Going to dubai. What do I need to know?
November 21, 2006 2:33 AM   Subscribe

Dubai. I'm headed to dubai for work (for about two weeks) in the very near future for work. What do I need to know?

While I'm told it's very westernized, what sort of general tips do I need to know about Dubai?

Any major Faux Pas to avoid? How widely spread is english? What key arabic phrases should I know? Crime a major issue?

I'm not a shopper of 'gold' or much of a shopper in general. What do I absolutely, positively need to see?

I have taken a look at travelwiki and wikipedia; it's the knowledge of people who've been there that I'm interested in.
posted by filmgeek to Travel & Transportation around UAE (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just got back from there a couple of weeks ago - a wee holiday. I didn't encounter anyone who didn't speak English. so not to worry on that front. As a male, you don't need to worry about what parts of the city not to go to or what to cover up (in the more traditional area by the Spice Souq, it was very uncomfortable as a woman). I don't know much about the working life, but as for touristy things to see, check out the Gold Souq and the Mall of the Emirates (with the ski slope) even if you're not much of a shopper. Do a desert safari because dune bashing and camel riding is something to tell the folks at home about and is fun (I can recommend Arabian Adventure for this). You will quickly discover the cool spots to hang out - the hotel bars seem to be popular with working expats. The best one I checked out on my trip was the wine and cigar bar at the Fairmont - lots of Brits and North Americans there. Enjoy - I'd definitely go back to Dubai, it was one unique place.
posted by meerkatty at 2:55 AM on November 21, 2006


My Dad has lived & worked in Dubai for 10+ years so I have been there quite a few times.

English is very widespread, and I wouldn't have thought you'd ever end up dealing with anyone who didn't speak English. Good Arabic words to know though are:
shukran = thank you
salam alaykum = hello

Faux pas to avoid: don't get into a car accident with a local ("local" = a native Arab), as whatever the reason for the accident, you will be blamed and the local will get off scot-free. That's just the way it is. The driving out there is pretty crazy so be aware of that if you're going to have to drive (there's not much public transport but taxis are fairly plentiful and cheap - make sure you use an official one with a meter though)

Things so see/do: the indoor ski-slope mentioned above (worth going to see just for the ridiculousness of it), the Burj Al-Arab (massive luxury hotel), wadi-bashing/dune driving with friends or a tour group (seconding Arabian Adventures) is a fun experience, "Wild Wadi" is a pretty good water park with some cool slides.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:16 AM on November 21, 2006


Hello for non-muslims is Marhaba and the response is Marhabtayn

Its hot, its so incrediblely fucking hot. It makes Arizona feel like Wisconsin in January. It's hot.

Did I mention it gets warm? I did, I think, but it also gets a little chilly at night so, though it seems counterintuitive, bring a light jacket or sweater.
posted by Pollomacho at 3:33 AM on November 21, 2006


Take a jacket if you're going to the cinema or a restaurant too, those places love to wack the AC up to maximum freezingness.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:47 AM on November 21, 2006


Its hot, its so incrediblely fucking hot. It makes Arizona feel like Wisconsin in January. It's hot.

This time of year it's great.
posted by atrazine at 5:31 AM on November 21, 2006


Dubai is incredibly western - it is almost like being in the States. In fact, I wondered while there if they worried about there own culture vanishing under the weight of the Western world.

In fact, it is sometimes easy to forget that you are not in the States. Don't make that mistake. Dress conservatively. No public displays of affection. And I'm sure you weren't going to do this, but for heavens sake don't bring drugs on board the plane - as you get ready to land, they give you a pamphlet telling you that if you bring drugs in, the penalty is death. So, bring all prescription/OTC drugs in their original containers, with labels and such attached to the bottles.

Everything is brand new: the roads, the buildings, the airport, etc. The sheer wealth is overwhelming.

It is not all wealth - they do have a large number of immigrants who seem quite poor, and who do most of the manual labor (everything from building roads to cleaning the expats' apartments). Given their circumstances, if you are like me you'll want to tip well, tip often, and never fail to smile and be polite to them.

I found it to be very safe and very comfortable. I was literally never nervous about crime.

I seem to remember that I had trouble using my Visa bank card to withdraw dirhams from the ATM at the airport... but that could be just my card. It needed a PIN number that I didn't have? Something like that... but a local bank took care of me.

Taxi rides are... swift... Locations don't seem to have many addresses like we do. Instead, it's just the building and the area of town. Taxi drivers know where every darn thing is, though, and will get you wherever you need to go, and fast.

I actually had to go to the doctor while there, and that was a big fear come to life for me. I had nothing to worry about though. Just in case you need it, there's an excellent doctor in the Al Zahra Put Medical center, on Sh Zayed Road, in the Al Safa Tower.

If you meet with people, you will want to break for prayer times. These times are listed on the front page of the daily newspaper. Hearing the music that is their call to prayer in the morning is absolutely magical.

Have lots of fun! Eat dates and drink tea! Go waddi bashing! Ride a camel! Get a henna tattoo! See a belly dancer! Ya, these are tourist things, but they are so very much fun. :)
posted by Houstonian at 6:52 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


I agree with what everyone said so far, and would add some suggestions:
Go on a boat tour of the canal, it is beautiful and well worth it to see all the buildings and get a sense of how the crazy city is laid out.
Visit some of the museums, they have great displays and amazing artifacts.
Go to the Global Village if you want other types of food (I guess you won't miss western food if you are there for such a short time, but if you do, they have great restaurants there.) They also have a hookah bar, which is a lot of fun.
Like Houstonian said, there aren't really addresses or street names, and there are parts of town where all the stores are of the same variety, which you can sort of use to get around. For instance, my apartment was on Toilet Fixture Street.
All the roads are changing and being built and having sand blown over them constantly, and every map is wrong. Much better to take a taxi than try to navigate yourself, especially with the crazy drivers on the road and what would happen to you (physically and legally) if you got into an accident.

oh and don't get hennaed if you are a man.
posted by rmless at 7:48 AM on November 21, 2006


I wondered while there if they worried about there own culture vanishing under the weight of the Western world.

Here's a recent NYT article that answers this question.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:30 AM on November 21, 2006


I'll share 2 stories that might give you some insights.

On my first day there, I had problems securing dirhams. That was later resolved by a trip to the bank, but before I went to the bank I needed to go to a meeting across town. I had no way to pay for the taxi ride (since I had no dirhams). I was a bit panicked - what to do? I threw myself at the mercy of a taxi driver, explaining my problem. He suggested that he would take me to my meeting, and then he would run into me the next morning at my hotel, and I could pay him what I owed then. Now, a taxi ride is fairly cheap, but this person probably lives 6 to a room... it was incredibly generous and trusting.

On the plan ride to Dubai, there were some US military folks on board. They were young men, from small towns in the States. They were overseas for the first time, and were landing in Dubai for the weekend and then traveling to Iraq from there. You could practically smell the nervousness. I wish I could tell you that they were wearing their dress uniform and behaving like gentlemen and guests, but they were wearing fatigues and boots... When we landed, we all walked over to the luggage pickup area. They became loud and abrasive, sniggering and pointing at one woman who was wearing a burqa and generally causing commotion. Their fear made them behave in ways that (I hope) they never would at home.
posted by Houstonian at 10:45 AM on November 21, 2006


This so far has been really great. Feel free to add more!
posted by filmgeek at 7:19 PM on November 21, 2006


Two more recommendations: take a dinner cruise along the river (not sure whether you can still do this; I vaguely remember hearing that they'd been shut down due to an accident) and check out the museum, it tells the story of how Dubai became the way it is.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:55 AM on November 22, 2006


Just in case anyone is reading...or following up...

Any faux pas to avoid?
posted by filmgeek at 2:38 PM on November 23, 2006


I guess there's the standard set of Things Not To Do In An Muslim/Arabic Country.
It depends who you're dealing with though, really. There are tons of North American, European, and East Asian expats in Dubai, and they probably won't give a shit about the stuff in the above link. But then, you might be dealing with 'locals', in which case it'd be quite important.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:39 PM on November 23, 2006


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