Date night Dubai style
For us, date night is sacred. The lure of a Thursday night, sans children with the world’s biggest, ritziest playground at our feet is sometimes all that keeps us going during the week. It’s something to focus on when you’re stuck in endless meetings in overly air-conditioned offices or wrangling screaming toddlers.
Date night is the light at the end of the tunnel. And as each Thursday afternoon rolls around, we get increasingly excited about the evening ahead.
This is the story of one typical summer Dubai date night from last Thursday night.. It helps to understand some of the absurdity of this place, for all its ritzy glamour!
The Date night decision
Whilst there’s endless choice in Dubai, we seem to have arrived at a standard formula for our evenings. We like to start with a swim in the Gulf, followed by drinks, some lazing, a nice shower then dress for dinner somewhere nice.
However, most Thursday afternoons still begin with a hearty debate in the car about where to go and what to do.
Which type of beach do we want to swim at – waves or flat? Are we after a cold pool, an empty pool, a pool with a view? Do we want a pool bar, swim up bar or do we not really want a drink. Should we take a half hour to do steam room and ice baths or just go straight to showers? Do we want big showers with deodorant, skin cream and fluffy towels or are we happy with just the basics.
The funny thing about Dubai is that you’ll never find one place that has absolutely everything you want. It’s like when you property hunt the Dubai way. You’ll find most of what you want in some places, but never everything. And that doesn’t just extend to date night. This is true of the shopping malls, supermarkets, entertainment facilities, attractions
It’s important to acknowledge at this point that I’m completely aware of how shallow this all sounds.
I’m aware that these are absolutely first world problems. But if you are truthful with yourself, that really is the world of the Dubai expat. And please believe that we truly do acknowledge how lucky we are that this is the biggest decision of our week.
Date night stage one – The swim
Our debates about the evening tend to last all the way down Sheikh Zayed Road. The pressure is on when we begin to near possible exits for some of our favourite swim options.
So on this particular Thursday, after a hearty debate we decide to go to one of our easy option venues – the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
Whilst the facilities of the hotel are good, it’s definitely not one of the newer or fancier possibilities on the date night list.
However, the main reason we love it is the beach.
There is a stretch of beach at this hotel, immediately next to the Burj al Arab. Many a time we have been and there have been quite decent waves that you can actually catch. It reminds us the teeniest tiniest bit of Australia. There’s no better way to end the week than some vigorous body surfing let me tell you!
So, we head to trusty old JBH to kick off the afternoon in our favourite style. It’s easy to forgive the 45deg temp and the 85% humidity when you know there is a refreshing swim in your future. We’re almost whistling as we skip through the entrance and head to the beach.
oh no.. we’ve been ‘Dubai’d’
And here we experience the first crushing disappointment for the evening, commonly referred to as ‘being Dubai’d’.
We register, park and then go through the entrance without a hint of any issues.
Almost immediately, we see the first thing it would have been good to be aware of prior to entering. The hotel is apparently undergoing major renovations of the outdoor facilities.
This is absolutely typical of Dubai.
Just when you start to like a place, like a particular route to get somewhere or you get attached to a particular brand, sure as anything it will change/disappear. No-one will tell you there is a possibility of this happening, indeed nor will you often realise it has happened until you are:
- driving the wrong way down a one way street
- standing looking at an empty building with a For Lease sign
- wandering aisles aimlessly then finally giving in and asking what happened to your favourite product only to be told by the smiling Filipino attendant that “we changed suppliers ma’am”.
Anyway, so we walk through the large construction barriers to find that one of the biggest pools has been closed, our favourite beachside eatery is closed and every resident of JBH and it appears, the surrounding suburbs, are jammed into the main pool. It’s literally heaving with over-excited children and overly hairy men of various backgrounds taking selfies and clogging the pool filters.
So we head straight for the beach.
The water beckons like an old friend and we both start to run to the shoreline to jump in the lovely water.
Can you imagine the disappointment when we realise the temperature of the water matches the air. It feels like we’ve just entered a spa but someone forgot to turn on the jets. And the water feels thick as though all the life that was in the sea has been boiled and is now floating aimlessly around us.
We are officially crushed.
Lovely Hubby quickly declares that he’s “not going to spend one more second swimming in this effing bowl of soup”!
We quickly head back to the pool of human hair and screaming children to at least cool down a bit before continuing to the second stage of our date. Icky but at least slightly refreshing.
Date night stage two – The drinks
Showered and dressed, we reflect momentarily on our disappointment with our favourite regular of JBH. And given all the noise and dust of the construction, we decide to head elsewhere for dinner.
This leads to another debate about next steps. Things like traffic, parking, taxi/safe-driver charges and tolerance for the crazies on the road on Thursday nights must all be factored into the next stage of date night.
We decide that we can’t be bothered dealing with any of those things so we opt to go down the road from our apartment to somewhere we know has free valet parking, great restaurants and awesome views – the JW Marriott Marquis.
We both feel like Asian food so we opt to try the Thai place. But given first, we opt for a relaxing drink as the sun-sets to kick off the evening. The JW Marriott is the world’s tallest hotel and the restaurant and bar on the 68th floor has spectacular views of both the city and the Gulf.
And again… ‘Dubai’d’
And so begins our second crushing disappointment of the evening.
We get the lift all the way up and as we exit on the 68th floor, we’re intercepted by a friendly, attentive hostess. “You have a reservation for dinner at the restaurant?” she asks.
We explain that we just want to have a pre-dinner drink at the bar. She’s quickly joined by another smiling, attentive hostess and together, they explain that we are not dressed appropriately to enter the bar.
At this point, for you to realise the absurdity of the situation, I need to explain another important Dubai nuance.
Rules are applied verbatim. There is no consideration of what is logical, no sense of reason, and definitely no scope for bending or stretching any rule ever.
And so, when these lovely hostesses are explaining that lovely hubby cannot enter the bar in ‘flip flops’, I have a sinking feeling immediately that this is not going to happen.
Hubby makes a valiant attempt. He explains that they’re not flip flops, they’re leather sandals. The angle that it’s too hot for shoes doesn’t seem to work. Even the trusty old ‘it’s so early, there won’t even be anyone else in the bar’ line fails. Then, smiling hostess number two finally articulates the real reasons the footwear is unacceptable.
“Shoes with no back on them are just too dangerous” she says with a serious face.
So I ask the million dollar question.
“Does that mean that you don’t let any locals into this establishment?” (Remember, traditional Emirati attire is a long kandura and leather slip on sandals).
For a brief second, I’m sure that I see a flicker of logic enter this girl’s face as she lets out a short ‘um… ah…’ but she recovers that Dubai rule-bound composure quickly and responds with the standard line of “well, anyone in a kandura is an exception to this rule ma’am”.
To which lovely hubby responds immediately with a hearty snort and a retort of “oh, because walking around in open heeled sandals in a long dress is just so much safer hey?”
But we both know the score. There’s no way we’re getting into this bar tonight.
Dubai -2 Date night – 0
There’s awkward silence as we have to wait for the lift to come all the way back up to the 68th floor. Lovely Hubby has one last joust calling out “you really should get your supervisor to revise that ridiculous rule lady” before we finally get back in the lift to head to dinner.
Date night stage three – The dinner
Frustrating as Dubai and its rules can be, there’s something about the place that makes it extremely easy to forgive. And within moments of finding our restaurant and being seated at a very cool bar for pre-dinner drinks, we’ve forgotten there was any other option on the table.
After a bit of relaxing, yet another smiling hostess arrives to take us to our table for dinner.
As we walk through the restaurant, I am completely blown away. We’ve been Dubai’d again, but this time in a very good way.
Tong Thai is decked out to be an upmarket, classy Thai experience. It’s lit with lemongrass scented candles. Booths line the walkways filled with comfy looking couches and assorted Thai artefacts. You feel like you’re walking to another building but then you turn the final corner past the water fountains and before you is a dreamy space filled with floating red lanterns.
We are seated right at the window looking out over the lights of Business Bay. The atmosphere is so unique and special, we’ve already forgotten the rest of the evening.
It’s one of the truly great parts of living in Dubai – AMAZING restaurants from every corner of the globe.
The menus come out, each with an individual reading light and we order an assortment of traditional dishes. The presentation, the taste, the quantity is all absolutely five-star. We are immensely impressed.
The piece de resistance
So there we are… happy, full tummies and excited to still be awake after 10pm. All is forgiven. Dubai is back in our good books.
We dreamily stroll to the entrance to wait for the valet to bring our car.
Waiting at the front of the JW Marriott is like strolling a luxury car showroom except that all the cars are being paraded in front of you rather than stationary around a room.
And here is the final cherry on the top of the ultimate summer Dubai date night.
We look up and there in front of us in a solid gold Bentley.
I’m not kidding.
This is the kind of ostentatious wealth you see here. And whilst it is completely gaudy and over the top, there’s something about it that really is just…. I don’t know the right adjective… cool?
I know in Australia for example, if you pulled up in a car it’s highly likely you would either:
- get beaten up
- have your hubcaps stolen
- be abused for pissing money away.
Nope, not here though. Dubai believes in none of those things.
If nothing else, it makes for great date night entertainment and the perfect end to a typical Dubai date night.
Another date night done
So there you have it. A blow-by-blow account of a fairly standard summer Dubai date night. It’s too damn hot to do anything normal, so you make the best of what’s in front of you.
Actually, that really is a perfect way to describe Dubai wouldn’t you think? Making something out of nothing? I mean, who else could build a world-class city in a desert?
And as always, when you are a Dubai resident, you just have to roll with all the attempts of the city to sabotage your plans. Being Dubai’d becomes second nature after a while.
We’d love to hear any other date night stories if you would like to share. And we love new suggestions of places to try. Life’s too short to stick to one date night agenda after all.
Have a great week everyone. I hope you too have a date night with your love to look forward to.