I’m fresh off the plane from Dubai and what an experience I had! My first middle eastern trip was more than I could imagine! Despite the seven and eight hour flights, jet lag that wouldn’t allow me to sleep past 5:00 a.m, and daily 8:00 a.m call times for various excursions planned, I had a ball!
In preparation for my trip to Dubai I received various advice, feedback, opinions, and fears regarding the culture, safety, and dress while visiting the country. I mainly developed my own naive preconceived thoughts from the news, movies, etc. As I packed, I worried about wearing sleeveless dresses or if I should cover my head when going out doors. Were the people going to be friendly? Would they treat me a certain way?
There’s a quote from Tom Freston that says,” Understand cultures other than your own. As your understanding of other cultures increases, your understanding of yourself and your own culture will increase exponentially.”
Understand cultures other than your own. As your understanding of other cultures increases, your understanding of yourself and your own culture will increase exponentially. ~Tom Freston Click To Tweet
This quote never rang so true than while I was in Dubai this past week. Forget what you heard! Dubai is a melting pot of cultures and much more liberal in dress and lifestyle than the other cities in the United Arab Emirates. Crime is almost non-exsistent and the majority of people were friendly and welcoming.
Approximately 80% of the residents in Dubai are from other countries and are not considered citizens at all. My tour guide was from India, lived in Dubai for over 15 years and was still not considered a citizen. He shared that the country does not provide citizenship to those who are not of the lineage of the forefathers of the country. So although both of his children were born in Dubai, they still were not considered citizens.
We had the pleasure and opportunity to visit the largest mosque in the world that was located in Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Out of respect and compliance with the Muslim religion and cultural rules, the women were required to be completely covered from head to toe. We were all too excited to purchase an abaya (robe) and a Shayla (headscarf) to don as we walked throughout the mosque, but the impact was far beyond my outfit.
As I walked through the mosque and was given the rules of taking my shoes off before entering, not kneeling on the floor, and being mindful of my hand gestures, I was amazed at the strictness and commitment to honor their sacred place of worship and prayer. Although the mosque was now considered a tourist attraction, it did not take away its significance and demand to still be honored and respected as such. As a Christian, I could not help but absolutely respect and understand their desire to keep and preserve that which was considered holy.
As we shopped till we dropped at the largest mall I’d ever seen, the Dubai Mall, along with various Souk markets in the city that provided local dress, herbs, spices, etc, I could not help but notice the numerous prayer rooms located in every area of the city. They were in the malls, and most of the buildings we entered. Prayer was a priority and was made convenient to adhere to their beliefs; yet, in the United States, a country founded on God, prayer is on the verge of being taken out of most public sectors and only used when tragedies occur.
Dubai’s culture rang strong, yet there was a lack of native food available around the city. Because of the diversity of the city, we had Lebanese, Indian, Philippino, and even Jamaican food while in Dubai. Yes, there was a small Jamaican spot close to our hotel that was actually quite good, and the DJ took us back with some Caribbean and 90s R n’B jams!! Just like home!
We stayed at the fabulous Vida Hotel that was beautiful, modern, and located right in the heart of downtown Dubai; walking distance from the mall, various restaurants and bars. The daily breakfast gave me life!
One of the highlights of my trip was a heavenly brunch at a restaurant called Moana. It was located on Palm Island at the Sofitel hotel resort. I’ve never eaten so much food in my life. I repented several times for the gluttony that was taking place. The brunch consisted of a family-style 5 course meal that was limitless! The bourbon chicken wings were food to my soul and they literally had to tell me to stop because my self control was out of control!
We sailed the Arabian Sea on a private yacht, a dinner cruise, and a water taxi ride that was nothing short of exciting! Uber had nothing on that ride.
We were given a view of the city from the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, had a tea party at the Burj Al Arab, rode a camel in the desert, and even witnessed an amazing fire show conducted by this beautiful specimen of a man that had me looking for a prayer room to ask God if he could be my husband just for one night! LOL
From the museum tour, aquarium, dinner, shopping, camel rides, and jeep dune bashing in the desert, I got to enjoy this city with a group of amazing ladies from across the United States who had a desire to live life and see the world like myself. I toured with a group called Travel Divas and our tour guide in Dubai, Mehul, was from a travel agency called Orient Tours. He was beyond amazing and a must have when you visit! He’ll make your visit enjoyable and his selfie game is on point!
It’s my plan to make it back to the country because there is so much more to see and experience. The massive construction that was going on around the city only makes me anticipate the beauty and attraction that is still to come! I learned to appreciate where I’m from, but also to value other cultures. This is an amazing world, and I still have so much to see and learn.
If Dubai is not on your bucket list, then its time to add to it! Tom Freston goes on to say, “Travel early and travel often…”
What middle eastern country have you visited and what impact did it have on you?