I greatly enjoy reading tips about visiting different countries, so I thought I could get a travel expert here who could tell us about his travels. This expert is no one other than Alex, who travelled to some wonderful places on his own! He planned all of the trips, searched hotels, and found exciting sights to see. Alex has kindly agreed to share his travel experiences with us, so I will sometimes feature travel posts written by him.
The United Arab Emirates was never at the top of my list of places that I wanted to travel to. I didn't know much about the area except for the little bit that us westerners are exposed to through our media and normally what we hear is relatively stereotypical and biased. I guess I never technically decided on my own to travel to Dubai. My employer sent me there for a few days and I took the opportunity to explore the city as much as possible. Before traveling to Dubai, I had been to other countries in the Middle East like Afghanistan and Kuwait, so culture shock was not an issue for me. I was already used to seeing the different customs, the different attire, the differing roles in society for women, the differing religious views, and the different types of foods. All in all, Dubai was much more "western" experience to me than the previous places I had been.
Dubai is a beautiful city that is full of massive skyscrapers, five star resorts on the Persian Gulf, exotic cars like Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bugatti, and a massive amount of wealthy oil families. The city screams luxury and money like no other city I've been to before. Construction is also booming and the city will continue to grow to become even larger than it already is as wealthy people from all over the United Arab Emirates continue to flock to the extravagance that is the city of Dubai. The skyline reminded me of one that you would see in downtown Manhattan, except Dubai had taller and more exquisite buildings. The city is home to the tallest building in the world, The Burj Khalifa, the world's only seven star resort, Jumeirah's Burj Al Arab, and has The Dubai Mall which is the largest mall in the world by total area at 12.1 million square feet.
If the glitz and glamor is not so much your style Dubai is also full of history and old architecture. About a ten minute cab ride away from downtown is Deira which is just across Dubai Creek. In this area you can find The Souks which contain an endless maze of spice markets, gold markets, linen markets, and many other vendors. Its is a beautiful area of town and the buildings are much older and more traditional looking. The Dubai Museum is also just a stones throw away from these markets and is directly on the other side of the Dubai Creek back towards the downtown area.
As I stated earlier, Dubai has been heavily influenced by the western culture. You are more likely to see a McDonald's, Chili's, Starbuck's, Tim Horton's, T.G.I Friday's, or an Au Bon Pain, than you are traditional Middle Eastern fare. Although the latter can easily be found as well. Dubai is also one of the few Middle Eastern countries that hasn't completely outlawed alcohol. You are allowed to purchase beer, wine, or liquor or your choice at any of the many bars that they have. Prices are a bit exorbitant for both food and drinks. Be ready to pay $20 a meal and close to $10 a beer. Hotels on the other hand are not quite so bad. Since it is such a popular tourist destination, there is no shortage of places to stay and hotels are constantly running special deals to fill up their rooms. You can probably get a 4 star hotel for around $100 to $150 a night. The taxis in Dubai are by far the cleanest and most affordable of any city I've ever been to. A half an hour cab ride will probably cost you somewhere around $20 which pales in comparison to other places in Europe.
Dubai is a wonderful city. Don't let the fact that it is in the Middle East deter you. If I ever get the chance, I would go back in a heartbeat. Here are some of my personal photos from the aforementioned places.