Dubai First Part, the Modern City

Last month I went to Dubai for a dear friend’s wedding. It was my first time in Dubai. But as I’d imagined to be the same for most people: even that you hadn’t been to Dubai, you’d probably have heard a lot about the city and had painted your own picture of it in your brain already. Well, at least for me it was the case: ginormous sky scrapers, roaring sports cars paving the streets, the most sleek-looking crowds walking up and down the road(in and out luxurious restaurants and bars)…etc., that was the picture of Dubai in my head.

So I packed my suitcase, got on a plane, landed, and found everything that I’d imagined, rather accurate. Dubai is indeed an over-the-top, luxurious, extravagant and modern city. But if you think that’s all it’s about(like I did), then you’re very very wrong. But I’m going to talk about some of these unexpected characters of Dubai in my next posts. In this first one, I’d like to share with you the impressions I got for Dubai as the modern city we all expected it to be, and the ups and downs that came with it. Hope it will get you more mentally prepared before your visit.

The first thing I noticed as the taxi took me into the city was actually not the skyscrapers but(cause you could hardly see them thanks to..) the pollution. One of the major costs of being heavily developed is the damage to the natural environment. I am one who’s very familiar with that. Because this is what the majority of Chinese cities are going through for the past 5-10 years.  But funnily, nobody really talks about it in Dubai. I’m guessing maybe it’s a popular holiday destination that it doesn’t want people to feel put off by it? And also most of the activities in Dubai are based indoors. So as long as you’re not on a hunt for the perfect sunrise and blue sky, there’s little there to remind you of the pollution anyway.

Having realised that, I decided to take most of my day plans indoors. Luckily Dubai has a lot to offer when it comes to shopping, and sampling worldly cuisines. The Dubai Mall, the Mall of the Emirates and the Wafi Mall are just a few of the great places to shop completely duty-free. Just always note one thing before going out, that is to dress appropriately. Of course there’s no police patrolling around to jail those who are wearing cami tops and hot pants. But the mere amount of stares you get from the people are enough to make you feel the guilt. I didn’t know that before my travel. However, I was never confident enough to show a lot of skin or legs, so I luckily got away with the dress code without too much effort.

Funnily, the dress code for men there is more demanding. While girls are generally allowed to shows some legs and shoulders, men are only allowed in with long trousers and sometimes long sleeves in the more formal venues. One particular venue being the seafood restaurant Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara at the famous hotel of Burj Al Arab. FYI I had to wrap my scarf around Shang’s waist to cover up his shorts to secure a table for us in a far corner booth (and he was told not to walk around during our lunch). But just let me assure you, all the efforts are going to be worth it when you enter the golden wonderland “under the sea”.

The panoramic aquarium view that you’re dining against, the sweet and fresh oysters and the friendly service…everything is well over the general standard of any restaurant with a couple of stars from the tyre company. Of course it is all reflected in the price too. But considering the average standard in Dubai, I’d say the whole experience is actually a little bit of a bargain(on a second thought, maybe “bargain” is not the most fitting word for here but….).

The oyster ceviche with a dressing made of avocado, coriander and chili has to be one of the most delicious oyster dishes I’ve ever tasted.

Langoustines are always popular at our table where ever we eat.

A seasonal dish with all the freshest ingredients: sea bass with asparagus and oysters for the man…with a side of more oysters! (you’ve guessed it. I’m sure!)

I went for the lobster risotto with orange, basil and spring onions, which was recommended to us as the signature dish by the chef. It was all quickly washed down with a bottle of white. The lobster worked magically with the orange. Definitely one of the best risottos I’ve had(considering that I went to Venice right after Dubai, that flavour was still pretty solid).

We took time to enjoy every dish at the table, and when we looked up, we were the only table of customers left in the restaurant. Which meant…we had the place pretty much all to ourselves to explore! Out on the other side of the restaurant, it was a little patio leading towards the ocean. We had a little after-lunch tanning/strolling session there by just the two of us, right next to the majestic building of Burj Al Arab. I had to admit, it made me feel a bit like a billionaire right there.


On the way out we were greeted by the doormen squad at the Burj Al Arab, which is also… well let’s just say Dubai doesn’t do moderate. But I can get used to it for just an afternoon.

More to come later….