And why you should too!
Whilst I still have a month’s notice to serve here in Dubai, I am keeping myself busy with re-living travel stories and writing about them, hopefully keeping readers entertained and giving my followers an idea of what’s to come when I do start traveling in mid-April. I’ve lived in the Middle East for almost 14 years, and there is so much to love about this region, from dreamy desert sunsets, to the spine-tingling sounds of the daily call to prayer. It’s time to forget the media hype, the stereotypes and the continual defamation of the Islamic culture. Let’s embrace the different, accept the diverse and try to understand this region for all of its fascinating facets.
As a single woman living in this region, I often get asked lots of question about life here. Do you need to cover up? Can you drink alcohol? Do you have actual cars and houses? I swear, when I first went back home after living in Egypt for a year, my friends believed that I lived in a tent and went to work on a camel. No jokes!
So why do I love this region so much, and why have I chosen to live the best part of my adult life here? For me, one of the best parts about living in the Middle East has been the opportunity to meet and work with people from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe. The team that I am part of at the moment consists of 12 individuals, none of whom are from the same country. We have American, Belgian, Zimbabwean, Georgian, Serbian, Indian, Dutch, Ukrainian, Filipino, Spanish, Egyptian and myself, British. In the past, I have worked with Syrian, Canadian and Romanian. It is literally a melting pot of cultures. Working with such a diverse mixture of nationalities helps you to learn, understand and grow. You become not just a Brit, but a true global citizen. I now have friends that I consider family from across the globe. When a hurricane descends on the Philippines, it is no longer just a news story from a faraway land. When you work alongside Syrians that have not stepped foot inside their own country for fear of getting forced into fighting, the war in Syria suddenly becomes real.
Living in Dubai also makes it much easier and cheaper to explore Asia, and I have been lucky enough to be able to travel to Sri Lanka, Bali, Zanzibar and India during my time here. Flight times are reduced and costs are much lower than traveling from Europe.
However, below are my top 3 reasons for loving Dubai. Especially at this time of year.
Ok so admittedly, for a few months of the year, the climate in Dubai is pretty harsh. From around June to September, unbearable, scorching and ‘cook and egg on your car bonnet’ hot is the only way to describe the summer months. But, around October/November, something happens to the weather. A small, barely-there shift in temperature starts to happen. An ever-so-slightly cooler breeze brushes against your cheek. Us Dubai dwellers wait patiently for this first sign every year. Any small sign that we can soon start to get excited about jackets, boots and scarves. The euphoria of planning our ‘winter wardrobe’ and finally being able to wear “that jacket I bought in the sales last May”. Winter is coming.
You see, winter in Dubai opens up a whole new world of possibilities for us. Outside terraces become social hotspots, people actually walk in the streets, and parks and beaches come alive again. Unless you have lived through a Dubai summer, you will never understand how good it feels to be able to sit outside, get up out of your chair and not have to worry about the inevitable sweat patches. Awkward. If PDA’s were culturally acceptable in Dubai, we’d all be hugging and dancing in the streets. Winter has come. And we love it.
For most people who have never been to this part of the world, going to the beach in winter might seem a little strange. The truth is, the summer months are just too damn hot to be outside. Summer in Dubai is all about air conditioned malls, Netflix & chill (in the comfort of your AC apartment), or just escaping for a few weeks. The heat is relentless.
But the winter…. now that’s a different story. The average temperature from November to March is around 25 – 30 degrees. Perfect. Beach. Weather. And with the city now opening up more public beaches, winter in Dubai is pretty sweet. My latest favourite discovery is La Mer. Recently opened and located close to the Jumeirah Mosque, La Mer is a beautiful beachfront location with an incredible collection of restaurants, cafes, shops and quirky graffiti artwork around every corner. I went with a friend who was recently visiting from the UK, it was December 31st and we were laid out on the beach, enjoying the beautiful sun and thinking how lucky we were to be able to spend the last day of the year doing this. We grabbed a bite at Parkers, tried to find all the graffiti and discussed all the possibilities for 2018.
I also love Kite beach. The first time I went to Kite beach was last March 2017. I was meeting friends and got there a bit earlier than everyone else. I pulled out my towel, laid down, headphones in, and knew right then that I had made the right decision to re-locate from Qatar to Dubai. It gets a little busy on weekends, so get there early.
The reason that I particularly like these beaches more than some of the others is that they are less known to the tourists. Families, local Emiratis and groups of expat friends tend to enjoy these beaches more than tourists at the moment, however I have a sneaky feeling that La Mer will soon be popular with visiting tourists’ due to its beautiful and intelligent design.
Last weekend, I was walking to the Dubai Mall to catch up with an old (sorry Cris) Doha colleague, and decided to walk a different route than I normally would. The Dubai Mall in itself is a fun place to visit. With an indoor aquarium, fountains & waterfalls inside and direct access to the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building), the Dubai mall is on most first timer’s itinerary. My only piece of advice here would be to avoid the Friday afternoon crowds. Friday and Saturday is the weekend in the Middle East and the Dubai Mall can get very busy. Most often, I find myself walking through the Palace Downtown to get to the Mall, but this time I walked around Burj park and the Opera house. I’m so happy I did. Truckers UAE were in the process of setting up for the evening food truck event. Naturally I had to go. After walking around the mall for about 3 hours (again, sorry Cris) we decided to head over to Burj Park and check out the Truckers UAE event. The first thing I noticed was people walking around with pints of beer. If you know Dubai, then you know how shocking this is, in a good way. Most public events do not serve alcohol, and that’s just fine. But this one did in the form of a Heineken tent. Anyway, a delicious assortment of food trucks offering everything from wings, unicorn fries, Karak Chai, Tacos, etc. etc. etc. My only small gripe about this event was that, after ordering a coffee from one of the vendors, we were told that it was a cashless event and that we needed to activate a payment card at one of the counters dotted around. The lack of signage about this and any clear visible instruction left more than a few people a bit pissed off. But hey ho, there was beer. Small victories and all that!
Another great place to spend a few hours on a Friday afternoon is at the Ripe Market located at Zabeel Park. With local designers, fresh fruit and veg stalls and local entrepreneurs selling their wares, hours are easily whiled away and is a great place to hang with friends and family.
The week prior, also in Burj park, a small but fun market popped up as part of the recent Dubai Shopping Festival. Featuring local designers and hand crafts, as well as more food stalls and live entertainment. Winter in Dubai can only get better and better.
Don’t forget your scarves and gloves.
So, whilst I’m still in Dubai, planning my epic round the world travels, I am going to enjoy everything that Dubai has to offer in winter. I think I might just head down to the pool for a few hours…..
Have you been to Dubai in Winter? What are your favourite things to do?