When a city is made up of 80 percent expats, with most of world’s nations represented, it is quite difficult to define the true Dubai.
We met one such resident, Erik, who came from Philippines in search of a better life a few years ago. We had the pleasure to meet and chat with him over a traditional Mandi dinner.
It was very interesting to get his perspective on the local scene, for which we are grateful. It turned out, his nomad adventure continues as he emigrates to Canada in just a few weeks. Go figure, coincidence?! He happens to be a part-time travel writer so please check out one of his projects here.
Dubai comes from a history of pearl divers and gold tradesman. Even though many like to refer to it as the City of Gold, the truth is that its riches come from oil which was discovered in the 60’s. Dubai’s rulers knew that this precious resource would eventually run out so they decided to diversify their GDP portfolio. They succeeded. Now, only 10 percent of Dubai’s GDP comes from oil exploration and production. Dubai has literary risen from the desert and became a financial world player and a playground for the rich.
We perceived Dubai to be the Vegas of the Middle East, except with many more rules and regulations mandated by the Muslim faith. The law here is of the Koran except for commerce laws adopted from the global business community. So far, Dubai has been a place with a culture most different from the one we know and grew up in. We were not here to judge but we found this Muslim city to be rather strict, even if it’s considered to be one of most progressive in the Muslim world. Censorship of information, internet access control, questionable treatment of the labour force, women’s role in society are just a few topics we would rather just observe.
Niko thought that the country’s president (Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan) was a deity due to his pronounced visibility on billboards, buildings and hotel lobbies.
Personally, I found the concept of the ‘democratic monarchy’ quite fascinating as the elections are held with just a few select Royals and there is no official leading or opposing party.
Capitalism and faith rule this land and what a fascinating land that is! We had an opportunity to visit the ultra new and extravagant Dubai as well as the “Old Dubai” that gave us a
hint of its roots. How can I complain, as Niko absolutely loved the most amazing aquarium and fountain show at the Dubai Mall… not to mention the white sandy beaches with turquoise and warm waters (30+ Celcius).
It is well worth the visit with the family and I wish one day to return to explore this country further.
One tip for those who plan a transit visit. UAE offers Canadian visitors a 96 hour transit visa if you have proof of an ongoing destination and a booked hotel. The issue we encountered is that one of the very few places that offers that visa when you arrive is Marhaba Services that will facilite the process of obtaining a visa but only if you book a hotel stay with them. This proves rather unfavourable to any budget traveller. After some digging, we found out that Arabia Adventures offers the same visa for a cost of $180 CND per person. Pretty steep for a 4-day stay but less than the $250 minimum fee for 30-day visa. The other option is to ask the hotel you are staying at, to sponsor your stay. Beware of large deposit requests and 3+ days to have it processed prior to your arrival. Good luck and enjoy.
Do you agree? Is Dubai worth the gold it defines? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Here are some of our photos from this trip: