Dubai or not Dubai?

Dubai conjures up images of luxury and elegance and it’s a “must visit” destination so as it was ideally placed midway between Asia and Europe, I decided to pop in on my way home, giving myself about 12 hours to explore the popular emirate in between flights. Let’s just say that I certainly didn’t feel luxury or elegant during my visit there, unless elegance is synonymous with a sweaty, cursing young man traipsing the city with all his luggage. Dubai was definitely not my cup of tea.

My mission for the day was fairly simple: my flight landed at DXB airport from Colombo in the early hours. I had to reach Dubai’s other airport, DWC, for my 7pm flight to Sofia. So I had around 12 hours to make it from one side of Dubai to the other, trying to keep my budget to a minimum. It sounded like an Apprentice task.

The day didn’t start off too badly, except for the fact that Dubai’s budget terminal, Terminal 2, is cut off from everything else. They bypassed it when they constructed the metro, you can’t get to the other two terminals from it and your only hope to get into the city is to hop on a bus which will take you somewhere near a metro station. I did that and popped into a supermarket grabbing myself a croissant for breakfast (and being pleasantly surprised that supermarkets in Dubai weren’t as ludicrously expensive as I thought they’d be). It was from here that things went a bit downhill.

I’d just spent a week lying on the beach and doing very little and I was also very budget conscious, so I bizarrely thought it would be a good idea to try and walk as much of Dubai as possible. I conveniently forgot that the reason Dubai was such a shopping and business mecca was because everyone had to stay in air-conditioned buildings to hide from the unbearable sun. But to hell with that! I’d hiked in Hong Kong; I’d swept the entire city in humid conditions – a few hours strolling in Dubai wouldn’t be too much of a problem if I kept hydrated.

The consolation prize for the beach being shut was this cool mosque.
The consolation prize for the beach being shut was this cool mosque.

The trouble was, about half an hour into my walk, I may as well have had a bottle of hot tea in my hand. The sun was ferocious, hitting a high of 43 degrees on the day I was there – how do these people live?! My day got worse when I found the public beach I was walking to was closed for renovations and so I took a leaf out of the locals’ books and hid out in an air-conditioned shopping mall to recover.

The mall I decided to hibernate in was the famous Dubai Mall which sits next to the strange looking Burj Khalifa. It’s a breathtaking building which would be even more incredible if going out to take a photo of it didn’t result in you coming back absolutely sodden from the sweat. I’ve never sweated so much from doing so little in my life.

Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

Dubai Mall itself is nice if you like that sort of thing I guess. I’m not much of a shopper so for me it just seemed to be a slightly swankier Trafford Centre. The huge aquarium wall was cool and also didn’t motivate me to go into the aquarium seeing as I could see all the sealife free of charge by not going in. I wiled away some time using Finding Nemo as my reference point to identity the fish.

After lunch, I tried to seek out Dubai’s famous 7* hotel, but it’s a trek from any of the metro stations and I was becoming increasingly worried I was going to end up as nothing but a puddle on the floor. I can tolerate hot weather – in fact I welcome hot weather. But this was something else! I spent the remainder of my time sitting in Costa Coffee fanning myself before heading to the airport.


I feel like there’s something I’m missing with Dubai. It’s an ingenious city and feels very Playmobil, almost as if a kid has pulled out their desert playset from under their bed and plonked Duplo blocks on top. It’s certainly unique and I’m glad I got to see this famed city up close, but there’s just nothing appealing for me about a city which forces you to sit inside all day because the heat is so unbearable. I guess it’s a city to live in, rather than one to rush around in a day but, sadly, Dubai didn’t really do it for me.

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