“The race for excellence has no finish line.” – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai
For those readers who haven’t visited my About page yet, I moved to Dubai after marrying my husband, affectionately known as “Rocket” on my blog. Although I can’t speak for the whole Middle East (or even the whole United Arab Emirates), I have included below a few frequently asked questions about my experience in Dubai. Don’t forget to check out the video at the end!
1. Do you have to fully cover up while visiting or living in Dubai?
NO! Dubai isn’t as strict in terms of dress code as some other countries in the Middle East. In general, there is a cultural appreciation for dressing modestly, but I’ve seen some pretty risque clothing decisions around town (not to mention at the beach). However, despite the fact that there are NO religious police forcing you to cover up, if you do visit I would suggest a variety clothing options and pack a few shawls or other easy cover ups just in case. The only place where I have observed the strictest enforcement of a dress code (covered shoulders, knees, and midriff) is at government offices, which tourists normally don’t visit. If you move to Dubai, you will need to visit a government office for a number of resident requirements. In that case, I would recommend wearing pants and a jacket to cover your arms. Day-to-day I don’t dress much differently here than I do back in the states.
2. Is it safe?
YES! Out of all the places I have lived and visited, Dubai feels the safest. This is partly because the government and police force do a good job of monitoring the city and enforcing the rules and regulations (don’t even think about drinking and driving). Additionally the safety is enhanced by the fact that the majority of the residents are expats and are required to have a sponsor in order to live in Dubai. If you lose your job (sponsor), then you have to leave the country within a certain time frame. Most people enjoy living here and wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize their visa so crime is limited.
3. What is it like living in a Muslim country as a Christian?
Honestly, living in Dubai as a Christian is very similar to living in the United States. Dubai is welcoming (in some ways more welcoming than home: link) to expats of different religions. There are numerous churches across the city who mostly meet in hotel conference rooms or the Jebel Ali church compound. You rarely find a church who has its own building. There are mosques almost at every corner and loud speakers that broadcast a prayer 5 times a day, but I have the freedom to worship God and Jesus here.
4. How was your transition to living overseas?
I enjoying traveling and moving to new locations because I view it as an adventure. Moving to Dubai was just another adventure. I enjoyed exploring the city, finding things on my own, and learning about different cultures. The hardest part of the transition was not being able to find some of my favorite brands/products that I’m used to for cooking, beauty care, or household chores. Once I figured out what items weren’t available here, I asked visitors to bring things or buy in bulk when I return home.
For me the transition was easy in part because Rocket did a great job helping me get settled, and I was able to find community in our church right away. Attending weekly women’s group meetings helped me make new friends quickly. I would highly suggest a new expat to get involved in community events as quickly as possible.
5. Is Dubai really expensive?
Yes and no. For residents, rents are on par or a bit higher than most major US cities, but food and many services are much cheaper. For tourists, there are great deals on hotels and activities during the summer heat, but they are expensive during the high peak tourist season (winter).
When it comes to shopping, unlike the United States, negotiating prices and asking for discounts is very common, especially in the markets. My advice is never pay full price. As a foreigner in the tourist markets, they increase the prices and many times you can easily get the same item for half the initial price. In terms of shopping in the malls, the variety of shops and products is incredible with local brands and international brands from the US, UK, Europe and Japan well represented. Prices tend to be slightly higher than the U.S. and U.K, but significantly cheaper than many other parts of the world. Accordingly, many tourists come from Africa, Asia and Europe to shop in Dubai.
6. What do you miss most about the United States?
Besides my family and friends, I really miss the season of Fall. The colors of the trees, smells of the holidays soon to come, and crisp air is all part of my favorite time of year. I love going to Fall festivals, picking apples, and pumpkin flavored desserts. Dubai has two seasons: summer and winter, but the winter here is similar to the summers back home.
7. What do you appreciate most about Dubai?
It’s not surprising to go to a dinner party with 10 people, from 8 different countries, who speak 16 unique languages (true story). I love how diverse Dubai is among expats, restaurant options, food in the grocery stores, and experiences to try. I have met people from all over the world and some of my preconceived stereotypes have been proven false. I enjoy hearing many languages, tasting different cuisines and trying out new things.
*I am cheating here and putting a second thing I appreciate most because I couldn’t decide. It depends on the day! (haha)*
I also love the convenience of Dubai! Almost everything, including laundry, groceries, food from any restaurant, can be delivered and picked up for free or a reasonable cost. It’s easy and relatively affordable to book a cleaning service, nanny’s (so we hear from friends), and even a personal chef! We have much more free time here than we ever did back home.
8. What is your least favorite thing about living in Dubai?
Living so far away from family and friends makes it hard to keep in touch. However, it also makes it easier to travel to new places around the world. Rocket and I both just wish our families could move to Dubai with us!
9. What is the best time of year to visit?
The winter months are definitely the best time to visit, October through mid April. The weather is much cooler than the summer and there are more outdoor activities to take part in. My favorite month is February because it warms up again, but still isn’t too hot or cold to enjoy being outside during the day and evening.
10. What are some of the most popular tourist attractions and events through the year?
There are many things happening in Dubai all the time. Some of the most popular tourist attractions are: The Dubai Mall and fountain, Burj Khalifa, Dubai Opera, Burj Al Arab, a desert safari, skydiving over The Palm, the gold souq and spice souq, Dubai Museum, Kite beach, La Mer, City Walk, Al Seef, and the Dubai Frame to name a few. Throughout the year there are many interesting events occurring from camel racing (winter), horse racing, shopping festival, food festival, art showcases, and more. Check out Time Out Dubai, a local magazine, to find out specific details about events occurring during your visit.
Do you have further questions? Comment below or contact me.
If you live in Dubai or visit before the end of March 2018, make sure to have dinner by the Dubai Fountain to watch the laser show on the Burj Khalifa displayed as the 2018 New Year show. It was quite spectacular. If you won’t be here before the show ends, check it out below: