IS DUBAI WORTH VISITING? What’s Behind the Shiny Facade
Is Dubai worth visiting? The glitz and glamor of the city famous for accolades such as the tallest building in the world, the biggest mall in the world, the most expensive this and that, definitely has its draw. But many leave underwhelmed. For the experienced traveler Dubai may be too touristy, there aren't many historic sites, and it may feel shallow and superficial. It's like an adult Disneyland.
However, the sun worshippers love the sandy beaches, families appreciate the ubiquitous entertainment options, and those who have some disposable cash to spend will definitely find various and exotic ways to spend in Dubai.
So, what's behind the sleek and shiny façade? Here's what we think Dubai is about and we hope this will help you decide if Dubai is worth visiting.
DUBAI IS NOT ONLY CRAZY HOT BUT IT IS ALSO POLLUTED
Dubai is insanely hot. But you already knew that! The heat limits how much you can see and do in Dubai. If you add humidity to the heat, you can be sure that you'll be unpleasantly soaked in sweat in a few minutes outside. UAE is also one of the world's most polluted countries. Because of the extreme heat, humidity and the pollution, the city is often quite hazy and the views are not as good as you see on the shiny photos.
DUBAI IS NOT A WALKABLE CITY
Dubai is spread out and there is a long distance between places of interest. A trip from old Dubai to the Marina will take you 45 minutes by taxi. Traffic is bad, in fact Dubai's traffic jams are one of the worst in the world. The hop-on-hop-off buses sit in traffic jams with tourists sweating in the heat and the traffic going nowhere.
Dubai is not a pedestrian-friendly city and especially with the extreme heat, walking opportunities are limited. But, taxis are inexpensive.
DUBAI CAN FEEL SOULLESS
Dubai can feel sterile, artificial and soulless. Even Old Dubai looks like a movie set and the aggressive sellers at the souks are almost as bad as in Egypt. There aren't many historic sites and the sightseeing tends to be limited to malls and resorts. The famous man-made artificial island, Palm Jumeirah, is especially underwhelming.
Everything in Dubai has to be bigger, better, higher, and glitzier. Construction dominates the city skyline. But it is not the pampered Emirati who get their hands dirty. The migrant workers from Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Philippines and India are brought in to work on construction projects or in service jobs. The guest workers often face brutal work conditions with long hours and companies withholding paychecks. Almost 90% of the population is made up of foreigners and the only Emirati you will probably meet is the immigration officer.
THE FOOD SCENE IS DIVERSE
One of the benefits of having such a huge expat population is a wealth of dining choices. You can feast on Filipino, Yemeni, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Afghani food. Some of the world's best chefs, the likes of Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsay, have restaurants in Dubai. However, it looks like they are mostly just "cash cows" for the chefs and you will not get the same quality as at the Le Louis XV in Monaco or on the Royal Hospital Road in London. The Afternoon Tea at the Burj Al Arab is marketed as one of the best in the world, but if fact it is nothing more than average.
THE SHOPPING MALLS ARE UBIQUITOUS
Dubai is synonymous with shopping and there is something for everyone from designer labels to gold in the swanky mega malls and the atmospheric souks. Visiting Dubai shopping malls like the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates is an experience in itself. The malls are home to everything from one of the world's largest indoor aquariums to an indoor ski slope.
YOU DON'T NEED A BURKINI
While the UAE is a Muslim country, it is not as conservative as you might expect. Westerners dress as they would back home and you can definitely enjoy a glass of wine in hotels and restaurants. Just avoid displaying affection in public, and do not swear or use aggressive hand gestures in public.