Top 11 Unique Things About Living in Dubai

By: Ishita Saha

The above title should have been an intentional long one - ‘Top 11 unique things about Dubai that I promise you will never ever, ever, ever find anywhere else in the world’. Dubai loves basking in superlatives, starting from the tallest building, man made structure and free standing structure – the Burj Khalifa (and yes, these are three separate records), largest gold ring in the world (available in the Gold Souq), the largest mall in the world (the Dubai Mall), the longest indoor ski slope in the world (the Ski Dubai), the longest stollen cake made on earth (570 metres)… the list just goes on. As I finish this write up, another new record must have been created. So may I request the judging panel of the Expat Awards to let me edit my write up please, at a later date?

1) You might go to sleep at night by an empty sand patch by your window and may wake up to a sight of a lush green lawn with overgrown palm trees planted by the kind city planners. Don’t get surprised to see the palm trees wrapped in jute cloths. Once these adopted palm trees get adjusted to their bed of new soil, the jute clothing will come off and you can enjoy their branches swaying in the breeze.

2) You put your cash card in the ATM machine and get surprised when no cash comes out. Are you sure you had inserted the card in a cash-ATM machine and not a gold ATM machine? Maybe the amount you had entered was too less for the gold nuggets and coins that this machine was supposed to have spewed out. Two years back when theses machines were launched, the smallest nugget weighed 2.5 grams and cost Dh565. Hope you’ve entered more than that, assuming that the gold rate haven’t gone down over these years, right?

3) You think that driving without a seat belt or not giving an indicator while driving are the most heinous driving mistakes. You are wrong. There could be worse driving mistakes like wearing sunglasses while driving in the dark or putting on make-up while behind the wheel. In fact, the Dubai police authorities had been trying to propose laws to crack upon these drivers. Oh come on, the Dubai sunglasses are not exactly the Google Glasses. If they can be worn to a night club, I am pretty sure, they can be worn while driving!

4) You order your latté in some popular café chain and find it tasting a bit different. Perhaps a bit more creamy and more tasty? You must have forgotten to mention that you wanted regular milk and not the camel milk! What is there to complain when you have more options, not only in milk but also in meat and chocolate? Do try the camel meat burger if it is on the menu and savour some chocolates made with camel milk as well. They are also supposed to be healthier options.

5) You are jogging in the early morning with a bunch of fellow joggers, noting down the calories that you have burnt and as you crunch you suddenly see your reflection on a shop window display. You must have been jogging inside a shopping mall after all! Yes, there is a Mall Walkers’ club in one of the city’s popular shopping malls where you can run comfortably in an air-conditioned environment. And mind you, this must be one of the few things that come for FREE in the city. It’s a different thing altogether that by this time you already know all the discounts that are available at each store and the numbers are lurking in your mind.

6) You come back from your holidays and there’s a new neighbor waving out at you from the balcony next to yours. Oh please don’t be alarmed. There’s someone moving in and out almost everyday from the building you live in and you know that, right? But hey, is that a neighbor peeping out of a brand new building next to yours? Oh that’s a whole new story then.

7) You get excited when you notice two drops of rain on your rear mirror of the car. Wow, wait for a while – the Dubai clouds will surely catch up and come forward and burst itself into two more droplets in your front screen. But hey, jokes aside, are we not experiencing more raindrops nowadays as compared to a few years back?

8) You are asked how long you have been living in Dubai and you scratch your head thinking that it’s not much. Suddenly you realize that it’s been a decade and you start wondering where you kept all your files containing those migration papers to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Remember that time when you were planning to migrate? Time surely flies, isn’t it?

9) You ask yourself ‘Which new restaurant will I eat this time?’ instead of ‘What new am I going to try out from the menu this time?’ Yes, nowhere in the world will you find restaurants opening up everyday (and sadly shutting down as well). Or new hotels. Or new shopping malls for that matter. Talking of shopping malls, Dubai must be boasting of more shopping malls than bus stops on its roads for that matter. Construction of shopping malls is Dubai’s way of ‘keeping calm’ in its fast paced growth period. For Dubai it is ‘Keep Calm and Build Another Shopping Mall’.

10) You start believing that the word ‘festival’ includes shopping festivals too and the way to celebrate a festival is to shop, avail further discounts, get one item free with an item you purchase. This is in addition to all the other standard ways to celebrate festivals, like shop (oh sorry, I already said that) and well, what else? Your kids can learn the relevance of different festivals from the schools (Dubai schools do a good job of teaching your kid about different cultures) and off course, YouTube.

11) You are never surprised when you travel to any part of the world. There is no ‘Wow’ factor. Haven’t you have seen them all in Dubai, in mini versions or replicates or the originals? If you have Tiffany & Co flowing in their largest diamond to exhibit in Dubai (of course it has to fit the Dubai criterion of being the world’s largest and at 128 carats, it shouldn’t be a problem I guess!), you may find fakes too, being sold in some local shop in Karama. In Dubai, you would have passed through the swankiest airport lounge and checked into the nicest hotels (if you haven’t, you must have seen in the magazines that Dubai has these hotels), shopped from the most gorgeous stores (if you haven’t, then you must have just met someone who has), seen the most exclusive brands (if you haven’t, you must have seen some celebrity wearing it after he/she bought it from a Dubai store), driven the most expensive cars on some of the best quality roads (if you haven’t, I suggest that you insist on a test drive ASAP – this is free!). By the time you land in one of the busiest airports in another city on earth (however famous that city might be), my gut feeling is that you would have started to miss Dubai already.

Why is this a Top 11 list instead of a Top 10 (I know other uneven numbers are popular too – like Top 5 or Top 7)? This is because I wanted to be different and stand out from the other Top lists, just like Dubai. Yes, Dubai always strives to be different. If you have the opportunity to create a difference, rather than be born with the winning streak, go create them!

Our two girls are thoroughbred Dubai kids, born and brought up here. Although they are ‘third culture’ kids, they are extremely secure. We are very happy that they are growing up to be very aware global citizens and I love the way they answer when asked where do they come from - ‘ We are from India but we live in Dubai. Dubai is our home.’ With more than 80% of the population being expats and more than 200 nationalities co-existing in one city, Dubai is probably one of the best places to live in. Where else can they witness a nation growing up (the UAE just turned 42 years) and a city being built like Lego bricks? Every city in the world has its own pluses and minuses, but having lived in three different cities across two continents (one being the city from where I hail from) over the last decade, we would any day choose to live in Dubai. we have been proud supporters in Dubai’s bid to host the Expo 2020 and we are thrilled to bits that Dubai has won the bid. This is not because we get to witness the biggest fireworks in the world this New Years, but because this will really put Dubai on the world map, where it should be. We welcome the fact that my girls, who consider Dubai to be their adopted home, won’t have to explain to people ‘where exactly in the Middle East’ do they live in.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingIshita Saha is an Indian expat living in United Arab Emirates. Blog description: A Culinary Travel Blog featuring Dubai, Kolkata & the world beyond. Culture, history, recipes, food stories and nostalgia... with 2 kids in tow!
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Contest Comments » There are 21 comments

Tanuka Gupta wrote 10 years ago:

The tongue in cheek humour of the article brings out that very essence that has made Dubai a city that we love. The admiration of the author for the city is reflected so well and I couldn't agree more with the sentiments. Kudos!

Smita Chandra Thomas wrote 10 years ago:

Ha ha. Camel milk, overnight lawns, and shopping festivals. Not to mention Gold dispensing machines!! Unbelievable. You make it sound so fascinating. Be careful they might appoint you ambassador one day!

Orangekitchens wrote 10 years ago:

very well written Ishita and so very true. Best wishes to deserve to win this:)

SnehashisChakrabarty wrote 10 years ago:

Excellent Ishita ..all our best wishes ...u will win for sure.

Soumya Bhattacharjee wrote 10 years ago:

This is an awesome summary of what most of the expats living in Dubai would feel, I like all the blogs that you write Ishita Di, and this one would top the list for sure :-) All the best for the contest and I wish you win this one :-)

Anshuman Roychowdhury wrote 10 years ago:

It's amazing how Ishita has put so many of our daily thoughts in words......

Avijit Mukerji wrote 10 years ago:

Brilliant article. Even for a person who went to Dubai for the first time last year on a holiday (and loved every moment of it!) I can fully relate to all that you have described about Dubai. Dubai never ceased to amaze me while we were there.

Prithvijit Debnath wrote 10 years ago:

Fantastic. True and overwhelming. Excellent write up. Liked the way you presented the glamorous and dream cum true city.

FooDiva - Samantha Wood wrote 10 years ago:

Spot on and number 9 is the main reason I am here ;) Ishita always raises important questions in her witty writing style. I may not always have the time to read every post, but when I do, she entertains and educates. A Dubai blog that's worth bookmarking for sure.

Mamta Bhattacharyya wrote 10 years ago:

Ishita a friend philosopher and food guide...has a keen sense of observation and humour and through her foodie lenses captures the essence of any culture she is researching's' flavours and of course the cuisine. Her descriptions make the whole experience come alive in front of the eyes! Bravo! Keep it flowing Ishita!

Sumana wrote 10 years ago:

A simple yet very well written article, Ishita. Could easily relate to all those. Keep writing!

Hannah Joji wrote 10 years ago:

I just love the way you have mentioned about Dubai, The City that's truly like "Heaven on Earth". All the 11 Unique things about Dubai, you have written it so well. I liked it when you said, The two drops of Rain on the rear mirror of the car truly makes one excited and indeed makes us jump out with 'JOY' as we rarely see rains here in this beautiful City. Wish you all the Best Ishita for your great blogging.

Sudipa Majumdar wrote 10 years ago:

wow Ishita, really enjoyed every bit of this..! The camel meat burger, the gold ATM machine, putting make-up while behind the wheels, jogging inside a shopping mall - would sound really weird to many, but having lived in Dubai since 2008 I can relate to each one of these. Thoroughly enjoyed the wit, the humor, the oddity and the well-thought-out eleven unique points.

Tj wrote 10 years ago:

I am new to UAE and this post just filled me in with the information that I need. Yes, informative and entertaining! Well done Ishita for this great post and I hope you'd win.

Geordie Armani wrote 10 years ago:

There are plenty of things to do in this amazing country we call home, well done Ishita on your round up.

Srikanth Seshagiri wrote 10 years ago:

Excellent write up always. Wishing you the very best

Sudip Ghosh wrote 10 years ago:

Spot on Ishita! Portrays the life in Dubai accurately. Keep it up.

Nilanjana wrote 10 years ago:

Immensely enjoyed your humorous take on Dubai...indeed this is what makes Dubai unique and different and creates the many reasons why we choose to live here...

Arati Bhattacharyya wrote 10 years ago:

Great article, Ishita! It is good to have an overall picture before visiting Dubai. You presented that very well.

Arun Bhattacharya wrote 10 years ago:

Nothing better could anyone have chosen and described 'best eleven' traits of Dubai than what Ishita has done in her blog, This best eleven could also win Gold(Not Dubai brand)Medal in Olympic Football or World Cup in Cricket.Heartiest congratulations Ishita.Keep blogging and winning a billion hearts,

Manjulika Pramod wrote 10 years ago:

I visited Dubai recently and I can relate to some of the things mentioned in the article... loved the humor..

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