Dubai and Abu-Dhabi (UAE), Is It Real?

Versão em Português.

It was in November 2013. I had come back from a trip in Europe, and in few weeks, I was leaving to the “Arab playground” of the Middle East, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

This was not a real backpacking trip. I was enjoying a cultural trip organized by the Middle East University (MEU), in Lebanon, for the students of the Arab Language Program. In this program, the students have the opportunity to travel to some Arab countries during the year, and at this time I didn’t miss the chance and went with them on this trip as a backpacker. It was a good choice, because Dubai is not a backpacking destination.

For a while now, Dubai is becoming a top trip destination on travelers’ lists. The idea of being in a modern and technological city built in the middle of nowhere, in a desert, it’s indeed impressive. Beyond all ingenious engineering, it also has a great marketing strategy. Everything is clean, organized and of course, it’s all about shopping. The main attraction in Dubai are its numerous malls spread around the city. There are places full of luxury and you can find all the brands of the world. For those who like shopping, I do not know if Dubai is the heaven or the hell. If you are looking for cultural things, as you cross all the way to Middle East, and want to have an Arab experience, you will have a hard time to find it, as we had. However, if you want a place where you have all the brands one next to another, maybe this is a good place.

Photo by Cynthia Carballo

If you have never been in another Middle Eastern country before and are interested in having the real experience of the region, I advise you to choose other destinations as your first option. Dubai was made to attract rich western travelers and business people. We had to take a taxi to almost every place; actually, I could not see any public bus. You do not find a single sign of poverty on the streets; I even looked for a sign, maybe a homeless person, or trash on the streets… but nothing, everything looks perfect. Now, was it all really perfect, or was there something hidden… this was the question stuck in my mind, especially after talking to some workers there.

Anyway, for sure Dubai is a worthy place to visit if you are okay with spending money, but if not, you can bring your granola in your luggage, and enjoy the rest…this is what I did . And by the way, Abu-Dhabi is also a great city to visit. The white temple is BREATHTAKING!!!!

Photo by Cynthia Carballo

Here are some interesting facts about those two cities:

  • Approximately 85% of the expatriate population (and 71% of the emirates total population) are Asian (mainly Indian, Pakistani, Filipino, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan). About 25% of the population have Iranian origins. My question then comes, hen, who is Emirati?
  • Even though the city is surrounded by shopping malls and international brands, you basically see, as in any other Gulf countries, men using the traditional white dress with their red or black turban plaid, and women with all the varieties of a black burka. However, when you come close, you can see the well crafted jewelry, and who knows what is behind of a burka…
  • By the way, the capital of the United Arab Emirates is not Dubai, is Abu-Dhabi; just because sometimes people make this confusion as Sydney is the capital of Australia, or Rio de Janeiro the capital of Brazil… well, NO.
  • Some of the shopping malls are so complex that you can get inside of a big aquarium, or practice your skiing skills, and much more.
  • There is a really cute street market in a corner of the city. The best place that we found for buying souvenirs or any cultural thing. The Global village ( it is also an interesting place to visit, beyond all the High-Tec building, like Burj Khalifa.
  • You may have to buy trip packages to go to all the places you want, and those trips, for sure, are sold inside of some shopping malls.

I have some friends that say that I should come back to Dubai, and maybe I will change some points of view… maybe I should, because there is no place in the world where you cannot learn something new.

Check out the pictures from this trip on Granolarbar Photos.



Photo by Cynthia Carballo

by Allana Ferreira.




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