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Dos and Don'ts of the United Arab Emirates

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Thursday, 11 August 2011 | Views [9977] | Comments [1]

I seem to have a lot of places I can call my backyard these days. So when World Nomads kicked off their Blog your Backyard project, I saw it as a fantastic way to show off the best bits of the cities that I have called home. I am used to playing 'tour guide' to visitors and friends, sharing my secrets and favourite places, but now I get to share them with the world. Here you are, wonderful travellers, welcome to my Dos and Don’ts of the United Arab Emirates. Get ready to book your flight already!

Living in the Middle East still poses a mystery to many. My grandmother has only recently stopped asking if there are bombings and shootings in the streets, and many other people have stereotyped notions of what it’s like prancing around in the United Arab Emirates. Here’s my chance to break down some of those weird, hazy questions and share what I’ve learned in my two years of residence…

DO: Dress Conservatively

You will not be put in jail for wearing inappropriate clothes in Dubai. However, you will be stared at and you will bring much unwanted attention upon yourself. If you take the time to ensure that your shoulders and knees are covered, you will get more respect, better service and have a better experience. As you travel out of the hot-shot city of Dubai, you will notice that it does not take long to find yourself in even more conservative areas. Simply be aware of your surroundings, what other people are wearing and maintain modesty. I always recommend jeans, a t-shirt and a light scarf for women, with a cardigan for areas outside Dubai, and men are generally expected to wear pants. There are, of course, plenty of tourists and irreverent expats flaunting this notion, but you don’t need to be one of them.

DON’T: Show public drunkenness

This is an offence that can land you in jail and much trouble. Many hotels have licenses to serve alcohol, and it can turn out to be quite the party scene, but this does not mean you should be out on the streets flaunting your lack of sobriety. Get in a taxi and get back to your room without causing any fuss, and you’ll have wonderful memories of a great night out.

DO: Make the most of tourist facilities

The tourist attractions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are there for a reason! These bustling little cities have grown out of the sand, and their attractions have been built for you to enjoy. Take the lift to the top of the Burj Khalifa, blow your budget in the enormous and extravagant malls, take gold leaf high tea in the Burj Al Arab and slip and slide your way around in the Wild Wadi water park. Don’t forget to stop off for a spot of skiing at Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates and find yourself in a taxi at 120 kph on the 12-lane Sheikh Zayed Road. Take a trip out to the Palm and eat at a top notch restaurant in the Atlantis hotel, book yourself in for a desert safari to tear across the dunes in 4WDs, share shisha and eat mixed grills, or catch a round of golf at one of the many lush courses gracing the land. Seaplane flights, helicopter rides and hot air ballooning is also available for a unique view of this incredibly laid-out city. The cost is high, but it’s worth it just to say you’ve done it. Also, enjoy the lack of queues and crowds; we how a low population density, even in the high season, so you might find the lack of people quite relaxing!

DON’T: Expect polished glamour at every corner

The United Arab Emirates have wonderful high class hotels and beautifully decorated features in much of its architecture. However, the cities of this country are still very much under construction. Sand and dust often climbs into the sky to create a heavy haze, and construction rubbish and empty land clutter the landscape within the city. In the Old Dubai area, the buildings are old, often dirty, and crumbling. It is a land of contrasts and you should be ready to expect both elaborate glamour and semi-constructed mess.

DO: Take time to understand Islam and the culture

Some will say that it’s hard to find the culture in the UAE. Many would say the same of Australia! It’s there, but you need to commit to finding out more about the people who call this place their permanent home. Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque is an overwhelming masterpiece, with walking tours of the mosque available regularly. Hire a taxi to take you there, wait while you wander and take you back to your hotel, but prepare yourself that you will be required to cover fully, with women able to borrow abeyas (black gowns) and sheilas (light headscarves) for free. Dubai also has its Jumeirah Mosque open to the public, while the Dubai Museum and Bastakiya area showcase traditional architecture and the history of these old, sleepy fishing and pearling villages. Grab a 1 dirham ride on an abra across the creek, or dine out on an old cargo dhow and enjoy the Old Dubai area.

DON’T: Stress about taking a taxi

Taxis in the United Arab Emirates are actually a part of the public transport system. Driver quality varies depending on which emirate you are in, but the prices are consistently low compared to other parts of the world, and are an affordable way to get around. The train is wonderfully efficient, but it can be quite hard to get to the stations, especially in the height of summer. Your best bet is to just hail a cab and hang on tight!

DO: Sleep in!

These are cities of the night. Built around the heat of the day, the peak times for business and outings are in the evening. Explore the malls of a late morning and the rest of the city in the late afternoon, scouring through the old souq for textiles and spices, enjoying the glittering nightscape and the starless skies. Most attractions and shops are open until 11pm or later, so stay up late, and sleep the morning away as very little is open before 10am.

DO: Explore the quieter regions

If you have the extra time in the United Arab Emirates, hire a car and explore the outer regions of the country. There is much more to be found than just what is contained within the glittering metropolis of Dubai, or the organised and towering Abu Dhabi. Explore Fujeirah for amazing diving, mountainous landscapes and genuinely stunning beach resorts, or Ajman for sleepy Arab hospitality and traditional fare. If you’re really out for some relaxation, make your way to Ras Al Khaimah to share your space with the road goats and hot springs, or the oasis town of Al Ain where the highest local population reside. Take care when driving, as standards vary and it is notoriously dangerous on many of the roads, with drivers coming from many countries around the world and local ancestors recently riding camels as their main transport.

The ‘Blog your Backyard’ Project

Share your local expertise and join the Blog your Backyard project! Become an ambassador for your country (home or adopted) by sharing your experiences and tips with other travelers. Submit your entries starting August 8th on WorldNomads.com for a chance to win one of 20 awesome excursions with Urban Adventures. Plus, if you want to share more of your local expertise or get answers to all of your travel questions, download the FREE ‘Ask A Nomad’ iPad app.

Tags: #blogyourbackyard, city, dubai, uae

Comments

1

Hi princess2802,

Congratulations! This ‘Blog your Backyard’ submission has been chosen as one of the 20 winners of an Urban Adventures voucher. Please email [email protected] to find out how to redeem your experience.

Thanks for being part of our ‘Blog your Backyard’ project and sharing your local knowledge with our community!

Cheers,
Alicia
WorldNomads.com

  travel-competitions Sep 14, 2011 9:45 AM

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