Because I’m curious, I’m ready to go anywhere in the world. Obviously, I do have some preferences. We cannot say that Dubai was at the top of my list, quite the opposite. I was thinking that I would probably stop there one day, without really thinking about organizing a holiday there. The opportunity came much earlier than expected, as I was invited by Visit Dubai for a four-day stopover in the city.
Dubai is one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates and is the best known of them. It is also the name of its capital. In 2020, they will host the Universal Exposition. Several people asked me before I left if I didn’t feel politically embarrassed to go to such a country. I have never let my political opinions interfere with my travel. Even if the blog is not the place for such debates, I think it is important to go somewhere to learn more about a country’s situation and judge by yourself. I am not at all expert on the situation in the Emirates and it was definitely not during a press trip that I was able to get a complete and clear picture of it. However, with this article, I would like to give you my raw and uncensored impressions of my stopover in Dubai.
Disembarking in Dubai, while on a stopover on holiday or on expatriation, it means setting foot in another world, in a parallel universe, in your wildest dreams. I can only remember that brief stopover in Doha, Qatar, where from the windows of a bus and a hotel, I had seen such a strange world, which left me perplexed. In Dubai, from the windows of the bus that takes us to the hotel, I am completely amazed by the buildings, cars and passers-by that pass before our eyes. Is all this real?
We arrive at our hotel, The Adress Downtown, a beautiful five-star residence with impeccable service. I suddenly feel so insignificant, so tiny compared to the customers present, with my airport outfit, my extra pounds, my Quechua backpack and my credit card that doesn’t work. However, a hostess immediately puts me at ease by introducing me to my room. Welcome to Dubai!
For many, all this would be a dream of a waking princess, an ephemeral fairy tale. And it is, that’s for sure. However, these days before my carriage turns into a pumpkin, I still have a bitter taste in my mouth. With every amazement, every discovery, every bite of amazement, I feel like I’m biting into a poisoned apple: I wonder what’s going on behind the scenes in Dubai, what you don’t see at first sight…
Everywhere, money and appearance are king and queen. Luxury hotels on every street corner, the most modern facilities, giant shopping malls that house ski slopes, ice rinks, aquariums, cafés, statues, chain stores from all over the world, starred restaurants and other extravagances. Expatriates from all over the world arrive every day to live this Dubai dream, to make their place in this paradise. And I, nourished by alternative ideas and trips, wonder why… Wouldn’t I die of boredom after a week on the spot? Wouldn’t I turn into an empty shell in such a false and unoriginal world?
Fortunately, by opening your eyes wide, you can see and experience another Dubai, far from fairy tales and artificial paradises. A more authentic, truer, more atmospheric and less manufactured Dubai. I will tell you about it in my next article, but it is a Dubai with history, souks, culture and real people. A Dubai that I would have liked to have had time to explore more and discover….
In any case, I do not want to paint a completely negative picture. We know why we come to Dubai; I’m just a different traveller, lost in a world too far from mine. I liked to see that Dubai is a place, where absolutely everything is possible, where there is no limit to imagination and creativity. It is a place where the wildest dreams can come true and where architects can have fun as they please with incredible buildings. It is also a cosmopolitan place and an unparalleled mix of cultures. Of course, it is unlikely that the rich Swedish manager of a hotel will rub shoulders with the Pakistani mason. Even European expatriates do not really rub shoulders with the emirs. However, in the street, it is not uncommon to meet, side by side, an emir dressed in white, his women totally veiled, an expat without complexes in mini-skirt and a tourist rather poorly dressed because of the heat. And what’s the best part of all this? It is that there does not seem to be any judgment on either side. The situation seems accepted, no one looks at each other with murderous eyes or judgment and everyone lives their lives. Is there any other place in the world where this is possible?
Of course, money is the common thread, alcohol does not flow in the streets, there are limitations, religious freedom does not appear in all neighbourhoods and I do not know what is said when the doors are closed. But that day, sitting on a bench watching these two cultural worlds coexist without any judgment, I smiled and thought it was possible.