Supermarket shelves are crammed with Dubai magazines full of society pages and photo spreads. You don’t need to be famous to get into print here. Just parade around the VIP rooms of a nightclub and sooner or later you’re going to be snapped by someone. In the meantime, you’ve just got to figure out how to smile and pout at the same time.
You’re not like all the other expats, are you? They might be obsessed with malls and luxury beach clubs, but you’re more down to earth and authentic and there’s a picture of you crossing the Creek to prove it. Bonus points are given if you snap a seagull perched on a colourful dhow that has random cargo or sailors sleeping on deck.
Thumbs up, helmet on, wind pushing cheeks behind ears and Palm Jumeirah approaching fast from underneath – the Dubai parachute jump photo is the adventurer’s equivalent of an expectant mother’s baby scan. People squint, tilt their heads and then swear that they can recognise your face/baby but never admit that they think they all look the same and can’t tell for sure if it is a new photo or one of countless others.
7 Burj Khalifa
No matter how hard you try, you just won’t be able to fit all of the world’s tallest building and your gurning face into a single selfie. Not if you want to get The Dubai Fountain in there as well, anyway. Unless you’re good at arty angles or perched on top, Tom Cruise-style, then you’re best off settling for a peering upwards and pointing snap that gets at least the building’s bottom half in the frame.
6 Airport check-in
Two varieties rule here and your choices say a lot about what your friends are really thinking when you show them the picture. Snaps of first class tickets or lounges will make them jealous and wanting you to lose your luggage. Pictures from any other part of the airport, at least when your trip is starting, will also make them jealously wish minor evil on you. But at least they’ll feel guilty about it.
5 Roadside camel
There you were just driving along when, incredibly, you looked out of the window and there was a camel. Nobody back home needs to know you were driving alongside a camel farm or racetrack and that this is a perfectly normal sight – take some creative licence. If you’re lucky enough to shoot one looking straight at the camera, don’t waste the opportunity to share with a grumpy friend and post to their social media a comment about them always getting the hump.
4 Rain storm
There’s nothing like a bit of rain in Dubai to get residents lunging for cameras and running outdoors. It is front page news when rain falls here and it is hugely important to be among the first to get the pictures. Never mind that you grew up on a frequently sodden Manchester council estate or a monsoon-blighted Indian town. It is probably more than half a year since you last witnessed drizzle and you need to document it.
3 Car thermometer
In 20 years, when you look back on your photographs, you’ll want to remember the brilliant moments. The times you couldn’t leave to memory alone and had to capture on camera to record and re-live forever. Like the time you got in your car and it was 46.8°Cs. It doesn’t matter that it was the same temperature every day for months over the summer, this is an essential photograph made all the more important if you come from a less than hot country.
2 Chocolate fountain
We can’t imagine the hard work that goes into a brunch service at one of Dubai’s enormous hotels. It is nothing short of a military operation and something the chefs should be congratulated for. What’s the best way to show your appreciation? Standing next to the chocolate fountain that required little more skill than turning on a bedside lamp and taking a pic of you dipping in a marshmallow on a stick, of course.
1 Burj Al Arab
To be very clear, it’s not actually the law for every Dubai resident to have a photograph of a sunset behind the Burj Al Arab. It’s just considered very bad form if you don’t. Skilled photographer or underwhelming clicker, it’s almost impossible to take a bad picture in these circumstances. So make the most of it.
Will Milner is a contributing editor. He doesn’t use filters.