Q: I consider myself a thrill-seeker, what is the best way to get a good adrenaline rush?
A: Simply in terms of scale, Dubai will be thrilling. Apart from the massive buildings and densely populated market places, you can have a more artificial adrenaline rush at Wild Wadi and Atlantis – two of Dubai’s water parks. The Leap of Faith, which dares you to jump in good-faith down a 30-meter near-vertical slide, is a must try at Atlantis. The moment of mid-air suspension or the plunge through shark infested waters is sure to get your pulse racing. Don’t forget to carry your go-pro – that no-make-up, blurry selfie is just what your insta-followers are waiting for.
Q: I take an introductory Arabic class, will I be able to practice?
A: Good luck. While Arabic is the official language in Dubai, it is generally spoken only amongst the Emirati community which makes up less than 10% of the population. Nearly everything is translated into English. If you discipline yourself, you can look only at the Arabic side of menus, but the waitstaff may want you to point at the item you order as they probably don’t speak Arabic themselves. Dubai hosts a vast linguistic diversity, but you will hear the Korean tourist ordering their steak frites from the French waiter in English. Urdu would be handy to know since most taxi drivers are from Pakistan. Hindi and Punjabi are also widely spoken, especially when it comes to the expat working class that is predominately made up of South Asians.
Q: I love the highlife but am on a student budget, is there anything I can still do?
A: Call it chivalry, sexism or good business but it is much cheaper to experience the highlife in Dubai as a woman. 0 Gravity, a poolside resto-bar that overlooks Skydive Dubai, hosts a weekly “ladies’ day” promising free entry to the relaxing oasis. These kinds of women’s nights are common in Dubai and it may be a good opportunity to quaff complimentary drinks and appetizers. There are also a lot of glamorous places to walk around such as at the Marina or on the Palm near Atlantis hotel. This costs nothing provided you resist the temptation to shop at the open aired malls at either location. Also, the new beachside development La Mer seems to have been designed with instagram influencers in mind and boasts loads of backdrops for the perfect selfie. Conversely, if you really want to experience the high life, try skimping on other expenses and splashing out on Zuma – a world renowned Japanese restaurant. But be aware, it will cost around 250$ (about 220 euro) per head.
Q: Camels are my favorite animals, will I get to ride some?
A: Unsurprisingly, the preferred mode of transport in Dubai is by car. Some of the most expensive cars in the world can be found in Dubai and at the parking spots at Jumeirah or Emirates Mall, you are sure to catch sight of some supercars. If you really prefer to ride a camel rather than gold coated Lamborghini, you should book a desert safari where you can go dune bashing, sand skiing, watch a belly dancing performance, get a henna tattoo, smoke shisha and most importantly, ride a camel.
Q: Can I hold hands with my boo?
A: Yes, you can hold hands with your significant other but that’s about the limit, in public at least. Please note that PDA is extremely looked down upon so do not expect to get that perfect kiss under the magnificent Dubai sunset. Also, you will not be allowed to share a hotel room with your boo unless you pretend to be married.
Q: I love mini-skirts, should I wear mine?
A: Your tube tops, daisy dukes and mini-skirts are most definitely a waste of luggage space. What really may be worth the extra weight, however, are palazzos and airy maxi dresses. They will help you stay cool, comfortable and respectful. Although most of the restaurants and malls are framed with signs encouraging you to “dress modestly”, almost all agree that at these tourist areas, shorts and sleeveless clothes are generally acceptable as long as they aren’t too revealing. At the beach, you are welcome to lounge in your bikini but restaurants and bars demand a certain level of formality whose expectations cannot be met by swimwear.
Q: I am looking to make friends, where can I meet people?
A: It seems that your biggest fears are about to come true. Tinder and Bumble, designed to cater to western society, cannot boast great reviews in the Middle East. Even worse, however, is that Whatsapp, Facebook and other internet calling methods do not work. If you simply will not survive without calling your besties from home, download Silo.
Q: How can I stay hydrated in the hot weather?
A: No, alcohol does not hydrate you (it’s a diuretic). But yes, if you are 21 (and have an ID to prove it), you can drink in Dubai but under certain regulations. Erase the image of spreading a picnic blanket on the beach with a bottle of wine, some cheese, and bread. That isn’t allowed. Tourists can drink at licensed locations, usually high-end bars and restaurants affiliated with hotels. Try Souk Madinat, which offers a smorgasbord of relaxing resto-bars, or restaurants at the Dubai Mall overlooking the Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest building) and Dubai Fountain (the mall has cleverly attached two hotels so that its restaurants can qualify for an alcohol license). Do drink lots of water, and if the hot weather really bothers you, take a break from the heat at Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort at the Mall of the Emirates.
Cover photo: Dubai skyline by Blythe Edwards @The Sundial Press.