There is nothing shy about Dubai. The city is full of superlatives (including the world's biggest mall and tallest building). Based on the number of cranes in the skyline, Dubai likely won't be slowing down anytime soon and has a wildly ambitious vision for its future. Some may criticize the city for it's extravagance, glitz and grandeur. They cite its hypocrisy for being in a Muslim country yet lacking modesty. While this may be true (to some extent), I prefer to view this as a sign of development and progress rather than hypocrisy.
Although we were only there for 3 days, I discovered a cosmopolitan city that is exciting yet very livable. With expats making up over 85% of the city's population, there are few places in the world as "international" as Dubai. Walk into any restaurant and you will find yourself chatting it up with Americans, Brits, Germans, Chinese and Russians. Spend an afternoon in Downtown Dubai and you can grab lunch at Shake Shack or Clinton Street Bakery before shopping at Galeries Lafayette. Essentially, you can try all the places you were too lazy to wait in line for in New York. I can see why my friends Robyn and Jeff (both of whom have spent extensive time in the city) look upon their experiences in Dubai with such fondness. The only thing the city lacks is a White Castle. Sorry Jeff!
All kidding aside, Dubai is a fascinating city in a constant state of transformation. There was no way to see everything in a matter of days, but below are a few highlights from our trip:
- Brunch @ La Serre: Brunches are a big deal in NYC. They are even bigger in Dubai. This pool side brunch at La Serre includes bottomless food and alcoholic beverages. Make sure to reserve a cabana so you can take a dip in the water between drinks.
- Maharlika @ President Hotel: After an all-day brunch, we decided to continue the festivities elsewhere. Maharlika is a perfect example of Dubai's diversity. This off-the-beaten-track club has a primarily Filipino clientele and some of the best live music around. If you like listening to a Filipino cover band belt out "Let It Go" while downing a shot of Jägermeister, this is your place. Be prepared to make poor life decisions.
- Burj Khalifa: Every photo you've seen of this towering structure can't prepare you for experiencing t in real life. Beautiful by day, the Burj Khalifa really comes to life at night. Make sure to stay for the lit fountain show at the foot of the building. It's like the Bellagio on steroids: a bit cheesey, way over the top but completely captivating.
- Madinat Jumeirah: This massive resort is comprised of multiple luxury hotels, winding (man-made) canals, indoors shopping galleries and dozens of bars and restaurants. You can take a ride on the gondolas and catch some awesome views of the nearby Burj Al Arab. Afterwards, grab a drink at The Agency wine bar followed by dinner at The Meat Co. In case you're wondering, they specialize in meat.
- Dune Bashing: On our last morning in Dubai, we took a short trip outside the city to go dune bashing in the surrounding deserts. Who knew off-roading in a 4x4 could be so exhilarating?
- Tom & Serg: Before flying home, we grabbed a quick lunch and coffee at Tom & Serg. In a sea of luxury chain restaurants, this buzzy, local cafe is a refreshing change of pace.
- Grant: Last but certainly not least, the highlight of our trip was visiting this little guy. Thanks to our good friends and gracious hosts, Robyn & Lee, for showing us an amazing time. They've been living in Dubai for over a year now. As an expat, it's one thing to live in a foreign country, but to have your first child there makes it that much sweeter!