In just under two weeks I’ll be leaving Dubai – yet again. I now joke that I’m like a boomerang when it comes to this city: I come, I leave, and then I come right back again. I have spent approximately eight years out of the last decade living here and I realised the other day that it amounts to almost a third of my life – it’s no wonder that I cannot stay away.
In many ways, I think of Dubai like my third home after Cyprus and the UK, and it’s not really surprising considering that I’ve spent some of the best years of my life here and have great friends to always come back to, no matter how long I’m away for. And let’s face it, no matter how much people love to bash this place, there are far worse places to call home.
Whenever I’m about to leave, I invariably become very nostalgic. So this time around, I’ve decided to put together a list of the 12 reasons why no matter where I am in the world, I’ll always love this city…
Yes, the summer is horrendous beyond belief, but I’d rather open my curtains every morning and see a blue sky than deal with the UK gloom. And while those four months when the humidity peaks and it feels like we’re living on the sun can be soul destroying, the rest of the year more than makes up for it – glorious sunshine, great temperatures. Ah, if only it could be like this forever.
In many respects, this place is one of the easiest places to live in the world. We can have literally anything delivered – including Nando’s and McDonald’s. Want a packet of fags being brought up to your apartment? Sure thing. Car valeting at every hotel? No problem! Someone to fill your car with petrol? Yup, we’ve got that covered too. As a woman, it’s even better, as there are ‘ladies counters’ at pretty much every government office, meaning that we get things done quicker.
So apparently the best Indian food outside of India can be found in Dubai, and I’m not about to dispute that, although admittedly I’ve eaten in some amazing Indian restaurants in random places like Vietnam. But the variety here is unbeatable. At the moment, I’m totally addicted to South Indian food and I’m living off dosas and idlis – so delicious and so darn cheap! We’re talking AED10 – 20 for a MASSIVE meal. When in town, you must try out the paper dosa at Aryaas. It’s the stuff legends are made of.
The multi-cultural population
I know this is commonplace in big cities, but I do love how multi-cultural Dubai is. I’ve made friends from so many different countries and all walks of life – people whose paths I probably wouldn’t have crossed had I not lived here. I love that about this place.
The Burj Khalifa
I cannot help but gaze at that darn thing and feel a surge of awe. The Burj Khalifa soars in the sky defiantly and you can see it from pretty much everywhere in the city. I still remember vividly watching the opening fireworks from my apartment’s terrace back in 2010 and how it was a mere stub when I first moved here in 2007. I also remember how excited I was to see it as I landed back in August 2016 when I returned to Dubai. Love it or hate it, it’s definitely the city’s main monument of pride.
The ‘anything is possible’ attitude
You only have to look at photos of Dubai from the 1990s to see why living here makes you feel like anything is possible. Where skyscrapers now stand you would find nothing but sand. Today Dubai is a thriving city of almost three million people. The word ‘cannot’ doesn’t appear to exist in this city’s dictionary.
The ever-evolving food and culture scene
When I first moved to Dubai in 2007, a common ‘complaint’ you’d hear is that there was nothing more to do in this city than drink, sunbathe and shop (and yet we all happily partook in the aforementioned activities – it was a hard knock life). Fast-forward a decade and I’m so happy to see how fast this city has evolved. Malls are no longer your only shopping option – you can now find an array of interesting markets and boutiques popping up everywhere. American chains of restaurants are no longer the only dining options opening – we now have a fantastic selection of homegrown cafés and restaurants, such as Mythos (great Greek food). If you want to go out, you no longer only have to choose between super swanky bars or dingy pubs – there are now great ‘in between’ options, such as Cocktail Kitchen and Eloquent Elephant. And no, drinking is no longer the only pastime available – we now have an ever-growing arts, culture and design calendar and it’s bloody great.
Whenever someone asks me where my favourite place in Dubai is, I only have one answer: Kinokuniya. Ah, Kinokuniya – it’s a book lover’s dream come true. Admittedly, I’m very disappointed that it recently changed locations in Dubai Mall and became a little bit smaller, but it will still always be my favourite spot in the city. There are thousands upon thousands of books and I often spend hours in there (spending way too much money). If you’re ever in town, you must visit.
Dubai Creek and Bastakiya
I’ve always loved the old areas of Dubai, particularly down by the creek (Bur Dubai side) and Bastakiya. I’m currently lucky enough to be working there so I’m rediscovering my love of the area. You have the most delicious (and cheap) food – Nepali, Indian, Arabic, alongside a bustling souk area that is rife with photo opportunities. I also love the little alleyways that are around the Shiva Mandir (Hindu temple), which are teeming with little shops selling incense and colourful temple offerings. Bastakiya, which is a ten-minute walk from here, is a collection of old buildings built in traditional style (complete with wind towers), and each one houses either a gallery or a café. It’s a great area of the city and one that most visitors overlook, so be sure to check it out when you’re in town.
Dubai-specific food items
Sure, I can probably find many of these things in other places in the world, but what I love about this city is how easy it is to get hold of some of my favourite food items. Chips Oman sandwich? Karak chai? Cheese manakish? Kunafa? It’s all here (sobs my waistline).
Being near the sea
It’s probably something I haven’t taken advantage of as much as I should, but I do love being in a city that’s built by the sea. I am a sea baby – I love nothing more than walking by the beach, taking in the sea air and listening to the waves lap against the shore. It helps me clear my head and get inspired.
Feeling like I’m home
As I said at the beginning, there will always be something about this place that feels like home despite the fact I have no family or real roots here. Maybe it’s familiarity, maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s a bit of both. A part of my heart will always remain in Dubai no matter where I am in the world, and whenever I land back here I’ll always feel happy to return.
Dubai, see you again soon.
Which city/country (that’s not really home) feels like home to you?