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.

#Symmetry in #Motion #DubaiMall #Dubai #MyDubai #SamsungGalaxyNote5 #mall #escalators #levels

A photo posted by Jude Niro Abeyeratne (@jude_niro) on

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.

#therealdubai #seethebeautyineverything

A photo posted by Alex Jeffries (@alexjamesjeffries) on

3. Moody winter skies hang over a well-worn wall in Satwa.

#picturesofpeopletakingpictures #myrealdubai #burdubai #dubai #creek

A photo posted by Mohamed Somji (@msomji) on

4. A lad getting a snap of his mate in the marigolds, a sight that long-time residents will have seen many times.

5. Which one to follow?


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

6. A young lad wrapped up for winter at a camel beauty contest in the Abu Dhabi desert.

Kiting day today. #AbuDhabi #UAE #watersports #kiting #kitesurfing   A photo posted by Catalin Marin (@momentaryawe) on

7. 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

8. The real question here is … is the one on the left a toilet with a missing ‘i’, or is it a space to let?

9. 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.

10. The Ikea carpark – a traumatic place for many, but it looks oddly beautiful when bathed in this distinctly Arabian yellow light.  

11. 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

12. 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

13. 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

14. 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. 

15. Another common Dubai sight: A man finds a light-filled and tranquil corner for prayer.

16. 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.)

17. And long before there were driverless cars, there were these robot camel jockeys. 10-years-plus UAE residents will remember why they were such an important development.

Have a special Dubai moment you want to share with us? Tag #WhatsOnDubai to share it with us.