Dubai for the dubious
The conversation usually goes like this, "Dubai? All I did was party there," or "it's not really a place I had ever thought about," or... "seems too artificial." I'll admit it, I was once, too, that person, but then I went to Dubai and changed my mind. Everything about my trip to Dubai was adventurous, from the destination itself to my travel partner (more on that later), and even the people and things that unfolded along the way. All right, back to the travel partner. My best friend had seen an Emirates two-for-one sale in Condé Nast's weekly newsletter. She told me about the deal since her, and her husband had booked it for a vacation. I was in the market for a much-needed break, and it actually seemed like an excellent idea at the time to go as far away as possible and reset my energies. The only but? How was I to find someone willing to shell $800 for a ticket and travel within the following few months? Yeah, unlikely. Enter Marcela. Marcela had worked with my best friend and was also at the time a single woman who took an interest in traveling around the world. My best friend thought based on shared interests that Marcela and I would get along well enough to travel together. Well, one thing led to a plane ticket purchase within the day, we had a quick meeting over brunch and the next thing I know I was sleeping in a tent in the middle of the desert with a stranger that now had become a lifelong friend. Fast forward to Dubai. After a long stopover in New York, we finally made it to our destination, tired but ready to settle in for the night and begin a day of exploring. Once we got to our charming hotel, XVA Art Hotel, it was evident that this
place was going to be magical. And it was! From camel rides to afternoon tea at the Palace, 75-course meals, Henna tattoos, Kaftans, shopping, spice markets, more shopping, this place was filled with decadence. Every morning we would wake up to the sounds of prayer, the heat of the desert, an adorned plate of dates, freshly baked pita, hummus with the slightest touch of olive oil, and Turkish coffee, usually after a night of partying that would sometimes end at 4 a.m. at a Shisha bar and sometimes at a fancy club, in front of a world-renowned DJ with two Canadians expats and a new Syrian friend. "Dubai is a transient city," everyone said, and I could see how the hurried mornings and days of infinite indulging couldn't be a forever thing. But the subway was oh so clean, the food was oh so good, the architecture was oh so futuristic, and I really took a liking to matching a headscarf to my outfit every morning. I could stay here, I thought. Heck, I could live here! So let's break this trip down, shall we?
My favorite Spot: The desert and Al Bayt for tea time
Why go: Architecture, Luxury, Gastronomy, Nightlife
Shopping: Old Dubai, Spice market (saffron capital), the gold market
Eating: Typical dishes include: Shawarma, hummus, Mandi, luqaimat
Where to eat? Arabian Tea House Restaurant & Cafe, Em Sherif, Nola Eatery and Social
The basics: Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Gold and Spice Souks, Desert Safari, trip to Abu Dhabi
Tips: There's so much shopping and bargaining at the markets, pace yourself.
What not to do: Be disrespectful of the culture. Although Dubai is pretty easygoing, wear appropriate clothing, and read up on unwelcomed manners like pointing. Travel during the summer. IT IS HOT. DESERT HOT.
Get in the mood: Can't get to Dubai but want to savor it from home? Here's what's in my cellar:
Chateau Musar. Although wine from the Middle East is not very common, Chateau Musar, from Lebanon, has become an iconic winery in the region with low intervention, terroir-driven wines. Sept Winery, also from Lebanon, is producing incredible wines with indigenous varietals like Obadiah.