“The word possible is not in the leaders’ dictionaries. No matter how big the challenges, strong faith, determination and resolve will overcome them”
– Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Are you a traveler or inspire to be one or at least want to travel someday? If so what is your utmost least favorite thing about traveling or what do you think it will be? Traveling consists of many things, such as pre-planning, setting up your itinerary, packing, long flights, long waits, jet-lags and the list goes on right? But my least favorite part about traveling is…. once I come back home, I want to do it all over again! Isn’t that crazy? I don’t call it crazy. I call it, PASSION.
While traveling I have a lot of time to kill, I can either use that time productivly or I can just sit and stare into space, which I end up doing 99.9% of the time. That 1% left in me is where my ideas spark and come to life. On my way to the UAE from USA I got inspired to title my next blog post, PASSION DUBAI.
What defines passion? It’s an emotion that is almost uncontrollable. That same feeling is what I encountered once I stepped off the plane. Let the breathtaking experience begin! It hit me that I was in the UAE once I arrived at boarders and saw all of the male patrols wearing their traditional Kandura’s, an ankle length, loose-fitting robe for men, usually white in color. I have always experienced very friendly people at the airport; they are very welcoming and opened to assist if needed.
** Fun Fact**
*Dubai is a business and tourism hub. Its workforce is mainly in the tourism sector, their hospitality is so genuine and they all make you feel as if you are royalty. In Dubai, you have workers from all over Asia, primarily Singaporeans and Malaysians. If you want to experience being treated like a king and queen on your vacation, this place is it! *
Once you enter the Emirate city, the oud (perfume or cologne) fragrant oil worn traditionally by both Emirati men and women dominates the aroma of the city. This fragrance has such a particular and mesmerizing scent that anyone who goes to Dubai will soon learn to recognize and associate it with the Emirates.
**Oud is one of the most expensive natural resources in the world, fetching 1.5 times the price of gold, and is a great souvenir to take home from a visit to Dubai.**
My first time going to the UAE was to Dubai in the beginning of this year, 2018, during springtime. The weather was impeccable and perfect to sunbathe in. Only this time, months later, on my way to India, I stopped in Dubai for a few days during the summer when the weather was scorching hot and the experience was slightly different from the first. How hot is it in the summer? You know that feeling when you step inside of a sauna for the first minute and your heart starts racing while you have to wipe your sweat off your forehead knowing you have to bear the heat just a bit longer in order for your body to adjust to the extreme climate change? Yes, that hot!
With such heat I knew I had to make the best out of my time there, I mean c’mon I’m in Dubai! You might be thinking, “Is it possible to enjoy a city where the thought of facing the sauna-heat-like weather makes you cringe? ” I guess you’ll have to keep on reading to find out..
Dubai is a city and Emirate in the United Arab Emirates known for luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture and a lively nightlife scene.
* Dubai was once a natural creek harbor that became a center for the fishing, pearling and sea trade and the largest on the coast with 350 shops and a steady throng of visitors and businessmen. Later, after oil was discovered in 1966, Dubai became the city we know today, visionary leadership, high-quality infrastructure, an expatriate-friendly environment, zero tax on personal and corporate income and low import duties, and a business and tourism hub *
Luckily once my mother and I arrived to the airport we had arranged a chauffeur to welcome us in and drive us to our hotel. During our time on the road from the airport to the hotel, which is less than 30 minutes from where we were staying at, we managed to pick up an interesting conversation with the chauffeur. We asked him for recommendations of places to go, eat, etc. We had such a great bond in such little time; he offered us his cab services to drive us all over Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Our diver just started his cab driving business so it was an honor for him to drive one of his first clients around and show them his city.
**Quick Tip (IMPORTANT)**
*If you are going to book a driver or any private transportation in Dubai, make sure you get the reference from a trusted party, in my case I called the hotel we were staying at and asked them to arrange us with a third party private transportation company they have worked with in the past. This shows and confirms that they are a trusted, reliable, and most of all safe transportation company *
What makes Dubai, Dubai?
Let’s point out some important factors of what builds Dubai to be what is it today, can you guess any before you continue reading?…ok time is up, discover the important key factors of the building blocks of this magnificent city:
Ok, before I go on to deliver some juicy facts about Dubai’s infrastructure, let’s talk about who runs the whole UAE, does that sound good to you? The UAE is the country consisting of seven other different Emirates “States”, Dubai being one of them. The President of the UAE is Khalifa bin Zayed Al NahyanSheikh, it still takes me sometime to memorize and get used to saying it without a buffer. Now let’s continue with some interesting facts about Dubai’s infrastructure, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, Vice-President & Prime Minister of the UAE announced a long-term national initiative to build a green economy in the UAE under the theme ‘A green economy for sustainable development’.
Despite the heat, you can be sure that your health is at ease when taking a deep breath in after admiring the world class iconic buildings. They say familiarity breeds contempt, after seeing such state of the art buildings, I strongly have to agree with that. So inhale all you want without worrying about dirty pollution accumlating in your lungs, thanks to Vice President and leader of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he implemented a Dubai Strategic Plan that consisted of applying the specifications of ‘green buildings’ to all the buildings and premises in Dubai with the aim of keeping it a healthy city with a clean and pollution-free environment, lovely!
Out of the sand award-winning airports, super-luxurious hotels and resorts, reputed universities, modern hospitals and medical facilities, sports and entertainment venues, mega malls, waterways, dancing fountains – and a futuristic metro network was built. Dubai is also known to have a world-class network making Dubai’s infrastructure one of its strengths with its legendary lifestyle and aesthetic roads, highways and flyovers help reduce traffic jams, providing ease of access and assisting the safety of those behind the wheel.
*The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority has launched a set of guidelines that will help regulate the criteria of the structure that allows the quantity of the consumption of electricity and water and renewed energy, making them save billions of dollars! *
Being that tourism is part of the government’s strategy to maintain the flow of foreign cash into the Emirates, and it bringing millions and millions of dollars a year, Dubai continues to grow. The aim with all of the new buildings and expansion, the aim is to triple tourism income by 2020. What mainly attracts tourists to visit and experience Dubai is the shopping and its possession of other ancient and modern attractions.
Things to do and see in Dubai:
Burj Khalifa: It’s quite hard to miss it when descending from the plane onto Dubai’s solid grounds. Standing 828 meters high (2,716 ft. high), Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest tower and it naturally dominates the Dubai skyline. I ended up going alone after an unexpected weekend stay in Dubai. I was wondering how to end my weekend with a bang, of course, I couldn’t leave Dubai without visiting its most iconic building.
There are two options; you can see the city of Dubai from all three levels, 148 + 125 + 124 for 370 AED (100 USD) or from levels 125 + 124 for AED 135 (37 USD). I ended up going with the second and most economical option, and I still had an amazing view and experience! I went during the nighttime, after watching their infamous fountain show located in the Dubai Mall, they play known songs, like Thriller from MJ to one of today’s hits, and the fountain dances to the beat of the song, by far one of the best fountain shows I have seen!
Dubai Mall: Experience shopping like an Emirati! Here the definition of shopping is redefined, you will need more than one day to fully go through the whole mall. I got lost making my way around. Just when I thought I almost found the end to the other side of the mall, I ended up in a completely different, and more traditional, side. Here, I ran into a custom, handmade and traditional women’s long dress shop. I ended up buying myself a nice souvenir.
I took advantage and bought myself a piece or two of the beautiful ankle length Kaftan dress. Getting lost turned out to be a better expereince than I would’ve imagined. If you read this before your trip to Dubai, you now know that at the main entrance, there are people that work in the mall and will direct you to where you wish to go, they’ll be standing right in front of the Information Center. I can’t believe I walked right passed it! Last but not least, enjoy some time spent in the mall’s top attraction,
Dubai’s Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.
*There are two very famous malls in Dubai, do NOT get confused like I did, lol I was supposed to meet up with some friends at the “Mall of the Emirates”. Unfortunately, I did not do my due diligence and research prior to meeting up with them. They are two different malls and about 30 minutes from each other. *
The Dubai Fountain: Experience the an awe-inspiring show right at the base of the iconic Burj Khalifa, this is a picture perfect spot if you want to get the whole building in one shot! This is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. I found myself grooving along the fountain as each colorful and illuminated jet swayed in tune to various musical numbers from around the world. I suggest you get here at least 15 minutes before the show starts and leave about 5 minutes before it ends, or else you’ll be elbowing people out of your bubble space!
* Two showings occur in the afternoon (1pm and 1:30pm), except on Fridays (1:30pm to 2pm) and evening displays begin at sundown and take place every 30 minutes until the final song plays at 11pm.*
The walk and beach at JBR: The first time I came to Dubai in the early springtime, I had the chance to stay walking-distance from this lovely urban beach district. I love how everything is so close, you have amazing shopping places, resident homes, hotels, beach areas, outdoor shopping markets, DJs pumping out the tunes on weekends, a regular open-air cinema and a popular water park to entertain the little ones for an hour or two.
Dubai Marina: If you want to experience a stunning cityscape and a stroll along the water beneath the urban skyline, this is the place you want to be. Look into the future at the world’s largest man-made marina. Dubai Marina is truly best captured in person, pictures do not do it any justice! Try it out for yourself and tell me otherwise.
Madinat Jumeirah: Please, please, please do not leave Dubai without experiencing this beautiful resort complex located on the sea. If you want to experience a combination of tradition and luxury, come to Madinat Jumeirah, Madinat Jumeirah translates as ‘City of Jumeirah.’ Once I stepped foot here I felt like I was transported back in time during the old Arab era, which makes sense once I found out it was inspired by an ancient citadel.
This place consists of luxury hotels, private enclaves built in the traditional style. It has more than 40 restaurants and lounges. You can also explore on traditional wooden abras to appreciate the waterways and architecture. Also, you can’t forget what resides right around this area. The only 7- Star hotel in the world, Burj Al Arab, a striking sail-shaped building that sits on an island.
La Mer: For the locals and for the visitors, this world-class beachfront has the perfect views with long walkways that lead to a variety of restaurants to choose from. I enjoyed the water breeze with some good company and a juicy burger here. The best part of it all, I was also able to walk the burger off while admiring the beach views. This is the ideal experience of the best of the sun, sea and outdoor fun in Dubai.
City Walk Dubai- Experiencing downtown and enjoying the astonishing skyline is quite an adventure in itself; however, I was craving some local spots. My friends and I got lucky and were able to experience the grand opening of Dubai’s City Walk, a creative lifestyle space where people can live, work and play. It’s more like an outdoor mall, full of places to shop and eat, very relaxing and comfortable walking area. Here you can easily get inspired to actively seek the unexpected.
The culture of local people and their traditions have been developing throughout the centuries, however its beauty and originality still remains just as captivating. Once you get to experience more of the city, you can see with your own eyes the evolution of the city built on dessert.
Greetings-Saying “Asa’lam ALeikum’ (Peace be Upon You) will be taken to heart by people as it is a very respectable greeting. When a Muslim greets another, he says this and the reply would be ” Wa Aleikum Asa’lam”
Friday brunch-Passport issues, denial to board my next flight (read, Do’s & Don’ts section at the bottom) and 24hrs later, my friend wanted to cheer me up and he kindly invited me to experience Dubai’s most famous gastronomic institution- the Friday brunch. At first, I didn’t understand the significance of brunch as a “must” on a Friday, however, later I learned that these sumptuous feasts are when the city’s expat communities come together to celebrate the start of the weekend.
Locals: Every corner of this city has its own unique customs, following which is considered a duty for local residents. As I walked through the streets of the city, I saw people dressed in beautiful national costumes. In Dubai many people wear it not only on holidays, but also in their everyday life.
Men Attire – Long dresses made of light airy Kondura cotton
Women Attire – Elegant dresses with long sleeves embroidered with gold and beads. Various headscarves are a mandatory attribute of the national dress
Another interesting women fashion staple and one that sparks your curiosity, which are the special types of veil that cover women’s faces. These outfits are the result of not only religious differences, but also the desire to adapt to the local climate. It’s interesting because in such a hot climate city you would think tat fully covered attire will only make you sweat more, on the other hand, it keeps your body nice and cool. Light cotton clothing is a good protection against heat.
Language- From the signs on the street or shops to the menus at restaurants, Arabic is used as the official language in all correspondence of all federal authorities and
establishments in the country. However, English is the language young Emiratis are embracing because it opens the door to popular Western culture.
Customs– The locals are extremely hospitable. It is important for us who are visiting the UAE to consider some rules of behavior before going so we can be prepared and safe from hurting them. It’s always better never to refuse an invitation to pay a visit to a house of a local inhabitant. Traditionally, guests are welcomed with a cup of coffee with cardamom. Drinking of not one, but two or three cups is considered a sign of good taste. After a meal or drink it’s always important to show gratitude and thank hosts for their hospitality.
Investments and Entrepreneurship opportunities
Dubai’s population keeps on increasing and the city’s plans to keep building and adding on to its infrastructure are endless. Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, recently set up a fund worth millions that will assist innovators and entrepreneurs with the funding to turn ideas into reality. During my trip in Dubai, I spoke with some locals that gave me great insights on what they think and know the future of entrepreneurship will be like in just the next couple of years. They said Dubai would become the entrepreneurial capital of the world with investors and business owners from all over the globe.
As I rode around the city, I noticed the same advertisement in almost every corner that read “Dubai 2020”. It started to catch my attention and after the third time seeing it, I knew I had to learn more about it. Dubai’s expo will be a festival of people coming together to build and create a driving force behind new developments. This expo will showcase and explore what is possible when new ideas and people connect. This has already stimulated a lot of interest and attention from companies and hundreds of business enthusiasts to head to the city to cater to an affluent and growing market.
* Forbes named Dubai as the 40th best city worldwide fro doing business, while IMF has said UAE’s economy could outperform UK, US, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore over the 2015-2020 period. *
When traveling to Dubai, and taking the moment to step outside of the modernized city that was built on sand. Looking at it from a different angle, you start to appreciate not just the skyline views, but also the story behind it. Very quickly, what I’ve learned from local residents of Dubai, before the 1960’s, this glamorous city was not so glamorous. It was a city that relied solely on its creek ports. 50 years later is now an iconic global and classic city. It’s crazy to think that Dubai had to borrow money from Amir of Kuwait to renovate Dubai’s creek since its sand banks created hazards for dhows when navigating the port. It was later in the late 60’s Oil was discovered in the Gulf and these ports that they renovated became an important role when Dubai started exporting oil in 1969.
Later, Dubai experienced a slight drop in the oil sector, therefore, the ruler decided to gear Dubai’s workforce focus in tourism to help continue to boost the economy. In my opinion I believe he did the right thing. Today, we can still see some of the old parts of Dubai and its traditional homes. To think the past generations were living to survive and to see how they live such lavishing lifestyles, you come to realize, having a vision, execution and hard work really pays off.
Personally, coming from such a diverse city my self Orlando, Florida, and having lived in a multi-culture driven city, London. I have not experienced such a high level of diversity like I do when I visit Dubai. Seeing traditional Arabic wear in every corner, with languages spoken from all over the world, and restaurants with cuisine from all continents at the same time in and all in one place was quite an interesting and rather shocking experience.
Ever since tourism became what we know it is today in, there is a lot of Western influence. Which makes sense why Dubai is a main attraction for people when choosing a travel destination. As a foreigner, it is still somewhat of a cultural shock, since it’s still a country in the UAE and it abides to its regulations, customs and traditions. Nevertheless, Dubai is the most visited and opened country in the UAE when it comes to welcoming expats.
If you want to experience exceptional hospitality and get treated like royalty, Dubai is just the place to go to for an unforgettable customer service experience. Sometimes is to the point that their genuine and extra polite treatment leaves you with a doubt in your mind making you wonder “wait a minute what’s the catch?” Nevertheless, is in their culture and traditions to treat everyone equally with the same level of respect and services. Even if you are not an Emirate, you will feel as if you were treated like one.
*The Emiratis are the locals, born and raised in the UAE. According to a research and statistics done Telegraph magazine, just 42 per cent of expats polled in the UAE feel they’ve integrated well with the local people, compared with a global average of 61 per cent, meaning not much interaction is going on with the UAE locals, in fact, the visitors and expats seem to stay within the same circle, should we change that and try to engage more with the Emirati culture?*
Glamour, beauty and Splendor
Everywhere you look is a jaw-dropping experience, from the architecture to the meticulous details in the décor and food presentations. In less than three decades this small city has emerged to the world’s most advanced, modern and affluent city. What really blew me away were not so much of the man-made city views, but the old and original streets of what Dubai once was. Our driver told us that we haven’t seen Dubai until we saw what once was the true Dubai.
He drove us down some alley way far out from Downtown, he turned left and turned right, it seemed like we were crossing empty lots filled with sand. Until he finally hit a stopping point and had us look out our window. All I saw were brick-like homes, with cotton like material covering the roofs and windows of the house. People outside conversing and kids playing on the streets. As we were looking out our driver told us that was we were witnessing was the little bit of the real Dubai that was left. To me it was so beautiful to still see some of the country’s history and true foundation of where it once stood. Yes, it was one of their toughest moments in history. However, a lot of the culture is still seen and felt there today.
My favorite topic to share is the food! In Dubai the only bad thing about the food is that it’s hard to choose what you want to eat when there are so many options. The most popular cuisine among residents is the Arabic food of the Middle East, specially the Lebanese, Iranian and Syrian gastronomy. Personally, I loved the Arabic experience, the food and enjoyed the service from Burj Al Hamam and Milas Middle Eastern Restaurant.
There are also excellent Persian, Turkish, Moroccan, Indian, Pakistani and Filipino restaurants that complement the local preferences. Foreigners and visitors have the option to also enjoy the wide choice of international gastronomy offered; from American to European and Indian to Asian. Again, the options are endless!
Things to do outside of Dubai
On my first trip to Dubai, my friends asked me, “Want to travel around the world and eat each delicacy of every city?” At first, I didn’t know if they were being sarcastic or serious. Then I answered with a yes, and before I knew it we were of to the outskirts of the city and into the dessert on our way to travel the world, welcome to Global village, a cultural extravaganza in the region that offers an amazing array of festivals, shopping & entertainment. Here you can eat, explore, burn all the calories wawy and then eat some more while immersing in different cultures!
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and it’s the second most congested city in the UAE. Most of the time it can be overlooked by since majority of the times people visit the UAE is strictly to experience Dubai. I am guilty of being part of that statistic. On my first visit to the UAE, I was only in Dubai, yes my group of friend’s and I did have plans to visit the capital, but it wasn’t on our priority list. However, if it wasn’t for a close friend of mine residing in Abu Dhabi, I probably would’ve never even heard or thought of going in the first place.
When people publish stories about the U.A.E., the country is almost always represented entirely by Dubai, and its almost always reduced to a glitzy, two-dimensional backdrop: a suitably strange, foreign Elsewhere, chock-full of easy signifiers of the “very old” dark-skinned men in robes, desert sand and the “futuristic” (Lamborghinis, postmodern architecture). It is mostly taken away the fact that hard work and labor brought a whole lot of opportunities to a large range of people living there today.
It wasn’t until my second visit, I did a little more research about the capital, and it was then that I knew I couldn’t leave the UAE without giving it a visit.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque This is the largest and most unique designed mosque in the UAE. With marble domes and a distinctive layout, this is definitely a place to experience in person. When I arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes, this place was so majestic and made with such detail focus, it took me a while to take it all in. There is a modest dress code for the Mosque as it is a place of prayer. Islamic values are respected and follow certain steps and rules when visiting the mosque:
- Women should have scarves covering their hair, a long dress and long sleeve top, not low in neckline, transparent or clingy or wear a shaila and abaya, which will cover you fully. Also, and Abaya, long dress, will be given to you if you do not have the appropriate attire.
- Men should not wear shorts at all. Long pants and shirts are fine.
- Do not smoke.
- Never enter a mosque in shoes. You can remove these and place them in cubbies, if not put in a tie bag and keep at your side.
- Do not eat or drink there especially in Ramadhan (In public) and on normal days, as the Mosque is not a place for eating (Etiquette and respect).
- Do not take photos of people without their permission. It is not allowed as far as I know.
- Men are not allowed in areas of the women’s section where women pray.
- Do not walk in front of people praying.
Presidential Palace, Abu Dhabi – This landmark helps to emphasize Abu Dhabi’s role as a leader within the UAE and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The Palace is utilized to house the offices of The President, The Vice President, The Crown Prince, and the Ministers. I found it interesting, unlike other countries, this palace could only be viewed from the beautiful outer gate. You are not allowed to take pictures or enter into the outer gate. However, I still enjoyed seeing the presidential and royal setting with all the flags and beautiful designed entrance gate and well-manicured lawns and flowers.
Do’s and Don’ts:
Don’t go the UAE without two empty pages in passport: I had the opportunity to experience a whole lot of this city, more than I had planned, due to unexpected circumstances. Once I was leaving to catch a flight to my next destination, I had my boarding pass printed out. Suddenly, the airport staff takes my boarding pass and tear it right in the middle and told me I couldn’t fly to India. My mother was right next to me and was issued the approval to fly without me.
Dubai Airport is very strict and abides by every rule in the book. With that being said, due to my passport not having two empty pages to stamp, I was not able to leave to India since they require at least one empty page for visa stamps upon arrival at the airport. Without those two pages, I wouldn’t be able to enter India, nevertheless, leave Dubai.
*If you find yourself in this situation, quickly make an appointment at your embassy located in Dubai, and apply for an “Emergency Passport”. Reminder: They are closed Friday’s and Saturday’s and re-open on Sunday’s*
Don’t: Be drunk and disorderly in public is unacceptable, and may result in a fine or worse.
Don’t: beckon (wave,signal) or point with your finger, instead use the whole hand
Do’s: Residents and visitors should dress modestly, particularly in conservative areas and public places.
Do’s: Accept invitations from residents
With all being said, passion is what drives me to continue to experience cultures and the unknown. Before I traveled to the UAE, I was one of those who thought it was just all glitz and glamour of a city and that Dubai was its own country. It’s pretty powerful what traveling can teach you, more than books, classes and TV shows. With it’s future plans to continue to grow, connect and expand, Dubai is doing more than just building a strong economy, but it is also bringing everyone form everywhere together.
Many have asked if they can join me on my travels. It is quite impossible to bring everyone along with me. That is why I wanted to make the impossible, possible. By creating a personalized itinerary based off my experiences, I am excited to share with you a Travel Package that will allow you to Travel With Curls! Experience Dubai, everything mentioned in this post and more! I’ll be looking forward to your stories!
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