"Not all that glitters is gold..." Top 5 Page for this destination Dubai by JessH

Dubai Travel Guide: 2,721 reviews and 8,020 photos

For Sun Worshippers seeking Retail Therapy

What is the secret of Dubai's success? According to the Ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, it's the desert: "It is due to the vast desert spaces of my country, where the mind has the freedom to think, to explore & dream."
So those of you who guessed oil / cheap expat labour / absolute power were all wrong... it's sand.



I've been living, working, sweating & partying in Dubai since 1998. It's a difficult place to describe. So many have asked me "Do you like living there?" Well, let's say I used to love it. Too much has changed. Nowadays I guess I *appreciate* the experiences, friends, knowledge & opportunities this city has given me. "C'est la Vie" - everything changes...

Even though the city is cosmopolitan & offers anything you may fancy, I recommend trying some typical Arabic food... you won't regret it! Dubai strives to "have it all": the family-holiday, the honeymoon couple, seniors, or younsters looking to party and tan!


A holiday in Dubai can be great, as long as you make sure that you are aware of the best season to travel (weather, Ramadan, etc.), where to stay, where to shop, what to wear & what to see.

If you can't find something specific, send me an e-mail or try the Dubai VT-Forum.


Facts & Figures of the United Arab Emirates:

Capital: Abu Dhabi (Dubai is the 2nd largest emirate; NOT a country in itself!)
Local Time: GMT + 4 hours
Currency: AED or Dhs = UAE Dirham (1 US Dollar = 3.67 Dirhams)
Weekend: Friday and Saturday.

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz // Plugs/Socket: 3 rectangular pins (exactly the same as the UK)
Dialling code: 00971 - ... .... // Traffic circulation is on the right.

Population: Almost 1.5 million. 80% are expatriates.

National Day: 2nd December
President: HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Former (1st) President: HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
Vice President of the UAE & Ruler of Dubai: HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Originally a small fishing settlement, Dubai was taken over in about 1830 by a branch of
the Baniyas tribe led by the Maktoum family, who still rule the emirate today.
While trade developed, Dubai remained politically a protectorate of Britain as part of the Trucial States (formed 1820).
The first oil exports in 1969 were followed by a period of rapid development that laid the foundations for today's modern society.
After the British withdrawal, Dubai came together with Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah & Ras Al Khaimah to create the federation of the UAE. The agreement was signed on 2nd December 1971 in a ceremony held at the
Al Ittihad House, marked by a huge flag until this day.

Although Dubai's economy was built on the back of the oil industry, oil & natural gas currently account for surprisingly little of the money the emirate makes each year.

Dubai - stranger than fiction


For tourists, business travellers & residents alike, it's always good to stay in touch with your respective Embassy / Consulate, as they are able to assist you with anything you may require whilst staying in the UAE.

Ah yes, Dubai, the "Manhattan of the desert".
Tourists are flocking here, as well as people seeking fortune & riches.
My parents were the latter, and that's how I got here.

Skyscrapers, highways, luxury resorts and ridiculous projects such as 'the World' and 'Jumeirah Islands' have been popping-up everywhere, and continue to do so. When will it ever end? Dubai has earnt its nick-name as "Disneyland of the desert" or "Bubble Land"...

Thank Heavens for the global economic crisis!
It has forced Dubai to stop digging & building, wait, think and replan! (seriously, do we really need an underwater hotel? Or more than 100 shopping malls?)
And as for the sky-high living expensese and rents? Well, I'm thrilled to report that they have crashed by about 50-60% and a recovery is nowhere in sight... Phew! Finally, we can afford a nice place to live again!


In the following pages I wish to give you an insight into the world beyond the tv-commercials for the Burj Al Arab: I believe it's important for anyone coming to Dubai to see both the shiny, gleaming side of the gold coin, as well as the dirty & rusty flip-side, that is not spoken about.

For interesting facts on Dubai's "Truth Denial", click here...

ANIMAL LOVERS travelling to Dubai

In October 2005 the TimeOutDubai magazine published an article about the horrific truths about the pet trade in Dubai. Please don't buy animals from pet shops, especially in Dubai: the animals usually come from puppy/kitten mills with fake papers from Eastern Europe, and are in dreadful condition (if they even survive the trip).

Feline Friends
for all you cat-lovers!

K9 Friends
for all you dog-lovers!

No Dolphin Show
to protest the Dolphinarium in Dubai.

Dubai Department of Tourism
Post your complaints/comments on Dubai directly to the Department of Tourism! Especially about the horrific conditions in the Dubai Zoo. No matter where you live, you have a voice!


Some more info, pictures and the truth about the U.A.E.'s cruelty to animals can be found here

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beaches, over 100 different cultures to learn from, desert driving, nice weather from Oct.-May
  • Cons:Censored media, "social racism", unclear laws & regulations.
  • In a nutshell:Great for a holiday, but very different if you actually live here
  • Intro Updated Jul 18, 2012
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Reviews (175)

Comments (163)

  • Parisforless's Profile Photo
    Feb 21, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    Just came back from Dubai, booked a trip 3 days in advance and wish I've read your tips. I did managed well enough and had the most amazing journey with my son. Hope you can be a part of my VT friend - I intend to visit again.
    Svetlana

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Sep 13, 2012 at 2:17 AM

    Nice tips!

  • nyperose's Profile Photo
    Aug 26, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    A really nice, informative Dubai page!

  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo
    May 22, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    Nice frank tips, Jess!

  • nelinka's Profile Photo
    Mar 11, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    Hello Jess, this is really a great, detailed and helpful page. Thanks a lot!

  • Durfun's Profile Photo
    Dec 12, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    Hi Jess, Love your pages so much, came back for a second peek, & this time made notes having figured out a lot about your city ;-)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Oct 9, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    Your indepth detail the the actual way of life and culture here is by far the best on VT, and elsewhere. Fabulous job of presenting this city. OUr daughter and son are on honeymoon there now, and maybe they should have looked you up for tips.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2010 at 7:31 AM

    Thank you for the tour and insight of customs in Dubai. The city has such contrast than what I thought it was. Excellent page!

  • Mikebb's Profile Photo
    May 20, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    Excellent tips, will be back to read remainder. Our 2 day stopover on return journey to Australia mid Oct appears not long enough. Will weather allow walking?

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Jan 6, 2010 at 2:02 AM

    Hi Jess, I hope you are getting a good start in the New Year. I'm very impressed with your detailed and informative Things to Do tips on Dubai. (I'll be back some other time for more.)

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