Dubai is NOT for solo (female) travel or the faint of heart.
Amongst a land full of narcissistic xenophobic racists who seem to care more about social status and how much you have in the bank you will find friendly people, a social life, foodie heaven and an excellent nightlife. Left with a wave of emotions throughout the entire trip, a lot of things started to make sense the more I was able to interact and converse with people who live there. Dubai is a tough city. I didn’t understand its beauty and why everyone was soo attracted to it. It reminded me of my dating life; once you get past my walls, you realize I'm not a bad person after all…. but I digress.
I admit I started off my trip rather touristy. Though I was staying with a family friend, I didn’t know anyone. I met people through Facebook and a coworker’s friend, but they weren’t available until later in the week, so I was on my own. That wasn’t going to be an issue because I have no problem meeting people. So I did what any typical traveler would do in a foreign land, set up a city tour to understand the country and its bearings and mingle with tourist.
Well, that didn’t work out for me that much. I thought I’d see other solo travelers and we would bond over our kindred spirit. Wishful
thinking. People were cordial, but each tour was full of groups, families, and couples who were consumed with themselves that they weren’t interested in meeting others. Luckily, on each tour, I found at least one solo traveler that I could bond with, so I wouldn’t feel like an outsider.
Between tours, I went to the malls to shop and people watch. Malls are a very popular hangout spot amongst the locals because it serves as a cool haven to get out of the desert heat. Many locals stay inside throughout the day. That’s why you will find many activities like Ice skating and the aquarium at Dubai Mall and Ski Dubai at the Mall of Emirates.
I for sure never thought I'd see the day that I would be over the mall. Between my budget and hurting feet, I was over the mall and all that came with it. And to add to that, I dealt with constant stares and being followed around stores. Didn’t know if it was a courtesy to assist customers readily or if I was stereotyped. It seemed a lot of the workers stared or ignored until I opened my mouth and they realized I was American. All of a sudden their demeanor changed. After wandering aimlessly throughout the mall trying to kill time, I found myself falling asleep in coffee areas.
Lesson Learned: Next time I'm staying in the city. I'm thankful for my family friend opening her home, but it was an hour away. Staying in the city would've been convenient for tour pickups, nap time in between tours, and accessibility to events in the city. And did I mention how rude people were!?? I can handle gawks, but to blatantly get the balls to ask “What are you?” is quite rude. Not where you from, but what are you!? And to top that off, let’s add constant pushing, brushing by you, and jumping in front of you as if you weren’t standing there to the list. Add that to being female which seem to hold little to no respect unless they were flirting with you. Or the drivers who cut you off, merge to another lane with little to no notice or blare their horn at you because you weren’t moving fast enough for them. Like dude! The light turned green like one millisecond ago. RELAX!!
I found myself getting angry and ready to go off. I already have a short fuse, but not all cultures react the same. Especially a Muslim country full of many rules and laws. I had security called on me for asking a question because I didn’t understand the policy. I saw people get picked up and thrown out of the club for a misunderstanding of the bill. I for one am not trying to go to jail or get thrown out of the country. And from all the tours and stories I heard it's exactly what they would do!
That moment I realized Dubai was not for the faint of hearts. If you are easily disturbed by unpleasantness and rude people than this place by yourself is not ideal.
And that is when I saw the silver lining.
When the opportunity to meet up with my coworker’s friend and a Facebook travel group member and her friends came, I saw why Dubai is so appealing. While hanging with them, I met their friends and people were more receptive to mix and mingle. Strangers were freer to converse with new people, and I finally had an opportunity feel like I belonged.
The best part besides hanging with people and their friends was I was experiencing nightlife in Dubai. The nighttime is when people seem to come alive over libations and chain-smoking. They appear to come out of their shell in their fancy outfits and heels as they dance the night away, mostly off beat.
Now that I finally got to meet people, I was able to get to the bottom of why I had mixed feelings about Dubai. I mean, I didn't have many good experiences up till that point so who else would be great to ask but the people I met who were living there? Too many people enjoyed their stay here so what was I doing wrong?!
We shared many conversations discussing my interactions, what activities I attended, what it's like residing in Dubai, overcoming changes, and dating in another country. And it dawned on me. Throughout my entire trip, I didn't have fun like all the others because of one reason... I was alone. This city is not meant for the wanderers of the world. It's intended to capture moments and amazing memories amongst your family or friends. This city is a place where people to come together and enjoy life. Unless you're meeting someone, it's not for the solo. It never clicked why tour guides and hotel staff looked at me strangely for coming alone. Even one said well you didn't have fun because you were by yourself.
Lesson Learned: One forever will be the loneliest number in Dubai. It's a social city, but to those they know. Meaning if you didn't come with friends or know someone, good luck finding some. The difference between my trip and the many others my friend’s post was I was by myself. Dubai is a great place to visit WITH FRIENDS.
I have a genuine appreciation for this place. The moment I understood Dubai and what it has to offer is the moment I freed myself and thoroughly enjoyed my vacation. I will definitely find my way back here, but next time with friends.
OTHER FUN FACTS: 1. Dubai is a relatively liberal city for a Muslim country. It’s the leading cosmopolitan city in the world, that despite its Muslim laws are well aware of the world and where it’s going. Though I recommend people still dress respectable; I saw many midriffs, bootie shorts, skinny jeans, and short dresses.
2. Best of the Best. Dubai it's all about The Who and the What. It's a rather young city that spent its oil money well to build a name for its self. Dubai is obsessed with the Genesis world records, and you’ll notice many replicas that are bigger and better than the originals. They spend lots of money hiring the best engineers and architectures to help build the best builds you’ve ever seen in your life.
3. Less than 20% of the population is Emirati. The rest are expats from around the world. They are mainly from India, Pakistan, Philippines, UK, and America. These transplants came for work. You see the Emiratis do not fulfill blue collar job. In fact, they barely perform some professional jobs which leave many opportunities for others to come to this tax-free country
4. Preparing for a World Expo in 2020. This Dubai is going all out! They are already preparing to build a new airport and the world’s biggest mall. Who knows what else they have under their sleeve! Just know Dubai will be the place to visit come 2020.
RECOMMENDED TOURS AND ACTIVITIES:
DUBAI CITY TOUR This tour was an excellent way to break the ice and get to know the history of this young city. The tour highlights all the top things that make Dubai Dubai. Make sure the tour includes a visit to the Old Dubai and the Spice and Gold souks.
MAGIC FOUNTAIN SHOW
Mainly for the children, but as an adult, you’ll notice this replica from The Las Vegas Bellagio Fountains but bigger and better. They also follow it with a light show on the Burj Khalifa. Great show and a scene. Can also be seen from a few restaurants’ outdoor seating. Make sure you get there early because it packs up quickly.
BURJ KHALIFA The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building (well… for now. Saudi Arabia is in the process of building a taller one… and Dubai already started breaking ground to make one taller than them lol). Perfect for pictures and to see how much Dubai has grown. They also have to floors for viewing, the 124th floor, and 148th.
DESERT SAFARI This hands down was the highlight of my time here. I made sure to find a tour with the most activities to pick from, and that indeed was the best idea ever. We did everything from dune bugging to RTV riding and camel riding. They had amazing shows to watch over a meal along with shisha and a bonfire. Can’t forget picture time and henna. Taking desert photos during sunset was the best. Y’all know I have to have my pictures!
GRANDE MOSQUE (Abu Dhabi) Dubai is an hour and a half drive to the capital, Abu Dhabi. All the oil money comes from here too. You'll also notice the city is more conservative, greener, and cleaner. It reminded me of living in the suburbs. Anywho, make sure if you take a ride to Abu Dhabi to visit the Grande Mosque. Quite a site to see and pictures don't do it any justice. Make sure you abide by the dress code or come with your abaya(women) or thwab (men), and your head's covered.
AND ONE MORE THING… I usually take everything I read with a grain of salt, so when reading about the many raping in Dubai and women thrown in jail, I grew concerned. After interacting and rereading the articles, I realize those incidents were always with other foreigners, and they were intoxicated. Considering the laws are very strict against drugs of any kind, many tend to abuse alcohol. Not condoning rape by any means, but I recommend one always being aware of their surroundings and knowing their limits. And if a problem arrives, reach out for help. They have bodyguards EVERYWHERE!
Dubai OUT, XOXO