top 5 Dubai highlights
With UAE national day coming up, I wanted to add a small contribution to the festivities and talk about what I consider to be the top 5 Dubai highlights. Now, I’m sure when you read this blog title “top 5 Dubai highlights” you were expecting one of those articles which lists of all the amazing attractions in Dubai – the Burj Khalifa, the Burj al Arab, the indoor ski field, the beaches, the nightlife… the list goes on. I could point you to hundreds of sites and blogs that talk about all these things. And yes, they are amazing!
What I wanted to write about though, is those truly unique top 5 Dubai highlights that have made this new home special to us. They may not be as big and as pretty as the ones listed on other blogs, but they have a certain character that I think, helps you to understand what it is about Dubai that makes people come here and then want to stay.
You may think it’s a bit odd to list rain first, especially in a desert town and considering my earlier blog about Dubai weather for the uninitiated and staying off the roads. But there is truly something magical that happens here when it rains. Where I come from, summer time is all about storms and you can feel that electric change in the atmosphere when the storm is approaching and I have always loved the feeling, the smell and the subsequent downpour. What is so special here is not so much the atmospheric changes, but more so the attitude change! People begin to smile and laugh more; I have seen people out dancing in the street as the rain falls; women walking along, still fully robed in their abayas, but with their shoes off jumping around in puddles. It’s catching too! I found myself just today, running to the window to marvel at the drops rolling down and later deliberately walking through puddles on the way to the car just to enjoy the feeling of the warm water on my toes (I deliberately don’t think too much about what might be in the puddle of course…)
Because it is such a rare event, it brings such joy and excitement that you can’t help but join in the fun and let me tell you, you really do appreciate every drop and every wafting breeze and change in atmospheric pressure this long-awaited natural therapy brings. I don’t know this can be appreciated in such a way anywhere else…
2. queues for women
I do feel quite lucky to be a woman here with my family for a few reasons, but none so important as the system of female-only lines that exist virtually everywhere. I have walked into official buildings and looked around with that sinking feeling of hundreds (literally) people queued up waiting. But then, from the corner of the room there will be a flicker of light, a small beacon that begins to shine… I start to walk towards it as it beckons me, almost winking at me – yes, it is! A sign saying For Women Only. I have NEVER seen this in my home town, indeed, I used to get pushed out-of-the-way and virtually trampled on in many official places, especially if there was a queue that required you to take a deli ticket – then it really was every man for himself.
So I amble over into a spacious, air-conditioned, empty waiting room where my little boy has some toys to play with, and I can sit in peace and work through whatever needs to be done with the lovely female staffer, before heading back out to thrash through the throng to head home – all done within 10 minutes. This is truly one of the very special Dubai conveniences that I have fully embraced and will struggle to give up one day!
No my lovely ladies… chivalry is not dead! Come to Dubai and you will see it in the flesh almost everywhere you go. I have had people help me with pushing my trolley at the supermarket, carry shopping they think looks too heavy, give me seats on the metro, I even had one person at an official processing counter offer me cookies as he thought I looked hungry! And, you guessed it, doors are held open and I exit lifts first.
Now, being a modern woman who has been brought up in the feminist world where you are taught not to need or expect these things, I have been a little shocked and somewhat skeptical! Little Chubs is not called Chubs for nothing – he’s quite a unit to carry around. And back home, I was so used to lugging him, his bags, the pram, the shopping all while juggling keys and holding coffee, my arms were looking extremely strong and sculpted with all the lifting workouts.
When we arrived, at first it was hard to accept some of this chivalry on face value, and I kept trying to tip people or waiting for the inevitable sales pitch to follow. They would look at me strangely and walk away confused and possibly slightly offended. It was then that I realised how starved I had been of this kind of social grace. I have to say it has been such a refreshing change and once again, another special wonder of being a woman and mother in Dubai!
Once again, you may find this a little odd to include given this is a desert. But I have truly found some of the best grass of my life in Dubai. Yes the patches may be somewhat smaller than I am used to but there is something about any grass here that is truly magical.
Where I am from, there is grass all over the place and it is quite lovely to look at. Green is very pleasing to the eye. But the thing that no-one tells you is that grass can be a scary place and until I moved here, I would look at grass and immediately think “pain”. There are things called bindis – prickles that hide in the grass in little patches you can’t see until you have stepped on them and they are buried deep into your pain receptors and subsequently are very difficult to pull out. There are bees who just love any kind of weeds or flowers and can be very clever at camouflaging so once again, you don’t know they are there until you step on them. Then, there are the ants – black, green, red – all of them bite (hard) and all of them garnish a similar response of “owww”, “aghhh”, “f&%$$^&*@”.
So you can imagine my trepidation when I came across my first patch of grass in Dubai as it looked pristine, rich and soft. People once again were looking at me strangely as I freaked out when Chubs took off his shoes and Miss Sparky sat without putting a blanket down first. What I discovered was, this is amazing grass. It’s like golfing greens everywhere you go. No prickles, no weeds and most importantly, no bugs that I have seen. This is almost like Nirvana to me. You can lie on the grass and stare up at the clear blue sky for as long as you like, and there will be no creepy crawly you have to slap, no buzzing you have to freak out about or any bindes in your butt – you actually can just relax and enjoy like you are on the set of some old English film patiently waiting for Mr Darcy to come and bring you a cup of tea – ahhhhhhh
5. the harmony
There is truly something special about the way Dubai functions as a society and the level of acceptance of people from all nations and backgrounds. I was filled with reservations moving here but tried to keep an open, positive mind and I have not been disappointed. Just today, I was in a room chatting with a group and there were people from Egypt, Syria, Mauritius, the Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya, India, Norway and South Africa. It was such an interesting and diverse group and we had such fantastic discussions about where everyone was from, how they are adjusting to life here and what life is like in their home town. And as most people are in the same boat in terms of living away from their families and their home, there is almost instant affinity.
This was not an unusual group by any means. Everywhere you turn there are people from almost every place on the planet and everyone seems to co-exist peacefully. Each of the Emirati people I have met have shared this same curiosity and interest, and have had that openness and friendliness that means you can instantly connect on a mutual level of respect and interest. I think it’s truly an amazing feat and something you would probably struggle to find in other cities of the world. You really are made to feel like a welcome, global citizen. I feel so incredibly lucky that we will have the opportunity to meet so many different people and that our kids will grow up with friends from all over the world and learn to appreciate difference rather than sameness and conformity!
I will leave you to ponder these thoughts and perhaps to have a look around for some of the more unique highlights in your world. Please share them – I love to hear about other adventures and special moments as well!