Dubai in the eyes of a tourist: 10 first impressions
Hype’s Grumpy Old Raver looks at Dubai through fresh eyes (via her friend Jonathan).
Nerves always kick in when a friend comes to town for the first time. Not because any of my friends are hard work – far from it – but because I want them to have a great eye-opening experience. I want them to see why, having sworn I’d move to Dubai for one year only, I’m happily settled here three years in and scoff at the mention of returning to the London rat race.
This week I said a big hello to my Welsh friend Jonathan, whom I hadn’t seen for three years, and who flew into Dubai for the first time from his New York home.
His weeklong stay was a mixture of some touristy stuff (thankfully he had no desire to visit any shopping malls – result), everyday reality (shop runs for milk and loo roll and such like) and chilling (either at the pool, the beach or in my living room with the air-con on full blast).
Inquisitive by nature, he had a million questions about what it’s like to live and work in the UAE and I answered each one honestly – at times probably sounding like some propaganda machine. I threw in a bit of a potted history too, from Dubai’s pearl trade days to now (realising there’s so much more to learn), and explained Ramadan and its associated customs as best I could.
Admitting that he only knew Dubai for The Palm and “the tallest building in the world” and thinking, “that was pretty much it”, Jonathan said he found the UAE “incredibly fascinating”. But did he really? Or was he just being polite? What memories would he take away with him? Had I done a good enough job of selling Dubai? So on his last night, over a few lemonades on the balcony, I asked him to jot down ten things he’d learned from his visit. These are his answers…
10 things our friend learnt after a week in Dubai
01. “JBR Beach is for pro sunbathers and no place for a pasty Welshman. Even at 4pm. The sea does not offer refreshing respite.”
02. “Dubai is far more multi-cultured than I’d imagined. It’s really quite incredible to see.”
03. “My facial hair will always look scruffy and unkempt compared to the face furniture of locals and residents here.”
04. “The heat here is very different to the heat anywhere else. On the three-minute walk from JLT metro station to Grumpy’s apartment in the Marina, an Almaya supermarket walkthrough (in one end of the building and out the other side) is essential simply for the air-con blast to stop you fainting.”
05. “Dubai’s club scene is much better than I’d ever have imagined. Who knew?”
06. “Bob’s Fish & Chips shop is amazing. I’d sell my soul to have one on the corner of my street in New York.”
07. “My hostess still can’t cook.”
08. “Walking through the Gold Souk is like running the gauntlet. You could have 20 watches strapped up each arm – from wrist to shoulder – and every second person would still try to sell you another.”
09. “When you say things are big in Dubai, you mean humungous. The size of Meydan Racecourse makes Wembley Stadium look like it belongs in a Subbuteo set.”
Photo credit: Kristina Nabieva
10. “People seem genuinely happy here.”
The next day, he was off to the airport at the same time as I was dashing out the door to work. No sooner had I settled down at my computer with my morning cup of tea than my mobile beeped. It was a message from Jonathan. It read: “Forgot to say, I’ve left a few toiletries in the cupboard underneath your bathroom sink. Will save me carrying them next time.”
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Photos: Getty, Supplied, Kristina Nabieva.