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Dubai's Arabian Romance: Accessible, but at a price

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Monday, 13 February 2012 | Views [5202]

Dubai is so elaborate and luxurious, it's easy to forget where in the world you really are.

When you’re a free-spirited nomadic couple of first world origins, unfortunately you have to control your impulses in certain countries. By “impulses” I mean the urge to embrace at romantic viewpoints or to give your partner a cheeky pinch on the bottom when you think there’s nobody else around.In Dubai, many foreigners become so consumed in surreal surroundings - elaborate water fountains and over-the-top buildings - that they forget they are, in fact, in a Muslim country with very conservative social rules.

Prior to the discovery of oil less than 50 years ago, the locals who now drive Ferraris probably rode camels through the desert trade hub. The significant shift in appearance of both the city and its people, however, does not mean that beliefs and tolerances have also become more relaxed than in the past.

I believe that research and rational thinking at all times are essential to remain culturally appropriate in this region... Unless you are willing to pay a premium to access real privacy to avoid any issues.

You can't proceed past the front gates of the Burj Al Arab without spending a small fortune.

Reportedly amongst the most exclusive and romantic dining experiences in Dubai 
are the seven restaurants at Burj Al Arab - the famous five star hotel that mimics a tall sail ship and has stunning 360 degree views. Honeymooners and couples celebrating significant anniversaries secure their bookings months in advance. The only way to even proceed past the front gate of this outrageous hotel is to lock in a table and commit to a minimum spend that is equivalent to the cost of a long distance flight for each person. Of course, if you’re willing to pay the money, you certainly won’t be hassled for stealing a kiss across the table.

The Atlantis at The Palm offers similar restaurants to Burj Al Arab but the hotel itself is much larger. The rich and the famous stay for a minimum 2,270.00 AED per night (equal to A$574.10 at the time of writing, according to Atlantis The Palm website), with rooms valued all the way up to AED 129,000. That’s an absurd A$32,624.95 per night! For that price, Atlantis throws in a private butler and your very own elevator, providing the ultimate solitary escape for the elite.

Atlantis at The Palm is a hotel for the rich and famous.

A more affordable refuge, is Jumeirah Beach. You can access this private beach for only a couple of dollars to join expats and tourists enjoying the sun and sand in the same way they would at home. Western women rock their bikinis like rebellious teenagers and men snuggle up to their partners under umbrellas. You could be seriously apprehended for acting in this manner at any other beach in the UAE. But within the fences of Jumeirah it appears to be accepted and enjoyed.

In addition, alcohol is heavily regulated and a permit is required to buy liquor in Dubai. However, you can enjoy a flirtatious night of drinking and dancing at bars and clubs only within hotels.

Throughout the rest of the city, the big lights and luxury hypnotize couples into a state of complacency. A small number of couples appear completely unaware of being inappropriate - they genuinely don’t understand the culture and customs, stopping in Dubai only to experience shopping on the way to another destination. 

Expats and tourists also consciously push the boundaries; wearing inappropriate clothes, holding hands and drinking in areas they are expected to conform. Most of the time these people get away with receiving only glaring stares from others. Lucky, as the Emirates maintain a strict policy to enforce cultural sensitivity in highly public spaces.

It’s easy to get carried away with romance in a destination like Dubai. It is, after all, a desert transformed into an unreal playground of sights and activities we only previously dreamed of. That’s no excuse for behaving inappropriately, though. Research before you decide to visit Dubai and, if romantic temptation is too difficult for you to manage, plan your itinerary in a way that will keep you out of trouble, even if it’s more expensive.

About the Author

Marissa Toohey is an Australian writer who enjoys busting her comfort bubble through travel, adventures and volunteering. She enjoys getting off the beaten track and shares her insights at theBubbleBuster Project blog. Follow her on twitter @theBubbleBuster or Facebook.

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Tags: beaches, drinking, dubai, romance, travel, uae

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