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Why do people dislike Dubai so much?

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I have just finished an article reviewing our hotel in Dubai from last month, which will go up tomorrow.

What crossed my mind when writing it, though, was the reaction you often get when you tell people you are off to Dubai for a holiday. You very often get a response which implies that you off to somewhere on a par with Magaluf (apologies to anyone who holidays in Magaluf ….)!

I’m not sure if this is based on snobbishness or simply a false impression of what Dubai has to offer. I have done Dubai holidays as a couple, as a family with young children and as a ‘boy’s trip’, and all have gone splendidly well.

Obviously if your idea of a good holiday is trekking in Mongolia then you will find Dubai lacking somewhat. But let’s be clear – over the last 20 years I have spent more than enough time holidaying in the less glamorous parts of the world. I am not writing this purely from the position of a middle-class, middle-aged holiday maker!

Here are the positive things about Dubai:

It is a doddle to get there, especially with Avios. Numerous flights per day, both daytime and overnight, into a functioning (albeit ageing) airport. And Abu Dhabi airport is only an hours drive away as well!

Modest four hour time difference

Fantastic weather at times of the year when it is a bit pants back home! You won’t get sunburnt in December, but it is warm enough to sit on the beach.

World class hotels. You will not find a better collection of high end hotels in one place anywhere. In particular, the quality of the beach-front hotels is very high. Madinat Jumeirah (photo below) is – as a combination of spa, rooms, retail, beach, restaurant, architecture, location – probably the most impressive beach resort in the world (although if you want peace, quiet and tranquility it’s not for you – The Maldives it is not!).

Fun, family stuff to do, albeit Vegas style. Camel trekking, trips up the Burj Khalifa, the indoor ski centre, plenty of desert trips, abra trips down the creek, golf etc etc. Plus, of course, ludicrous amounts of shopping, most of which you will recognise from the British high street.

Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that this is the place to come if you want to ‘find yourself’ or get in touch with a different way of life. But if you’ve got the cash (and the beach resorts are not cheap) and you want an easy few days in the sun with world-class restaurants, hotels, shopping etc then its just fine.

Security is excellent, the taxi drivers don’t rip you off, the water is fine (albeit desalinated), there is world class healthcare. (My wife had a root canal problem the other week and had no problem finding a German dentist). You can take a baby with no concerns over supplies, food, water or hospitality.

Of course, if you want to see world-class art, visit the theatre etc then you are in the wrong place. But there are plenty of other places you can visit for that. I am happy to put that side of my life on the back-burner for a week or so, frankly.

The only caveat I have is that you really should stay at a beach resort. Staying in a business hotel really isn’t the same (although we tend to do our first and last nights near the airport for convenience and to control costs) and there isn’t much in the way of public beach access unfortunately. But do give it a go at some point ….

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Comments (25)

  • maltapoints says:

    My issue with Dubai is how completely artificial the place is – it’s just a desert that’s had billions of dollars pumped into it (latterly by Abu Dhabi of course) to create a “paradise”. It’s all down to personal choice, of course, but I prefer places with a bit more cultural meat on the bone.

    Alan Westley has a point too – it has laws, and attitudes towards women, that would look conservative in the Victorian era.

    I’m not saying it’s not a good place to go for some easy sun and fun, particularly with young children, but I do more than understand why it sometimes gets a bad press.

  • onlysuites says:

    I agree with you. I love Dubai. I think people have a impression that its a snobs holiday.

  • Nick says:

    It’s more the fact that it’s expensive compared to a lot of other places. As you said: “if you’ve got the cash (and the beach resorts are not cheap) and you want an easy few days in the sun with world-class restaurants, hotels, shopping etc then its just fine.”

    People assimilate Dubai with expensive hotels, restaurants and lots of shopping. Heck, even the camel rides aren’t cheap ;).

  • Alan Westley says:

    Maybe because it’s an ass-backwards country mostly stuck in Middle Ages and proud of it? You can be jailed there for just kissing your spouse. My money is not going to support that.

  • Paul says:

    I think you are quite right. Dubai Abu Dhabi Oman and to a lesser extent Bahrain offer a great holiday experience, albeit Vegas style in Dubai.

    Having spent time working in Saudi, Dubai, Oman,Bahrain and Abu Dhabi my issue is that there can be an underlying and somewhat unpleasant side to the area generally. You may not see or experience this as a tourist but scratch the surface and it is there.

    If varies of course from country to country and unquestionably is less noticeable in Dubai etc but perhaps this is what some people pick up on or have previously experienced.

    Look forward to the review tomorrow

  • Ben E says:

    I lived there for two years and really enjoyed it. You can have a lot of fun out there with a little bit of disposable income. Hotels for me would be the major discouraging point for a holiday – they can get extortionately expensive. However, I do recommend anyone reading this – if planning a visit to Dubizzle and surrounding areas – get onto groupon, livingsocial or ‘cobone’ a few weeks/months in advance and find yourself a good deal. We managed to get a private villa banyan tree visit with breakfast and spa option for £200…

  • DYKWIA says:

    I tend to find that people who are negative about Dubai have never actually been there.

    ‘Oh, I’d never go there, it’s full of WAGS’. etc.

    I’ve been over 30 times over the last 10 years, and generally had a great time.

    Saying that, I went to the Dubai 7s last year and met up with a few friends. I saw the side of Dubai that I didn’t particularly like – lots of completely p*ssed up people generally acting like they were in Magaluf 🙂 A lot of it was due to the terrible weather (heavy rain and storms), so people had to spend most of the time in the beer tents, but do we really need a group of women singing ‘No Surrender to the IRA’ in Dubai?

  • DYKWIA says:

    PS… if you go there out of season (British summer), hotels can be a steal. 5* for £50-£60 a night.

    • Raffles says:

      And if you don’t, they’re not!

      We paid £400 / night at Christmas. This was ‘cheap’ because we booked when the hotel had just opened so rates were soft (even when booking for 6 months ahead) and Amex had a 4-4-3 and free breakfast deal on top. For Easter, for the same room, they want £1,300 per night, half-board (£1,200 room only). This is not for a villa – this is a slightly-bigger-than-normal room in a 5-star hotel which I will give an ‘average’ review tomorrow.

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