15 to try: We love Dubai

The reasons to fall back in love with Dubai in 2010. Join us...

Interview, The Knowledge

1 Have more fun
And that’s an order. Recent research by investment bank UBS found that workers in Dubai (and Manama and Doha, incidentally) work an average of 2,210 hours per year – 308 more than the international average. Ouch. It’s time Dubaians focused on spending less time in the office and doing more of what they enjoy. www.timeoutdubai.com for lots of free activities and get away from that saggy desk chair. Now.

2 Enjoy the climate before it gets too hot
Go outside! Escape the air-conditioning while the weather is balmy – do it for your health. ‘Vitamin D is the most valuable vitamin for the human body,’ so say the bods at Dubai Healthcare City. Studies show that the newly crowned king of nutrients could single-handedly defeat and treat most of the world’s major deadly diseases: cancer, heart disease and diabetes. ‘Exposure to sunshine for 10 to 15 minutes three times a week, with hands, arms and face uncovered, is recommended for fair-skinned people. Slightly longer exposure times are advised for darker-skinned people.’ Go on, take that lunch break outside.

3 Learn about the local culture
You may as well be back in Bangalore or Bondi if you’re don’t learn at least a bit about the local culture. Learn some Arabic, tour Jumeirah Mosque or chat to a local over a cultural breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. It’ll give you much more perspective on the true essence of the city in which you live.

4 Think about others
Whether through random acts of kindness (who doesn’t like to hear a compliment every once in a while?) or voluntary work, it’s been proven that those who help others are far less likely to suffer from depression. Why not help at the local petting farm, provide goods for seafarers trapped in the Arabian Gulf or share a cup of tea with a cancer sufferer?

5 Scare yourself
So moving abroad was scary, but now you’ve hit your comfort zone and Dubai finally feels like home. Time to do something that tests you again. Whether it’s learning a new skill (Thai cooking, playing the harmonica), getting fit in a new way (boxing, freediving) or just mixing up your routine (snorkelling with sharks in Dubai Mall’s aquarium on Friday rather than brunching? Are you mad?!), make sure you get the adrenaline pumping in 2010, rather than turning into yet another Dubai potato.

Dubai offers the best quality of life in the Middle East, moving up six rankings in the global tables compared with those of 2008.

Source: Mercer survey, Quality of Living global city rankings 2009

6 Save money
What did your mates say when you told them you were moving to Dubai? Was it something about ‘rolling in it’? (Well, at least until the recent international press coverage on the emirate’s debt.) But we’re guessing that the sneaky indirect taxes on drink and food, the inescapable feeling that you’re dealing with Monopoly money and, for many, the sudden lack of a job have scuppered your savings plans. But even if you’re cutting every corner possible, there are still a few sneaky ways you can save extra dirhams.

‘The most common way people waste money in Dubai is on everyday things such as water, electricity, food and unused gym memberships,’ says Gurnos Stonuary, business services manager at Dubai-based Nexus Insurance Brokers LLC. ‘The best way to get a handle on your finances is to set out a detailed budget listing all your incomings and outgoings for the year ahead. Start with regular expenses, such as rent, electricity, water and medical insurance – you must have cash available to cover these. Then look at non-essentials, such as new clothes, entertainment, gifts and holidays. Put an estimated cost on each, then add everything up. Now compare your outgoings with your income. If your income is Dhs30,000 and your expenditure is Dhs29,990, it spells happiness. If your income is Dhs30,000 and your expenditure is Dhs30,990, you know you’ll have to start cutting back on the non-essential list.’

It’s best to plan big expenditures (such as holidays) as far in advance as possible, so you can spend a little less on groceries and going out as they approach. Then while you’re away, turn off your internet and hot water and unplug all your sockets to save on bills. You should take the hire car back as well, rather than let it sit unused in your garage.

And with Dubai’s rent prices continuing to drop, consider moving somewhere cheaper. Or let your landlord know you’re thinking about moving – as they may bring their prices down, or allow you to pay in more cheques. According to Better Homes, ‘Discovery Gardens, TECOM, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, International City and Warqaa should have the cheapest rents for some time to come, starting from Dhs60,000 for a two-bed apartment in International City (in the tall towers).’

7 Snap up Dubai’s bargains
There are so many activities and purchases that are cheaper in Dubai than elsewhere in the world. For example, karting at Dubai Autodrome costs Dhs100 for 15 minutes, whereas in the UK you’d pay at least Dhs300. Ditto for most extreme sports, from wakeboarding and kitesurfing to diving. Tailoring services here are also super-cheap. You’ll pay Dhs100 for a dress, not including material from Dream Girls in Satwa (04 349 5445, opposite Emirates Bank on Satwa Road), or Ishwar tailors (04 349 2434, first right after Deepak’s). Superb, authentic Indian food is a bargain in Bur Dubai and Karama (from Dhs3 for limitless amounts of thali at Aryaas in Karama, 04 335 5776). And magazines are far cheaper here – a copy of Time Out London would set you back Dhs15, compared with Dhs7 for Time Out Dubai. Aren’t we a bargain?

8 Visit all seven emirates
What do you mean you haven’t discovered Sharjah’s museum scene yet? Meanwhile, Umm Al Quwain is the spot for extreme sports (skydiving, motocross, crab hunting), Ras Al Khaimah is ideal for hiking (see www.adventure.ae for the latest routes), and Fujairah hosts the area’s first WWF-protected wadi. Why not take a week off work and blitz all seven emirates in a road trip? Or you can attempt to visit everywhere within a three-hour flight radius from Dubai – taking care in Iraq and Afghanistan, of course, and being sure to have the right visas for places such as Saudi and Iran. Take a train instead of planes where possible, to both enjoy the scenery and save the planet.

9 Boost your CV
There’s no doubt most of us move to the UAE for job opportunities. And it’s this that makes us stick around, too, according to a recent Bayt.com YouGov report, which stated: ‘Across the region, opportunities for career progression are the most important factor besides pay in driving loyalty’. So what are the key ways to pump up your CV in Dubai’s tougher 2010 job market? ‘Think in the mindset of the hirer!’ advises Jonathan Warmington of Charterhouse Partnership. ‘Make your CV as relevant to the job as possible and highlight key skills.’

10 Make at least one new friend
No, we’re not suggesting you set up ‘mate dates’, as seen in 2009’s bromance flick I Love You, Man (or projectile vomit in anyone’s face, if you’ve seen it). Instead, join a sports club or team, take part in a group activity, or simply make the new person at work feel welcome in order to make a new friend without feeling like a creep/weirdo/desperado (delete as appropriate). After all, for most people, friends are the closest you get to family in this expat-heavy society.

11 Use your noggin
Ever feel like you’ve become a little bit stupider since moving to Dubai and living this fast-paced, ‘do, don’t think’ lifestyle? We have. Why not join the UAE’s libraries for free? (See www.timeoutdubai.com
for listings.) Even better, read up on one of the 90 authors scheduled to visit for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature from March 10-13 (www.emirateslitfest.com), then ask them taxing questions during their lectures. Other ways to stretch the brain include learning a new language (watch out for our free classes with Eton Institute, www.eton.ac) or watching a free foreign film and discussing it afterwards. See www.thesceneclub.com for its next screening.

12 Connect to the outside world
It’s a common complaint: Dubaians feel like they live in a bubble, disconnected from the rest of the world. So how can we break the bubble from the inside? As well as chatting to other residents about goings-on in their home countries (most Pakistani taxi drivers won’t mind chewing your ear off about how their cricket team’s doing), why not set up book, DVD and music clubs to stay up to date with big releases? Wi-fi radio is also an excellent way to keep tabs on the rest of the world. Our favourite model is the Logitech Squeezebox Boom, priced from around Dhs1,000.

13 Freshen up your pad
A change is as good as a rest, so if you can’t afford to move, just spring clean your current pad, before trying your hand at a little interior design. Invite takemyjunkuae.com or the Red Crescent (ifrc.org) to collect all your unwanted belongings at a time that suits you. Then, heed the advice of the colour therapy specialists at coloursofthesoul.com: ‘Colour predictions for interiors in 2010 are softer purple, green, blue and orange shades. White is in, while magnolia, beige and cream are out.’ So now you know. Better get painting…

14 Eat better
The key to this is simple: buy plastic food boxes (starting at around Dhs6 at Carrefour) and a fridge-freezer (HyperPanda in Festival City sells them from about Dhs300, would you believe?). Then rather than buy takeout every single day for lunch and dinner, you can eat home-made leftovers instead. It’s a great way to get healthy, when you consider that the average Indian or Chinese takeaway meal contains about 1,400 calories – almost 75 per cent of a woman’s daily allowance – and up to 60 per cent fat. You could also go one step further and shop at Deira’s fruit and veg market. See next week’s food section to find out how good the produce.

15 Buy Time Out every week!
Every single week we’re out and about researching the best of this city for you, from new restaurants, bars, shops and markets to activities, books, CDs, films and more. So sit back and make the most of us! You’ll find us in good supermarkets, newsagents and bookshops every Thursday.

Over to us

Well, we couldn’t boss you around without making some resolutions of our own (and confess whether we’ve ever managed to stick to our resolve).

‘I want to save more money (to buy that elusive first apartment), learn to cook (I mean, right from the basics) and start using the metro instead of taxis. A resolution I kept? I travelled a lot last year, hence the lack of apartment!’
Becky Lucas, deputy editor.

‘Other than losing weight, I’d like to spend less time watching TV and more time creating things. Maybe I’ll finally write my masterpiece.’
Daisy Carrington, Food, Body & Mind & Consume editor.

‘I’m not bothering with resolutions this year, because I’m usually so rubbish at keeping them. Mind you, a few years ago I resolved to run a half marathon and ended up doing two. Result!’
Rebecca Milford, senior sub editor.

‘I aimed a bit too high with last year’s plan to climb Kilimanjaro, so this year I’ll try something I can do from home: start writing a play. I can’t promise I’ll finish it, though…’
James Wilkinson, Music and Nightlife editor.

‘My 2010 resolution: to lose the Dubai stone and go to Japan, in that order. As for resolutions I’ve actually kept in the past, I have never, ever kept a new year’s resolution.’
Laura Chubb, Around Town, Books, Community and Film editor.

‘I want to actually shoot more pictures of the world around me, as opposed to just driving past and thinking, ‘that would make a nice picture’. I once resolved to say yes to being more sociable, inspired by the Danny Wallace book, Yes Man. All right, it only lasted a week!’
Adam Wilson, group picture editor.

‘My 2010 resolutions are to see volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers and a carnival. Last year my resolutions were to see another 12 countries (I saw nine), to eat another 12 new foods (I ate loads), to swim in another 12 bodies of water (I swam with great whites in one of six new bodies of water) and to get over my OCD obsession with the number 12 (erm, no such luck). Also last year I gave up smoking, which I am most proud of as it’s been a resolution for several years now. Whoop!’
Katy Morrison, designer.

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