When I first arrived in Dubai I blogged about my first impressions. The following is a recap of the whole trip.
At the end of November, I went to Dubai to teach at the International Dubai Yoga and Music Festival and to visit a college friend who is living and working there.
Prior to leaving, so many people told me not to go. They listed a number of reasons, but topping the list was that it was dangerous. I'm happy to report that of all the major cities I've been to -including Paris, London, Istanbul, New York, Madrid, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich - Dubai is the one where I felt safest (with Amsterdam a close second). Even late at night walking around outside I didn't feel in any danger.
One of the other reasons people said not to go to Dubai was because of the strict dress code. I was told I'd have to cover everything from my head to my toes. This isn't true at all. There is definitely a conservative dress code in the city, but it depends on where you're going. If you're headed to the beach or out to a club, you can wear what you'd wear anywhere - a bikini for the beach, and a mini dress for a club are normal. If you're headed to the mall or out grocery shopping, it's a good idea to cover the shoulders and the knees. A maxi skirt, tank and lightweight cardigan are ideal. At one point during my stay, my friend and I had to walk through the mall wearing shorts (we were on our way to the gym). We definitely stuck out, and I couldn't wait to get out of there, but overall it was fine.
Vanity plates are a hot commodity in Dubai. Most people are issued a 5 digit plate. If you're rolling in money, you can bid on a smaller digit plate. It's pretty rare to see a three digit plate - I only saw a handful. This one was parked outside the apartment building where I was staying. The fewer the digits, or better the number pattern, the higher the price. The license plate that reads simply "1" was purchased for $14.2 million dollars.
The International Dubai Yoga and Music Festival was a great experience for me. I taught two classes - Groove Power Yoga and Power Nidra, and spoke on the forum about Ashtanga yoga. I also brought my DVDs and set up shop at the festival's marketplace. I met some really wonderful people from all over the world, and enjoyed the amenities of the venue.
One of the highlights of my trip came while I was in the Dubai Mall (largest mall in the world). The entire city of Dubai smells like oud, an Arabic word for the incense that comes from the Agarwood tree. It smells delicious, and I wanted to find a place that sold quality oud and learn as much as I could about it. A Middle Eastern friend of mine told me to go to the mall, and I found a store that sold oud exclusively. The man was so kind, and spent about an hour and a half telling me all about the various kinds of oud, and letting me smell the different types of oud incense, oil and perfume. I learned so much, and came out with an oil and incense. Now I'm on the hunt for charcoal so I can burn the incense… (pic below)
One of my favorite things to do when I'm visiting a new country is to go to a local grocery store. I think it's the best place to get authentic gifts for people, and a great opportunity to learn about the culture. Below are some photos from the Organic Foods and Cafe store.
I wore distressed boyfriend jeans, a tank, and a giant scarf, which I used to cover my shoulders.
Since it's a muslim country, the grocery stores that sell pork have a separate room away from the rest of the food items.
The spice market was really beautiful - we took a ferry across the creek and explored the stores lining the narrow walkways. There were lots of people shopping, and just as many calling out to you to buy "genuine fake bags" (that was their tagline, no joke), so it isn't a place I'd want to go alone. I felt safe, it was just overwhelming at first.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip. It was great catching up with my friend, and after a week and a half there, we packed up and flew to India. More on that soon.