Another Side of Dubai
A week spent in sweltering 40 degrees Celsius heat, 7 hours away from home. where the largest acrylic window, tallest building, largest mall, and a whole bunch of incredible world records lie. Yet we watched the metropolis fall away to miles of savannah, telephone cables, and the dusty sun perched between orange and red on the horizon, as we made the trip to the hotel on the edge of Dubai’s Silicon Oasis.
Dubai’s skyline from the outskirts
It wasn't all like I imagined, though. I had envisioned swanky hotels, climbing to the top of the Burj Khalifa, darting from Levis Strauss to GAP to H&M at Dubai Mall, and the possibility of days spent relaxing at the poolside – sun in my eyes. In fact, I had already decided how I would scream when I claimed one of the palm islands as my own, and so, you can imagine my shock when I found myself, literally, in the middle of the desert, my dinner consisting of two portions of rice, and the nearest thing to civilization miles away. From the glitz and glamour often portrayed in the media and Flickr pools, to the latest Mission Impossible movie, it never really occurred to me that I would end up at the edge of developing Dubai.
It was a day before we got up the bus and pulled into the city, and it was at least 2 or 3 days before I had the chance to spin through GAP, H&M, and Candy Empire all at once. And yet, while my first encounter with Dubai was less than comfortable for a city kid like myself, it gave me a glimpse into the two sides of Dubai’s incredible culture in its simultaneous retention of both Arab roots and westernization. Back in the Silicon Oasis, I saw the traditional houses; the natives dressed in hijabs; and fall asleep, for the first time, in the middle of a desert as withering palm trees stood stoicly outside my window. And when we got to the city, the juxtaposition of traditional architecture and modern skyscrapers was awe-inspiring. It’s helped me get over my fear of encountering what lies outside of my expectations.
If you ever have the chance to visit Dubai, consider staying outside of the city. It may not have been what I expected, but to be able to encounter the Middle East and the Arab Culture on both sides of the coin – to see how Dubai has progressed while keeping its tradition and culture – was, in retrospect, the most ideal. It’ll be the best of both worlds to enjoy falafel in the company of locals, and then scuttle off to enjoy a frappe in an air conditioned mall. Let Dubai surprise you – there’s more to it than its world records.
A horse at the Dubai’s Police Horse Stables
Jiawen Pek is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Proogram.
All photos courtesy and copyright Jiawen Pek