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Visting Dubai when you live in other Middle Eastern cities…

October 22, 2017 9 Comments

Dubai is like no other place on earth. I mean I’ve visited 34 countries in my life so far and I still haven’t found a place quite like it. In case you’re unaware, Dubai is known as the city of superlatives. It boasts the biggest, tallest, newest, most expensive, boldest and futuristic skyscrapers and developments in the world.


Home to a few of the record breaking structures like the world’s largest dancing fountain; tallest building (Burj Khalifa); only 7-star hotel (the Burj al-Arab); largest mall (The Dubai Mall) with the world’s largest sweetshop (Candylicious), largest artificial islands (the Palm Islands); and largest natural flower garden (the Miracle Garden), it has become the premier holiday destination in the Gulf for everyone around the world.

The first few times I visited Dubai I was rather overwhelmed by it all and even if it didn’t appeal to me, I could still admit that the city is very impressive.


But now that I live in the UAE, I thought I’d have less feelings about it but somehow my feelings about Dubai have become more well-defined. Making the 1 hour 15 minute drive to Dubai from Abu Dhabi is practically like driving across a border to another country- you know EXACTLY when you’ve left Abu Dhabi and entered Dubai despite a lack of signs telling you so!


So I thought I’d share with you today, 5 thoughts I have when visiting Dubai. I’m sure this doesn’t only apply to those living in other emirates but also those coming from other Gulf countries too!


1. Where are the locals?

As I wait in line to buy an ice cream from a food truck in Dubai, my ear picks up on the English spoken around me, with many different accents. I also hear an Italian mum chastising her child and a Russian lady talking on her phone. Um… where is the Arabic? As I turn my head to look around me I realise that I can’t see a single Emirati person around me. Did I leave them all behind in Abu Dhabi? Even in Kuwait, where expats outnumbered Kuwaiti people by 10:1, Arabic could still be heard almost everywhere. But in Dubai? Not so much.


But seriously guys… where do the locals hang out in Dubai?


2. Is everyone off to the beach?

Its an unspoken rule for residents in the Gulf to dress a certain way. Hey I don’t wear an abaya when I head to the grocery store but I there are certain parts of my body that I wouldn’t be comfortable exposing away from the pool or beach. But in Dubai… every second woman seems to be exposing the tops of their thighs and I can’t tell you how many belly button rings I had to endure as I walked along the marina. Its so weird when you almost never see this sort of stuff in Abu Dhabi…. Am I still in the Middle East? Or is everyone just off to the beach?



3. Why is everyone driving as though there’s an emergency?

Its no secret that whenever we see people with Dubai license plates in Abu Dhabi, we move out their way because for some reason- they’re always in a hurry and will stop at NOTHING to own the road. Calm down habibi… we work on a different pace here in the capital. So imagine what its like when I drive into Dubai and suddenly I am surrounded by these drivers on all 6 lanes of the highway. Have they seriously never heard of the ARRIVE ALIVE concept?!


The best bit is the racing to basically just join a sea of traffic because THERE IS TRAFFIC EVERYWHERE in Dubai. And if there isn’t traffic, there’s construction. The construction probably causes most of the traffic I suppose. Road closures mean that Google Maps inevitably won’t work… so there you are, stuck in traffic, surrounded by angry drivers with no idea of where you’re going. That sums up driving in Dubai!

It’s time to do a U-turn and head back to Abu Dhabi for some peace.



4. Gosh it’s bright.

Growing up in Africa meant that at night, the brightest things in the sky were the stars. In Dubai it is quite the opposite. There is a reason people call it “Dazzling Dubai”. If you visit at night it will quite literally sparkle and shimmer with lights from the various towering skyscrapers.


This was my view from the rooftop bar at the Four Points Sheraton in Dubai last week (GREAT spot by the way). This is what you are surrounded by when you are in downtown Dubai- stuck in traffic- and well… its pretty impressive. Who needs stars anyway?




The truth is that the world became acquainted with Dubai only a few decades ago. The city that appeared on many magazine covers was the first ‘Muslim’ city to seem attractive to the Western world and most people still can’t name a single country in the Middle East but have heard about Dubai! The instant global metropolis with a “skyline on cocaine” captivates the world with record-setting skyscrapers, indoor ski slopes and a stunningly diverse population. Its fun, flirty and glamorous… a great escape when you live in another emirate or fly in from a less exciting place like Kuwait or Bahrain. But I am sure I am not the only one who breathes a sigh of relief when they head back to where they live!



For some utterly gorgeous pics of Dubai check out this link. Have you been to Dubai and of so, what do you think of it?

Peace out pandas car


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  • Strictly Lighthearted October 22, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s perspective. Absolutely adore Dubai for all the glitz n glamour ❤️ I gotta disagree about the driving part though. 🙂

    • Expat Panda October 23, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      I think Abu Dhabi makes the Dubai drivers go a little crazy because we are so laid back haha! Dubai is great and gorgeous so I do agree with you but being a small city girl from Africa, I definitely couldn’t keep up with the pace there!

  • Stewie Overseas October 23, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Interesting observations. I had no idea Dubai would be full of expats and less locals.

    • Expat Panda October 23, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      All the Gulf countries are populated by 80% expats… the locals are in the minority!

      • Stewie Overseas October 24, 2017 at 4:42 am

        I had no idea! Thanks for informing me. I’m a little bit smarter than I was before.

  • John Snow October 23, 2017 at 10:21 pm

    1 sentence for Dubai!

    Dubai is FREEDOM! I’ve been there for 5 years…

  • josypheen October 23, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Oooh I didn’t realize that there seem to be fewer locals in Dubai. I wonder where they all go. I means it’s a huge city, they must all be hanging out somewhere!?

    Also, it’s really cool that now you feel like a local in Abu Dhabi. When you do that U-turn and start heading home, it’s good to hear that it feels like you’re heading *home* 🙂

  • higgledypiggledymom October 24, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks for letting me travel along again. Great insights, and interesting comments as well. Safe travels.

    • Expat Panda October 28, 2017 at 4:30 pm

      I love it when you enjoy my posts 🙂

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