High towers, massive shopping malls and a worldwide promotion as the epic destination of the Middle-East, that’s Dubai! Last summer, I had two stopovers in Abu Dhabi. The first one I spent it in the capital of the UAE but the second one I took a bus from the airport straight to the controversial city of Dubai. It was nice to be there as I always wanted to visit this city but it turned out not to be my type of place at all. I’m actually being judgmental from just one day spent there but still I think first impressions count!

Everything seems fake

Dubai is built on what used to be an empty desert 30 years ago. It’s a fairly new city therefore it adapted quickly to the changes and adapted to globalisation. But all those high towers, massive shopping malls and all that is too much and seems fragile. I always feel like it doesn’t have a strong base. Oil is the base? Well, it is predicted that we might run out of that someday… But what is left behind the facade of Dubai? I don’t really know. So many questions I ask myself and I see that other people ask similar questions like my friend Nadia who wrote a series of questions on her blog that makes you wonder.

The thing is that I only stayed there for a stopover. So only one day but as I said, it was enough to make such judgements based on first impressions. The city also relies on expats who seem to be comfortable in a Muslim country, maybe too comfortable!

Expats 11 – 1 Emiratis

A shocking ratio, only 10% of the population of Dubai is Emirati and the rest 90% is coming from other countries mainly India, UK, USA and neighbouring Arabic countries (according to Wikipedia). This is definitely an advantage as the city feels cosmopolite and more international but there is a significant loss of culture. The culture of the Emirates is not present within all the expats but instead a strong Americanised way of life.

Dubai Aquarium inside Dubai Mall


Arabic is presented as the official language of the country but what is its position when only few people speak it? I’m glad the city tries to preserve the Arab side of the country and proudly represent the Arab World as a whole. However, as an Arab, I don’t identify at all with the vibes of Dubai.

The main contradictions concerned religious things. As a Muslim country, I had high expectations that people and especially women dress appropriately. I knew Dubai was open-minded but to the level that Morocco is and not above. In contrast with all religious principles preached there, I saw a woman that I could identify as Russian walking in the streets of the “Islamic” Dubai wearing a mini-micro-skirt.

Obviously, I don’t have any issues with that. The issue is that other basic rights are forbidden to some people on the level that it is offensive to Islam but an inappropriate dress worn by a “White” women seems fine. It was clear that the Emirate tolerates things they want to tolerate and forbid things they simply want to forbid. I was offended by the contradictions of Dubai rather than the provocative dress of the sexy Russian lady.

You must be rich…

The other striking point is that Dubai seems to be made for rich people only. It is fairly expensive compared to other similar destinations. And the luxurious stores and shops are everywhere. Free tourist attractions are rare in the city but to be honest, the rest of the attractions are really cool and experiences would be unique even if paid for. Still, I think that if you are travelling on a budget it’s not easy to survive there. I think I made a good decision to go there for a day only, that limited my costs!

Some positive points!

Dubai is very cosmopolite so people are literally from everywhere. That’s a great point, I was happy about that. I could see myself between all those expats. The city is well developed in a way that it has an efficient network of public transports, big roads and all establishments are air conditioned. The immigration system seems to be working well with very nice and smiling officers who made me feel welcome from arrival. I also felt in security everywhere, that is something important that Dubai definitely assures to its visitors. Lastly, Burj Khalifa tower is truly impressive and breath-taking, I was happy to see the world’s tallest building.

It is quite a challenge to fit Burj Khalifa in all on pictures!

In sum, I was impressed by Dubai’s record breaking projects and massive developments. But I was highly disappointed by all the points I cited above. I would go back again but only to try to have another image and perhaps proof myself wrong on that. Abu Dhabi was actually a good example to compare with, I felt like it was much more authentic that’s why I really liked it! To summarise for good, I’m not a fan of Dubai…