Having lived in Dubai for almost five years, I know that much like every city I’ve lived in, it has its good and not-so-good sides. But I think it often gets a bad rap that it doesn’t deserve. So I thought I’d reflect on the things I do love about living in this fascinating city.
Aside from the recent cloud seeding that had everyone including the weatherman confused, you can’t argue with more than 300 days of beautiful sunshine a year. Whether I actually spend endless weekends outside or not, I like the fact that it’s sunny and that I can lie at the pool or go to a beach whenever I like. It’s pretty good for my mood too.
The Middle East is so well situated that flying anywhere in the world is far easier than it is from most other regions. And Dubai is so geared for travelling, that popping down to the airport for a quick trip feels as easy as going to the local supermarket.
Along with that, the region has some of the best airlines in the world. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar are all first class airlines and make travelling a pleasure.
If you’ve never been to Dubai you wouldn’t believe how cosmopolitan the city is. You can go to most dinner parties and everyone around the table will be from a different country, often with parents of different nationalities and a childhood spent in exotic locations. So unless you’re a real introvert, chances are your group of friends is from all over the world, and that in itself makes life in this city fascinating.
The city of Dubai has literally risen from the desert over the past few years. It is now more city than sleepy fishing village or pearl diving post. Yet somehow, when you live here, it still has that laid-back coastal vibe to it. Once you descend from the tower blocks, you feel like you’re living in a (very sophisticated) coastal town. It’s not too small, or too big (yet).
Beaches & Yachts
Keeping with that sophisticated coastal town vibe, most residents in this city like to do things in style. So along with a few stunning beach bars, there are also plenty of great beach clubs and more than a handful of companies that rent out private yachts. So spending a stylish day out in the sun is very easy and does make weekends that much more enjoyable.
Overall Dubai is a pretty safe place to live and raise children. And relative to most other countries in the region, it’s way more stable. Just ask the millions of regional expats that live here. So when it comes to planning a family that makes a big difference.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is undoubtedly a visionary leader and very passionate about wanting the best for his people. It’s hard to fault that. He’s also pretty cool. He drives himself around, is genuinely liked and respected by locals and expats alike. And somehow he still finds time to take part in desert horse races. I don’t see many other leaders doing that.
The desert is obviously a beautiful part of Dubai, and being able to simply drive into it and camp is a real luxury for people. But just having lots of open space is a luxury too. The city doesn’t feel overcrowded or overwhelming, and that helps with its relaxed vibe.
What’s not to like about this one? More money in my pocket means more travel.
OK it isn’t London, New York or Paris, but slowly the city is developing a great foodie scene. The Michelin Star chefs all like to open signature restaurants here, and some homegrown stars are beginning to emerge. So we’re starting to get a taste of the best from all over the world, which isn’t bad for a small city in the desert. To top it off, Zuma and Le Petit Maison have recently been ranked in the world’s top 100 restaurants for the second year running.
Luxury cars are dime a dozen here. Every second one is a Rolls, Bentley, Ferrari or some other customised marque. It does make for pretty viewing, but the good thing is that overall, cars are comparatively affordable here and filling the tank is ridiculously cheap. That means you’re more likely to upgrade to the luxury car you’ve always wanted.
Dubai is a shopping mecca. It has the world’s biggest mall, plans for an even bigger one, and dozens of other designer stores and souks. The city wants the best, so they encourage the world’s best stores and top designers to open up here. And there’s plenty of cool homegrown talent that’s starting to emerge too.
Dubai has some quirky places, like Ski Dubai where you can snow ski any time of year. Yes it’s bizarre, but that’s what makes it amazing. And it’s a pretty cool place to practice skiing or snowboarding too.
I love the fact that Dubai’s leaders think big. Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building (for now) and Palm Jumeirah are engineering marvels, and are very cool too. I love the idea that anything is possible here. It’s a much better mindset than the negativity you often hear in other cities.
As I said, every city has its good and its bad, and you will find something to moan about wherever you live. But I know I’m not alone in loving Dubai. There are a few million expats living here, and a fair bunch of them think the same way as I do. So if you had any preconceived ideas about the city, maybe you should put them aside for now, and come and take a look for yourself. It’s a great place.