Dubai: Nah Don’t Bother
Our first visit to Dubai was a mixed affair for so many reasons. This wasn’t a holiday. Amanda had a business conference and food exhibition to attend, so I tagged along for the 6-day trip. It wasn’t planned that I join Amanda when the trip was first booked. However, after lots of research about the do’s and don’ts in Dubai culture, especially as a single woman, we agreed a chaperone was not a bad idea. Amanda can get herself into trouble easily in the UK, so Dubai was definitely a ‘red’ zone! Don’t drink alcohol, don’t show affection in public, don’t swear, don’t do anything with your left hand… The list goes on and on. Locked up by lunchtime on day one???
No, not really.
We flew from Heathrow on the Thursday evening ‘red eye’, checked-in to our first hotel (after a half mile taxi ride) and managed two hours sleep before Amanda started her World Cashew Nut conference. I, on the other hand, hit the pool for some serious vitamin D…who knew Cashews could be so interesting!
My first impressions of Dubai, and this airport hotel in particular, was that it was bloody expensive. The draught lager by the pool was 45 DNB, which was broadly £9 and it wasn’t even a pint! Apart from the prices, the pool area was lovely, reasonably quiet, well staffed and noticeably full of tennis punters. We found out why later that night.
We headed to an area called the Irish Village, which was adjacent to Dubai’s tennis stadium which was hosting an ATP event. Tennis is not our thing, but there were masses of people, from a multitude of countries, clearly enjoying the atmosphere. We even met an expat who lives in Dubai, but was heading off to Georgia for a ‘Stag’ weekend. The food at the Irish bar was average, but at least the Guinness was okay and very welcome.
After a second day of heavy conferencing (well, for one of us at least), Saturday was hotel transfer day and a rest day before the Gulfood exhibition. On the advice of the receptionist at hotel number two, we headed to the Dubai Marina using the metro service. This isn’t an underground metro, but more of a monorail. It is so much better than anything in London or New York, but if anyone can explain the payment system it would be a great help as it bamboozled us two.
The marina was nice, but no Puerto Banús to be honest…maybe the larger vessels were moored elsewhere? We headed down to the public beach area, which was heaving, and grabbed a pizza at The Cheesecake Factory. What became blatantly obvious was the fact that Dubai was really ‘dry’ and the only places to get alcohol was in very specific hotel bars and even fewer restaurants. Our research had suggested alcohol was scarce, but we had expected beer to be widely available in the tourist areas…even our latest hotel was 100% alcohol free!
The last part of our day was spent down at the fountains between the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa hotel (the world’s tallest man-made structure). Again, the fountains were nice, but not a patch on the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas.
Sunday and Monday were spent by the 4th floor pool whilst Amanda was wandering around the exhibition halls and working respectively. My tan was coming along nicely may I add. This pool was not as nice and, being surrounded by skyscrapers on all sides, sunbathing came to a shuddering halt mid-afternoon when the sun disappeared behind the adjacent tower block.
After work (and sunbathing) on Monday night we headed back down to the fountain area to stretch our legs and find some food. We found a place with a bouncer outside, which we now understand is the recognisable sign that an establishment serves alcohol. The food was Mexican and we both ordered Tacos, which were nice. If it hadn’t been Happy Hour, this place would have broken the £10 a pint threshold, whereas we got away with a mere £12 for two pints.
We’d both wanted to visit Dubai as part of our travels and, although this was predominantly a business trip, we have now ticked if off the list.
Will we be rushing back…No! Would we recommend it to others…No! Well, that’s not totally fair to be honest. If you like tall buildings, visiting shopping malls, are teetotal and have a bulging bank account, you’d probably love the place. Don’t get me wrong, the people are generally lovely, happy to see you and very friendly. We were very respectful of the cultural aspects of Dubai, as we’d expect of those people visiting the UK. However, in the final shake up, we’ve concluded that Dubai isn’t for us!