An over-enthusiastic view on an under-explored city.
It’s 7 pm and my weekend has officially begun. I’ve been invited to a concert in a beautiful garden. The night whizzes by in a blur of fairy lights, drinks and lots of Boho-chic.
I spend the morning at a colourful arts, crafts and food market – in a large, green park surrounded by stalls selling pretty trinkets and delicious snacks. A harpist adds the perfect soundtrack. The afternoon sees me sprawled on a beach, filled with neon umbrellas and happy cherubic children running around in glee.
At sunset, my friend and I take a boat ride to discover a tiny, authentic Ethiopian restaurant. He entices me to come away with him and our eminent food-blogger friend on a camel farm the next weekend, for a meal under the stars, cooked by the German farm owner. I’m sold.
We then proceed to a street art festival, filled with live painting and stirring music performances. I join a game of Giant Jenga, stand in line for cake pops and take photographs that transform my Instagram page into a thing of wonder.
I join another friend for a typical breakfast of the region in a colourful, cozy café. We spend the afternoon gazing at flamingoes at the nearby wildlife sanctuary and browsing an old bookstore. We grab dinner at a nearby Chilly Crab Festival. After which I head to another park to watch an outdoor screening of The Italian Job on a beanbag, surrounded by vintage cars for effect.
As the film progresses, I look up at the dazzling Burj Khalifa outlined against the night sky. Because that’s where I am. I’m in Dubai. Except I’m seeing a side of it that not many do.
I’ve often found that someone who has never lived anywhere other than his or her city has a highly limited world-view, to put it mildly. Before I moved to Dubai, it was the land of shopping, partying, food and sightseeing. I had never pictured it as a city full of character, full of different experiences to offer.
When I moved here I quickly got to know that there was more cultural stuff happening in the city than there were days in a year. Every day I would spot a new event, or be invited to something by friends. And each event looked more exciting than the last. Should I go to a themed poetry night at a café that doubled up as a library, or a music festival in an art gallery? Should I choose the farmers’ market happening on a beach or a local dance party at a desert resort? Would I be at the next art festival or concert? (Well both of course, because there’s one every month.)
Apart from concerts, regular Broadway-style musicals and plays in English, Dubai also caters to every expat group when it comes to entertainment. Egyptian performers are regular visitors and ghazal nights, Bollywood dance clubs and bars are the norm. Russian, Syrian, Iranian clubs and more that let expatriates enjoy their own festivals, performances and food, populate the city – turning its different corners into charming extensions of their countries.
Sports and adventure lovers enjoy an endless list of options including skydiving, fly-boarding, skiing, horse-riding, shooting and golf while leisure lovers enjoy farmers markets, film festivals, art nights and food trails. And of course because Dubai has just 6 months of the year to enjoy the outdoors, it really gives it its all. Every winter, the list of things to do in Dubai grows. While in the summer months, the malls buzz louder, offering every experience apart from shopping right from playing Lifesize Monopoly to solving murder mysteries in Challenge Chambers and Hint Hunt to rock-climbing at Adventure HQ.
In my few months here, I don’t presume to know everything there is about this pulsating, ever-changing city. It’s been one crazy ride.
The best part is – it’s just begun.
(All credits go to my local friends here. You know who you are. And especially Arva Ahmed, my food blogger friend.)