Dubai: It’s Everything You Didn’t Think It Wasn’t

When you travel somewhere new, there are often a lot of preconceived notions about what it’s going to be like. We all have them, and sometimes we’re right.

But not today.

Everything I thought Dubai was going to be like, I was generally wrong. I expected lights and I expected “ooh and ahh,” but I didn’t expect my mind to be blown — and we’ve only been here for 12 hours.

First, Dubai is huge. As we were planning the trip, Matt and I thought everything looked close together, and that practically everything was within walking distance – or at least a long walking distance.

We couldn’t have been any more wrong. It’s HUGE.

Surrounded by skyscrapers everywhere in the “New Dubai” part of town, it’s actually intimidating. Our hotel is next to a replica of New York’s Chrysler Building…except Dubai built two of them. “Why not?” seems to be the recurring theme.

Dubai's Chrysler Building

Dubai’s version of the Chrysler Building (x2), right outside our hotel room

Speaking of the Chrysler Building, many parts of Dubai feel almost like replicas of U.S. cities. For instance, we had dinner last night at a restaurant called Burger360 that was in the Dubai Marina area – but it felt like we were on and around the Chicago River (with palm trees). Not far away from that was an area that distinctly felt like South Beach in Miami, and other aspects felt a little like Las Vegas.

Nighttime view from a restaurant in the Dubai Marina

Nighttime view from a restaurant in the Dubai Marina

But the buildings aren’t the only things that feel different than what I imagined, because I did expect a certain level of opulence.

I have seen more people of different walks of life than I think I ever have – and it’s only been 12 hours. And many people have preconceived notions that Dubai is “just like everywhere else in the Middle East,” but I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. I do not feel like I’m in danger, I do not feel like I have to walk on tippy toes, and I do not feel like people are staring at me with an odd look. People are beyond friendly here, and there’s so much still we have yet to explore on Day 1.

Before leaving, I had a number of people ask me if I was scared to come to the Middle East, and for the most part, I had very little concern, despite hearing those stories about this or that.

Dubai is a good lesson in remembering that not everything is always as it seems from 9,000 miles away.