Yes, there's the sky-high rent and crazy traffic? But we still love Dubai.
1. Stash away some dirhams
Was your plan to move to Dubai initially inspired by a job advertisement you spotted back home, boasting a rather attractive ‘tax-free salary’? Then, when you arrived, how long did it take you to get over the fact that, though your intake may not be stung by tax, you still get hit via shops, bars and restaurants? Not long? We were the same. Most people get so caught up in the everyday’s-a-holiday, Monopoly-money lifestyle they rapidly forget to think about pension plans and mortgages. Although 2009 should be the year we all snap out of it.
‘It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you don’t have enough spare cash to be saving,’ agrees Richard Hextall, head of personal banking at Lloyds TSB Middle East. ‘But it’s never been a more important time to save, as economic conditions are set to become more challenging in 2009. Start now and you can take full advantage of the strength of the UAE dirham.’
Richard’s simple saving tips 1 ‘Start by identifying some realistic ways to save. Make a list of your fixed monthly outgoings, then look at everything you spend on top of that, such as taxis, costly coffees or meals out.’
2 ‘Think about new ways to reduce these expenses, like sharing a lift with a friend or looking into bus routes, downscaling your coffee order slightly (do you need the flavoured syrup?), or throwing more dinner parties at home (and asking generous guests to bring ingredients).’
3 Finally, set yourself a clear target. ‘People find saving for a major life event, such as a house deposit or a wedding, or simply making a commitment to yourself to put aside a certain amount each week, month or year is a really strong motivating factor,’ says Richard. ‘You could even try competing with a friend or partner to see who can save the most!’
Body bargains Of course, there are plenty of ways of ‘saving’ money here that still involve the pleasure of spending. For example, have you been meaning to get your poor old eyes corrected with laser surgery for years? Now’s the time to do it – in Dubai. ‘It is cheaper to have laser eye surgery here rather than in the west,’ explains Dr Ashraf, head surgeon at the Atlanta Vision Clinic (04 348 6233; www.dubailasik.com). ‘There are a lot of people who come over especially for it – the procedure itself only takes 10 minutes and most people are back to work and driving the next day, so it’s not time consuming.’ Same deal with plastic surgery – although we obviously advise you do extensive research before going under the knife, and whatever nip or tuck you have, you’ll no doubt take a little longer than a day to recover.
Shopping steals If you don’t want to invest in your body – make full use of the shopping bargains here instead. The Gold Souk is certainly worth a haggle if you’re after jewels (why do you think it actually ran out of gold last year?), while the tailors offer the best deal this side of Singapore. Ishwar on Satwa Road is our top tip for dresses from around Dhs100 (04 349 24 34, near Deepaks), while Kachins in Bur Dubai is your best bet for a suit-to-fit priced around Dhs600 (04 352 1246, right after the Astoria Hotel car park; both prices exclude material, which can be bought cheaply from various fabric stores).
Then there are the sales and special events, such as the month-long Dubai Shopping Festival, beginning this year on January 15. Keep an eye on our Consume pages for upcoming discount days. Oh – and there is one other thing that is cheaper in Dubai than elsewhere: magazines. We suggest you skim over those international titles on the racks and stick with the local brands!
The five tourist musts No, we’re not letting any tourists get away with failing to make the most of Dubai either – no matter how short your stay. Here are our five essential visitor activities:
1 Head into the desert for a tour (Alpha Tours start from Dhs245, 04 294 9888; see Sport & Outdoor on page 100 for more). You can’t come to the Middle East and not ride a camel, have a stab at belly dancing and bounce over dunes in a 4x4.
2 Ski Dubai (04 409 4000), the famous indoor ski resort, remains the oddest sight in our desert city, despite The Dubai Mall’s valiant effort with their new shark-crammed aquarium and Olympic-sized ice rink.
3 Strike off a five-star hotel visit and the Burj al Arab at once, by heading to 360° through Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8744). A heli-pad shaped Al fresco bar at the end of a long jetty, it boasts stunning views of the sail-shaped landmark, as well as the Arabian Gulf (and other customer’s gaudy outfits).
4 The historic Creek and surrounding Gold and Spice Souks continue to remind us that Dubai actually started life as a port. Should you want to learn more about the emirate’s history, Dubai Museum (04 353 1862) is but a hop, skip – or abra ride away.
5 Our number one tourist pursuit is a ride on the Big Bus Tour (04 340 7709). As well as offering transport around the city with its hop-on hop-off policy, you’ll no doubt learn more about Dubai than of most of its residents.
2. Scale the career ladder
Did you move here to boost a rather short CV? To the land of opportunity, where the buildings, cars and people, if not the streets, are all gold-plated? Then why not start 2009 with a new and improved job to add to that résumé? If you’ve already achieved some professional experience here – all the better for taking advantage of the prospects on offer. ‘Your UAE experience is a strong advantage against the candidates who are still arriving in droves from all over the world,’ explains Robert Thesiger, CEO of Dubai recruitment company Imprint. But where to look? In case you’ve had your head stuck somewhere in the desert sands, industries, such as banking and property, have seen huge slowdowns in terms of hiring over the past year – though some have continued to blossom. ‘There are still good levels of demand within areas such as media, advertising and events,’ reveals Robert. 04 329 7770 www.iQselection.com
Score that long-awaited promotion What if you don’t want to change companies – but are just after a promotion? Life coach Mark Garrod of MudFish Life Coaching (050 457 6115,www.mudfishcoaching.com) believes making sure you have a life outside work is the key to improving your performance in the office. ‘You operate so much more productively when you have a balance in life,’ he says. The second power he believes professionals ought to wield is integrity. ‘There is often the sense here in Dubai that in order to get ahead you need to hold your cards close to your chest.’ But to be honest and open, Mark believes, is more important than we think, as ‘businesses are essentially all about relationships’. Another common miscommunication in Dubai work places is the way people delegate – or rather, don’t delegate. ‘Many professionals here complain that they’re doing the work of three people – and often they really are,’ Mark states. ‘They need to delegate more – as trying to do everything themselves does nothing at all to develop their leadership skills.’ In short, if you want to get ahead in your job – get a personal life, say what you think and do less work yourself. Simple.
How to be the office hot shot 1 ‘Walk outside for 20 minutes everyday. Clearing your head and getting some perspective on office life, while getting some physical exercise makes you much more capable of attacking challenges at work.’
2 ‘Instead of moaning that you can’t do something because “the boss hasn’t trained you”, go to him or her directly and ask to be taught the necessary skills.’
3 ‘To delegate effectively, sit down with colleagues, explain what you need to be done and highlight the value of what they’re doing. The strength of your brief will then be directly represented in their work.’ www.mudfishcoaching.com
3. See the world
We all scoffed when The Dubai Mall announced ‘the Earth had a new centre’ on the eve of its grand opening. But, in terms of the city itself as a central hub for the Middle East, Europe and Asia, they weren’t that far off. Stop spending all your time in places like The Dubai Mall, and, like you initially intended, start seeing the world instead – especially the bits that may not be around for ever. Here are our top three relatively close, but slowly disappearing, hot spots.
The Maldives With pure white beaches surrounded by crystal-clear water and miles of coral, The Maldives are oft-regarded as the best place in the world for water sports. But global warming is turning the islands’ biggest asset into its worst enemy: scientists predict that they will be washed away by the sea within 30 years. Republic Of Maldives officials are already looking into relocating the entire country to Sri Lanka, Australia or elsewhere, so take a look at this extraordinary place while you still can.
Mount Kilimanjaro Why not take a hike. No, we’re not being rude – we talking about climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro. The highest peak in Africa, it’s hardly going to go the same way as The Maldives, but according to some scientists global warming is still having an effect. In 2001, it was announced that its spectacular snow-and-glacier peaks had already shrunk by 82 per cent since 1912, a rate of erosion that would make them vanish some time between 2015 and 2020. Others have since stated that they may last until 2050 or even go on indefinitely. But whether you want to risk the wait or not is up to you.
The Dead Sea Shrinkage is also kicking in for The Dead Sea. Lying 420 metres below sea level, low enough that it leeches salt from the Earth’s crust, The Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water in the world – so salty, in fact, that its buoyancy makes it impossible to swim underwater there. As well as the resulting humorous holiday snaps, tourists are also attracted by health benefits brought by its mineral-rich mud, low-UV sunlight and therapeutic salt content. But irrigation on the Jordan River – the sea’s main tributary – coupled with a natural evaporative process, is causing the sea’s level to fall by one metre each year. Plans have been put forward to save it by pumping water from The Red Sea, but there are worries that this will affect the chemical composition of the sea, and therefore its colour and therapeutic effects.
Time Out’s top short breaks 1 Fujairah Turtles, an island shaped like Snoopy and – the occasional red tide aside – great snorkelling: Fujairah is the UAE’s NeverNever Land.
2 Oman It has the picturesque Muscat, the dolphin-populated Musandam and the baby-turtle speckled beaches of Salalah. (Yes, turtles seem to be a theme.)
3 Beirut You haven’t been clubbing until you’ve seen the sun rise in the Lebanese capital. You also haven’t seen bad driving until you’ve cruised their roads.
4. Mix up your social circle Everyone talks about Dubai’s multicultural society, but as soon as you arrive here, you find out it’s all too easy to stick to your own. ‘I moved here three months ago,’ confides lawyer Dave Leahy. ‘Everyone in my company is English, all their friends are English; so far the only non-British or non-Australian people I’ve encountered have been clients, wait staff or taxi drivers.’ Sound familiar? OK, so perhaps you came to the Emirates simply to make money and catch a tan – but you’d be a fool not to take advantage of the UAE’s international population, and cut through its seemingly hardwired social hierarchy.
Get sweaty ‘There can’t be that many amateur teams in the world that boast Arabic, European, African and Asian members,’ says Rachel Jordan, member of one of Dubai’s ladies football teams. ‘If it wasn’t for football, I’d find it very hard to meet people of different nationalities in Dubai, as I work for a small Australian-run design company. Now I get together with my team mates for different social occasions, such as braais (South African barbecues), Iftars or a simple drink or meal in a restaurant!’
Be literal The Third Line’s Kutub book club is another easy way to meet likeminded folk outside your typical network. A long running bilingual event, each month a different Arabic book is read and discussed in both its English and Arabic versions. ‘We have readers from across the Arab world, from Europe and the Americas and from Asia,’ reveals the Third Line’s Katrina. ‘Because you are not just meeting people from different backgrounds, but having conversations with them, you learn a great deal about them.’ (Contact 04-341-1367; firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Go local It often seems that the last community people interact with in Dubai is the local one. Fortunately, since 2008 was made the UAE’s ‘year of National Identity’, new avenues to make contact with Emiratis have opened up. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding organises a number of activities, including a Jumeirah Mosque Tour. Run every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10am, it lasts an hour and a quarter and concludes with a question and answer session, in which guests are invited to ‘ask anything relating to Islam and the culture without feeling afraid that they might offend.’ The same policy applies to their cultural breakfast and lunch, held at the Centre in Bastakiya from 10am on Monday and 1pm on Sunday (Dhs50 and Dhs60, respectively). Diners enjoy Arabic coffee and homemade local cuisine ‘while learning the customs behind true Arabian hospitality’ with staff and volunteers. Every Sunday and Thursday at 10am walking tours of Bastakiya’s architecture and heritage are also available for Dhs50, and, if you’re really keen, the Centre arranges Arabic lessons and entire Cultural Awareness programmes. See the website, www.cultures.ae, for more information.
Three to try We mustn’t forget the dozens of other social enclaves within the city. Whether you make cross-cultural friends or not, it’s worth simply checking out the rich international insights our city has to offer. Perhaps then you’ll actually feel like you’re living in a foreign country.
1 Marvel at wrestling in Deira every Friday, from 4pm until sunset, behind the fish market). Hundreds of Pakistani and Indian men gather on their day off to watch some of the best competitors take part in the sport.
2 Squeeze into a crammed Filipino karaoke bar and maybe even have a squeak at the national past time. Our pick is Hibiki Music Lounge in Deira’s Hyatt Regency. Call 04 209 6701.
3 Lounge in a busy Arabic shisha café and absorb the laidback atmosphere. These are located all over the city, but our favourites are Shu on Jumeirah Beach Road (04 349 1303) and Fudo (04 349 8586).
5. Get in shape outside
For anyone who has lived in a land of grey skies, drizzle and cagouls, the thought of prancing about in the balmy Arabian Desert is quite a pull. There’s sun, sea, sand and a whole lot of park to boot, and that’s not forgetting the sky – kitesurfing and parasailing arguably rival running and walking out here. So there’s really no excuse not to haul your derriere off the sofa and work on those guns, buns and tums.
Use your eyes! ‘It’s all too easy to take the weather for granted,’ says Tim Garrett, founder of Healthy 4 U (050 157 3552, www.outstandinghealth.com), a health coaching service recently launched in Dubai. ‘I encourage my clients to use the elements around them to improve their fitness levels,’ he says. ‘Not only does looking at blue skies, sun, sea and sand improve motivation but it’s good for the mind, body and soul too – you’ll achieve far more with this mind set.’ Get with the programme But aside from a quick jog up and down Jumeirah open beach, what are the options? For anyone terrified of boot camp’s military regime, Core Direction (04 3626385, www.coredirection.com) is a great compromise. The outdoor combat (think martial arts-meets-boxing) and balance (it’s more yoga-focused) classes – currently held in Safa Park and Jumeirah Beach – boost motivation, fitness and positivity levels through a mix of carefully crafted exercises. ‘It’s perfect for anyone who used to be sporty and wants to regain those levels of fitness – but without all the scary shouting!’ says Noura El-Imam, marketing manager at Core Direction.
Howl at the moon If it’s something a little different you’re after, then Talise Spa (04 366 6818, www.madinatjumeirah.com) may have just the ticket. Three or four times a year (the next one is pegged for March 11), yoga lovers across the emirate gather to practice their art under the full moon. It’s a medley of open starry skies, hordes of Zen-like people and bags of positive energy. ‘The full moon is one of the most spiritual times of the month,’ says Neill Culpan, manager at Talise Spa. ‘The energy at this time is amazing – particularly with so many people involved.’ While the Dhs200 price tag may put off the thrifty among us, Culpan argues the benefits and experience are something colder, wetter climates just can’t match.
Make a splash And let’s not forget the trusty Arabian Gulf. Whether it’s kayaking, sailing, wakeboarding, surfing or simply swimming, there’s no beating a dip in the sea. Aside from the simple health benefits (‘Sea salt is one of nature’s beautifiers, whereas chlorine in swimming pools leaves hair ratty and skin dry,’ says freelance facialist Katrina Valente), the simple fact that you have a huge (free) bath tub at your disposal is reason enough to get in there. ‘Kayaking is a great because anyone can do it – irrespective of fitness levels,’ says Lucy Mann, member of Dubai Ski and Kayak Club (050 813 3207,www.dskc.net), who joined after feeling cooped up during the summer months. ‘If you want to visit The World at sunset, just grab a paddle and off you go – it’s just a matter of motivating yourself to do it.’
6. Live the expat dream
Come on, admit it: we all liked the sound of Dubai’s high life before arriving here, didn’t we? No doubt when you first informed friends and family you were moving to the emirate they marvelled at the extravagant lifestyle you were about to enjoy… and then you arrived and found yourself stuck in a routine rut, revolving around malls and DVD box sets. In 2009, make the most of all Dubai’s bling bits – without worrying about the damage it’s doing to your soul.
Climb aboard The first stop in your new materialistic life really ought to be aboard a private yacht cruise. Club together with 13 mates and you can hire your own top of the range Italian-built model. ‘For Dhs250 per person, we offer two-hour cruises up the Creek and around the World Islands, either during the day or by night (or Dhs350 per person for three hours),’ explains the gregarious Captain William of Silver Line Yacht Charters (050 867 2707, www.silverlineyachtcharters.com). ‘Cruisers get full run of the boat, the music and, if they’re lucky, I let them steer – or at least sit in the captain’s chair for a bit, under careful supervision!’ If you fancy a little upmarket R&R without the Wham! video overtones, Blue Banana recently launched their four-hour Healthy Living Catamaran Cruise, including smoothies, massages and a healthy all-organic lunch for Dhs395 (see www.bluebanana.ae). Hit the roof Once back on land, the second glitziest spot in Dubai has to be on a rooftop somewhere – either in your pool (forgot you had one in your building? Grab some goggles and make the most of it this year), or at a bar or restaurant. Our favourites are Tamanya Terrace at the Radisson SAS hotel in Media City (especially the funk band and barbecue on a Saturday evening, call 04 366 9111), Uptown Bar in Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 406 8999) or new venue Neos at The Address (04 427 0515), for its sparkling 63rd-floor views (though not for its extortionate prices or foie gras-laden menu).
Spa out Yes, this is the year that you will unashamedly pamper yourself. It’s simply a crime not to take advantage of Dubai’s low spa prices. Pretty Lady Salon (04 398 5255) on Mankhool Road is top of many a long-term residents ‘best-kept secret’ list, with its bargain cuts, blow dries and mani-pedis, from around Dhs50. Alternatively, if you’re feeling flash, splash out on an 80-minute Marine Detox Couple’s experience at Al Qasr’s Talise Spa for Dhs635, so you can gaze across at your partner mid-exfoliation and wonder when, exactly, your life became quite so lush (or who the hell ever thought disposable pants were a good idea).
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Paul K Jan 08, 2009 03:53 am
You guys left me no choice but to comment on your description of Beirut, particularly about the reckless driving, as if Dubai's driving is any better with it's speedy drivers combined with the drivers who cannot really drive, plus of course the very dangerous taxi drivers (on a daily basis, a taxi car almost causes an accident with me or near me). In fact I think it would be best to compare the statistics of the number of accidents per year between Beirut and Dubai.
Another thing as well, Beirut & Lebanon have much more to offer than what was stated: a perfect weather all year long, easy access to natural beaches and natural ski resorts, wonderful mountains & green valleys, plus numerous archeological sites including churches, mosques, souks etc... to new but a few.
Hilal Onat Jan 06, 2009 10:37 am
Dubai is my favourite destination, I keep coming two times a year for business. I really agree on what you recomended, even during my stays- which are not longer than a week- I try to get benefit from every single opportunity to enjoy my stay as there are millions of things to do. I am jealous of people who are living there and are not aware of these options.