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Why do people dislike Dubai so much?!

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I have just finished a post 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.

Madinat Jumeirah resort

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 ….

Comments (25)

  • Mr Bridge says:

    what puts me off are the stories of what i call innocent people being detained for drugs( jeremy vine did this story a couple of years ago:

    Keith Andrew Brown (or Keith Brown), found himself receiving a 4 year jail sentence in February 2008 after Dubai Airport customs found 0.003g of cannabis stuck to the sole of his shoe, an amount almost invisible to the naked eye.

    a Swiss man in jail for possession of 3 poppy seeds that he brought with him to Dubai after eating a poppy seed bun at Heathrow airport.

    Cat Le-Huy was arrested at Dubai Airport because customs officers found him in possession of melatonin according to Daily Mail and BBC News reports. Both reports said that melatonin is available over the counter in Dubai.

    Two Canadian tourists in September 2009, Rocky Sharma and Stephen MacLeod, discovered that even though Celebrex (an arthritis medicine) is not banned in the UAE, possession of it resulted in free budget accommodation in a Dubai jail for a month after Dubai airport officials discovered it in one of their bags when they arrived. The lengthy stay was apparently because it took that long for the Dubai authorities to figure out what the drug was.

    In March 2005, Tracy Wilkinson was arrested at Dubai Airport after her urine tested positive for codeine. She was detained in prison until May 2005, when she was acquitted according to BBC reports. According to other reports, she was found guilty and given a 4 year jail sentence for possession of narcotics. A prescription from her GP in the UK was presented in court which helped secure her release. The irony is that she was caught when leaving the UAE, after having been given codeine at a Dubai hospital for her back pain.

  • Andy says:

    For me, Mr Bridge and Alan have it spot on.

  • tangey says:

    Some rather medievil attitudes to women, unmarried couples and basic BASIC displays of affection in public, makes this place fine for 99.9% of people, but for the one person who comes across someone of importance that decides to take a dislike to you, it can be hell.

    • Raffles says:

      What is always fun in Dubai is the signs of the doors of the malls. You get the usual ‘No Smoking’ and ‘No Dogs’ logos, then you get a third ‘No Holding Hands with your Partner’.

  • For me, there’s not quite enough there and it’s a little bit too far away and too expensive compared to the Med. I’m really keen to take a short stopover if I’m flying via DXB on EK or QF, but I don’t think there’s enough to justify a standalone holiday.

  • PanGalactic says:

    Awful place, you really don’t want to go there! It’s too hot and yes, it’s extortionately expensive! Especially that Madinat place and their rooms are tiny!

    Stick to greece, they need your money more there at the moment anyway!

    OK, just kidding!

    Seriously, with a 3 year old, we just need somewhere to chill by the pool for a week with good restaurants and excellent customer service. We’re off on our 4th trip there in the past 2 years next week and can’t wait!

    The only problem is the food is so good I put on about a kilo per day when I’m there!

    The hand holding thing is not as bad as people make out. I’ve seen locals holding hands in the mall, though I wouldn’t do it personally out of respect.

    You wouldn’t want to get caught out there being drunk and disorderly though, seriously forget about the wackybacky if you are into that sort of thing, don’t personally insult anyone either as you can get into a lot of trouble for that too.

    I guess the reason we like it so much is that it just feels so safe. You are very unlikely to get mugged or pickpocketed out there.

    I wouldn’t bother hiring a car either, the roads are a nightmare plus the taxis are so cheap anyway and they don’t rip you off!

  • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    Love it. The Ritz Carlton near Dubai Marina is my favourite hotel in the world.
    Good Food.
    Great Hotels.
    Late night shopping.
    Friendly locals (if you can find them).

    Appreciate and respect the local customs….even the men hold hands sometimes!
    My wife bought a lovely abaya (for her business purposes) off the corniche near to the gold souk. She’s thinking of freaking people out by putting it on for dinner parties here!

  • cmcbugg says:

    My issues are mainly moral. While I’m certainly no activist, their worker’s rights (“slave” Asian labour), women’s rights and gay rights make it a place that isn’t going to get any of my money.

  • Tim says:

    If you just want a hotel, much as this site is about, then Dubai is OK. You will get weather and acceptable international hotel standards. So what? Might as well stay at home unless you don’t have reasonable cutlery, crockery, glass-ware, table linen etc.. Between £10 and £20 per night you can always find a good quality 5-star hotel on the South coast of Turkey in the winter.

    • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

      Interesting. My companies policy, when I worked in Telecoms was that the hotels we stayed in would be of a similar standard to our homes. In my case they were always much nicer. Although I now have a much nicer home, it’s nowhere near the nice hotels in Dubai….and I don’t mean the glitzy tat of the Burj Al Arab!