The rolling dunes are like a screensaver come to life, and the line ups of skyscrapers look like CGI mastery – there’s no doubting Dubai is a visually arresting city.
But when you’ve lived here for some time it’s not the obvious icons that stand out as ‘so Dubai’, it’s the quieter moments: the bright yellow light of the desert shining on a much-loved old villa, the grand wooden boats on Jumeirah beach, the surprising things you find when you venture beyond Emirates Road.
In fact, most people have zero idea that there are many more sides to Dubai than what you see on a fridge magnet or a 90 second tourism ad.
Here’s a celebration of the distinct beauty of daily life in Dubai and the UAE.
20 moments of mundane beauty in the UAE
1. Jude Niro Abeyeratne finds quiet symmetry in the oft-chaotic Lower Ground Floor of Dubai Mall.
2. A line up of Landcruisers wait for their daily chore of pulling fishing boats back to shore in Fujairah.
3. Moody winter skies hang over a well-worn wall in Satwa.
4. A lad getting a snap of his mate in the marigolds, a sight that long-time residents will have seen many times.
Life x Sign = D E S T I N Y . . #ali7alhawai #mydubai #dubai #mydxb #dxb #igersdubai #ink361_middleeast #ink361_mobile #vscocamarbia #huntgramarabia #ink361_mobile #sign #mobipixuae #mobilephoto #mobilephotography #vsarabic #passionpassport #LetsExploreUAE #mapxdubai A photo posted by علي حسن الحواي Ali H AlHawai (@ali7alhawai) on
5. Which one to follow?
I adore these little random slices of architecture scattered throughout the maze of streets in Deira. Winter time is a great chance to get out there and see old Dubai, real Dubai #myRealDubai #toomuchproblem #inthehood #mydubai A photo posted by Vintage Watch Dubai © (@vintagewatchdubai) on
6. Not all buildings in Dubai are big and shiny. We bet this one has a pearler of a water view.
My photo series from the #AlDhafra camel beauty contest is now live on @vice! #UAE #vice #camel A photo posted by Alexander Wolfe (@awolfephoto) on
7. A young lad wrapped up for winter at a camel beauty contest in the Abu Dhabi desert.
8. Next time someone tells you there’s no culture in Dubai, maybe show them this picture and remind them that beautiful wooden boats are still being built by hand mere metres from the Burj Al Arab.
Kiting day today. #AbuDhabi #UAE #watersports #kiting #kitesurfing A photo posted by Catalin Marin (@momentaryawe) on
9. The mangroves of Abu Dhabi are home to flamingos, turtles, plenty of watersports enthusiasts and even the odd turning-into-coral car.
#realdubai A photo posted by Alex Jeffries (@alexjamesjeffries) on
10. The real question here is … is the one on the left a toilet with a missing ‘i’, or is it a space to let?
Pick a fruit! Pick a fruit! It’s good for you. No thank you I’ll just stick to Mc Donald’s next door. #dubai #travel #traveling #travelstoke #travelbuddy #therealdubai #fruit #middleeast #travelgram A photo posted by Kelia Hernandez (@kelialee1) on
11. Have to disagree with the caption here: one of the things we miss when we leave Dubai is the small fruit cafes on most streets and how you can get a fresh juice no matter where you are. There’s no excuse for not getting your five a day in the UAE.
12. The Ikea carpark – a traumatic place for many, but it looks oddly beautiful when bathed in this distinctly Arabian yellow light.
The strangest things you see in Dubai. A #TRex wrapped up to go! #mydubai #rashidiya #warqa #dino #dinosaur #dinolive #arabiancentre #Dubai #UAE #seemycity #igers #travelcaptures #sunset #igersUAE #igersdubai #mobipixuae #extinct #instapic #instaclick #instagram #strange #magicalarabia #ig_great_shots #mobilephotography
A photo posted by JJNalloor (@jjnalloor) on
13. What’s this? Oh just a T-Rex casually wrapped up and ready to go. We love how a drive around Dubai’s still-developing streets always leads to the oddest of sightings.
cabbie A photo posted by @jetupinthesky on
14. Those of us who’ve lived here a while will be intimately familiar with the sight of lots full of cars getting dustier by the day. We love this snap of cabs without their stickers looking like little Hot Wheels all lined up, ready to go.
“A mind is not weighed by its magnitude, but by the dimensions of its thoughts.” ~Anthony Liccione~ A photo posted by Najeeb Musallam (@najeebmusallam) on
15. When shadows turn mundane concrete architecture into a work of art.
His warm baker smile #strangerinmyfeed #fujifilmme #xt1 A photo posted by Francis Karl dela Peña (@mactuscraig) on
16. Our lives genuinely changed for the better when we discovered there was a man who baked fresh local bread down the road from us for Dhs1 a pop #GoGluten.
17. Walk around Dubai and you’ll find interesting architecture where you’d least expect it: here’s a quiet pedestrian bridge near World Trade Centre.
I’ve got a regular coffee shop that I go to pretty much every morning and have been for several years. You build up relationships around there, with the barista, the janitor, the doctor etc. The man you see here is the janitor of the vicinity and my mornings are never complete without saying hi to him. If I don’t find him around I usually go find him at the back of the complex where almost every time he is praying, so I just wait around till he finishes. His smile is contagious and despite his difficult situation he always has the most amazing positive attitude. I get a weird feeling if too many days have past and I haven’t met these people, it’s almost a tradition now to at the very least say hi. #WHPtraditions A photo posted by /\ltamash (@aljvd) on
18. Another common Dubai sight: A man finds a light-filled and tranquil corner for prayer.
• @acommonname @sauceloves @thedesignshop_bysauce @dubaidesignweek #thingsextraordinary #urbangeodes #saucexpaigesmith • A photo posted by @jemmacraig on
19. Move over Notting Hill, Bo-Kaap and San Fransico – Dubai has its own quaint colourful houses. (There’s also a giant villa in Jumeirah 2 that’s the colour of Ribena. Just FYI.)
Camel-whipping Bot Did you know that a remote-controlled robot jockey is commonly used on camels in camel racing as a replacement for human jockeys? #didyouknowseries A photo posted by Herald Herrera (@heraldherrera) on