Spring Break in Dubai: Initial Thoughts and Observations

Here are some random thoughts and observations after our first thirty hours here in Dubai:

  • Jet lag:  Dubai is 11 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.  To make it easier, I use a rough estimate of 12 hours so whatever time it is here, I just reverse the AM or PM.  Therefore, when we landed at 11am, it was 11pm back home.  During our fourteen hour flight, we received intermittent sleep of around three total hours.  So we were definitely tired when we landed, but we were determined to see the day through.  After checking into our hotel, we did some sightseeing and ate a late lunch, but we definitely hit the wall around 4:00pm.  We managed to stay up until 8:30pm and then went to bed.  We woke up this morning at 6:30am, so we managed a good ten hours of sleep to get us acclimated to our new wake/sleep schedule.  After today’s adventures, we seemed to have adjusted pretty well.
  • Here’s a description from one of our guidebooks that seems fairly accurate:

    “Dubai is one of those places that polarizes opinion:  if you don’t enjoy a sanitized, somewhat artificial environment of the idea of whiling away hours hunting bargains or chasing a golf ball, Dubai may not be the place for you.  But those who appreciate extraordinary architecture, exceptional hospitality and bewildering choice of recreation will find Dubai more than meets their expectations.”

    For our travels, Lisa and I always find fun and adventure wherever we go and it is always fascinating to just take public transportation, walk around and people watch.  We have really enjoyed our first two days and we have only scratched the surface of what there is to do.

  • People –  so many nationalities here, including scores and scores of Filipinos.  I counted over ten Filipino restaurants, and that doesn’t include the chains of Chow King and Jollibee.
  • Malls – some of the largest malls in the world are located here.  We’ve been to two so far, each boasting over 300 stores, and those aren’t even the big ones.  The malls here also want you to shop.  In the States, malls encourage lounging by putting in chairs and comfy sitting areas.  Here, the only areas you’ll find seats is in the food court.  Walk around the rest of the mall, and the only other seats belong to restaurants.  Even the bookstore had no chairs!
  • Cars cars cars everywhere.  There is traffic at all hours, but it flows pretty well.  There’s also a lot of pedestrians, and while there are some pedestrian overpass bridges to get people across major thoroughfares, I’m not a huge fan of their cross walks because they seem so complicated.  It’s a little hard to explain, but basically if you want to cross the street, you’ll have to travel through at least four different crosswalks to get there.
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  • No dog sightings yet – stray or domesticated.  However, we have seen plenty of stray cats just hanging out.
  • Weather – so far, temperatures in the mid-eighties with some clouds.  Apparently just a few days ago the city was overcome with rain storms that produced flooding and over 3,500 auto accidents related to rain.  Guess we timed it just right this time around.
  • Nightlife – people are out out out at night.  Picnicking and playing in the park, window shopping (there are many stores from restaurants to pharmacies to general merchandise stores that are open 24 hours), eating, malling and going out, the streets are teeming with locals and tourists and it gives the city a buzzing vibe of activity.
  • Fliers – people line the sidewalks passing out promotional flier for just about everything:  restaurant specials, phone plans, salon services, even personal loans.
  • Money exchange – at least one on every corner it seems, especially for very well populated areas.
  • Our hotel room has an arrow on the ceiling pointing to the direction of Mecca
  • Word play.  A store will advertise their ‘Timings.”  (open hours)  A clothing store will have “Trial Rooms” (fitting rooms).  Restrooms are often just “Toilets.”
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  • Despite being a multicultural city, Dubai has open discrimination, prominently on display for employment ads. Here is one that was just posted out on a restaurant.  Our tour book states that “the open discrimination you’ll see in job ads is often reflected in pay.  A European can expect to earn more than a Filipino or Indian doing the same job.”
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  • Costs – we expected it to be a little expensive, and that certainly is the case.  The exchange rate is 3.65 Dirhams to every dollar.  To make it easier, we just think that 7 Dirhams = 2 bucks.  Eating out has been the biggest expense, and many places do not accept credit cards, they only want cash.  Unfortunately I didn’t plan on this too well because I didn’t bring enough cash to exchange.
  • To save on some money, I bought the ‘Entertainer,’ an app that costs $110 US, but will basically give us two-for-one discounts to restaurants and attractions, including admission to the Wild Wadi water park and a Desert Safari tour that we’ll take tomorrow.
  • Movie theaters have reserved seating here, which is just beginning to take hold in Portland.  What was most cool was the fact that they have a screening for Wrestlemania for next Sunday in one of their auditoriums, yes!
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  • Poor planning:  Dubai uses the British 3 pin plug and I didn’t bring an adapter.  So far we have been able to get by with a USB cord charging from the TV, but it has to be turned on to charge the electronics, even when we are sleeping (simple cure – we just turned down the brightness and contrast level to zero)
  • Finally, the hardest part so far hasn’t been the jet lag or the language barrier (ha, there is none!), it has been the fact that we can’t hold hands or kiss in public.  To be respectful to the Islamic traditions, we are reminded often that we should not engage in any public displays of affection — even holding hands is frowned upon.
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  • That’s all for now, I’ll have more random thoughts in future posts, now it is time for bed!


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