australia 14 hours.
Travelling around Dubai is easy, there are thousands of taxis around the city and they are relatively cheap with no need to book, as you can usually hail them down anywhere. A five minute journey will set you back approximately $5, and 30-minute journey $15.
There is also Dubai Metro system which, unlike most big cities, is spotlessly clean and air-conditioned with stations resembling 5* hotels! It’s super cheap and will get you around most areas of Dubai for as little as $1.
I will be posting a series of Dubai-focused blogs over the next few months which detail some of the incredible places and things to see and do as we enter arguably the best time of year for making the most of this incredible city. Whether you are on a budget, or ready to splash the cash, hopefully my hints and tips will be useful. I’ll also be including some hidden gems which, unless you’ve lived here, you’d be unlikely to stumble upon!