What it’s like to live in Dubai


I don’t know if any of you are actually interested in knowing what it’s like to live in Dubai or whether you think I’m just taking the time to boast about what my life used to be like (totally am, just a little bit). However whenever I tell people that I lived in Dubai, before moving to London, they’re always really intrigued to know what it was like…which is exactly how I feel when people tell me they’ve lived in anywhere that isn’t in the UK. I mean UK newspapers love a little Dubai-bashing (jailed for sex on the beach blah, blah, blah) but I think it’s a pretty okay place to live. So, here’s a a little look at what life was like, once upon a time in Dubai…interspersed with some proper jealousy-inducing pictures that I took when I was out there (ok maybe not the one of me in Burger King…or maybe so…depends what you’re into?)…

Apartments and villas have a maid’s room…

Yeah so in addition to the massive double bedrooms most villas/apartments have maid’s rooms although they aren’t actually home to maid’s any more. They’re obviously called a maid’s room because back in the day most maid’s did live with their employers however in modern day Dubai this isn’t the case. Now ‘Maid’s room’ is really just used as a term to describe the smallest bedroom in the house. We had a maid’s room in the villa I lived in and my friends used it when they came to stay. Totally out of touch with real life by that point, I used to apologise profusely to them about the fact they were staying in the maid’s room which was bigger than their room back in the UK, with a king size bed and en suite toilet. Hmmmm. Not so shabby after all.

EVERYONE has a maid…

Despite not utilising the aforementioned maid’s room for a live-in maid most expats do have a cleaner or maid that comes once a week (sometimes more) to tidy their shiz up. That’s washing, ironing and generally make your life SO much easier. At one point during my time in Dubai I lived with FIVE boys – yes five – they were dirty and stinky and we needed a maid purely for our own health and safety. I also once had a maid that used to iron my socks, fold the clothes already IN my cupboards and I honestly think she was the best person in whole entire world. Moving back to the UK and having to do all this for myself again almost sent me packing straight back to the desert.

Most people also have drivers…

As I said, at one point I was living with 5 other people and none of us owned a car. Of course we could totally have just got taxis but that seemed really run-of-the-mill, so we hired a driver with a really SICK car. He’d take us all to work, pick us up, take us to the supermarket, to the mall, wherever we wanted. I know this sounds really spoilt but it was actually quite normal and sensible, we saved a lot of dough in taxis and helped the environment a bit…sort of…although I can’t explain how…something about car-sharing? Anyway for further justification, you can’t really walk many places so driving either yourself, in a taxi or by someone else is the only way to get around. There are no pavements and in summer when it’s hitting 50+ degrees you don’t want to be caught outside for too long. So yeah we hired a driver and he chauffeured us around in his blacked-out Tahoe. Pimping.

Brunch isn’t just about how you like you eggs…

In the UK brunch is a breakfast/lunch at a cafe with a few friends. You have a full English or Eggs Benedict and possibly a Bloody Mary, oooh I say! In Dubai brunch is from 12pm-4pm on a Friday afternoon and it’s an all you can eat, all you can drink buffet affair (Brits read: Challenge). You can pay the equivalent of £50 and go to somewhere called Double Deckers (which is sort of like Weatherspoons) and drink as much Cava and eat as many fish and chips as you like and end up passed out in bed at 11pm. OR you can pay the equivalent of £150, drink Vintage Champagne, eat Waygu beef and still end up passed out in bed by 11pm. Everyone gets dressed up in their finest, you’re bowled over by the buffet selection, you never see the bottom of your champagne glass and of course Brits abroad end up on the front page of the Sun after being caught ‘doing bits’ in the back of taxi. Brunches are loads of fun if you find the balance between ‘getting your money’s worth’ and becoming a ‘disorderly drunk’.

Your local is a Beach Bar with a view of the Palm, that’s frequented by celebs…

If you’ve been to Dubai before then I’m sure you’ve all heard of Barasti Beach bar. It’s found right on the beach (shocker!) at Le Meridien, Mina Seyahi hotel. You can count on it for great food and drinks and hundreds of expats on a Thursday night after work. Other bars may come and go in Dubai but Barasti will always remain everyone’s favourite, I mean even Will Smith has been snapped there. It’s much better than the The Coach & Horses which is my new local.

Beach holidays lose their appeal because every weekend you feel like you’re on one…

When I lived in the Desert I didn’t take one beach holiday, because every weekend my friends and I would chill by the pool at our apartment block or we’d hire a boat and head out on the high seas, partying and soaking up the rays. Or if we were feeling really stressed and in need of somewhere a bit more relaxing than our own pool – well, we’d head to one of the many 5 star hotels and pay to use their facilities. We’d sit on the beach and be misted with Evian, there’d be a man on hand to polish our sunglasses if they got too smudged with tanning oil and every now and then a tray of ice lollies or frozen towels would be handed out to keep us cool in the unforgiving heat. Dreamy.

School night shenanigans are rife…

 On Monday you had Monday Madness at Fibber Magees which is all you can eat and drink from 8pm for under £20. On Tuesday’s you have the notorious Ladies Night where it’s free champagne for all the girls all night long in almost every bar in the city (old favourite haunts used to be Oneo at The Westin followed by Boudoir on Jumeirah Beach Road). On Wednesdays at Glasshouse Brasserie it used to be a dirham a drink (which is roughly 17p) and Thursdays was happy hour at the Yacht club until 8pm. Couple these offers with super cheap taxis and maximum journey times of 15 minutes and you can see why many of us were waving our hands in the air, like we just didn’t care until 3am on most work nights. Especially when we were only 19 and hangovers were easily conquered by a Papa John’s for lunch the next day.

Monday blues don’t exist…

As Dubai is a Muslim country, Friday is considered a religious day and therefore your working week in Sunday-Thursday. Totally eliminating Monday Blues altogether. The only problem with that is you now have to deal with Sad Sundays. Still when it’s 25 degrees in February and you’re getting a massive dose of vitamin D – well sad Sundays aren’t actually so sad.

Living on the Palm isn’t the stuff of dreams…

When I touched down in Dubai in January ’08 I couldn’t believe that I would be living on The Palm Island. Yes, that’s right, not rich, nor special, little old me called The Palm Island, one of the man-made wonders of the world, home. It was just madness! But not really madness as I soon found out that everyone lived on the Palm. With average wages being much higher in the UAE and tax non-existent, spending up to £1000 a month on rent isn’t a ridiculous concept. And for that much dollar you get a room in a villa that looks like this…

Yes that’s a three floor, 6 bedroom Villa (plus maid’s room) on the palm with it’s own pool and outdoor decking. And yes, that is me chilling on a sun-lounger without a care in the world. Oh and FYI – Michael Owen lived here before me.

The friends you make when you’re drunk become your real friends…

You know when you’ve had a few and you’ve made best mates with a girl in the loos, you know, the ones you simply MUST switch numbers with and enthusiastically agree to go on a night out with ASAP and promptly NEVER see again. Well in Dubai, those bitches become your besties. Y’see, every expat living out in Dubai has been in the position where they’re fresh off the plane and without a friend in the city. This means when you swap numbers, accept facebook requests and agree to meet up again that shit actually happens. So if you move over there and get an invite to a house party from someone you once let have a chewing gum at the Mall, GO! Because these people will become the ones you go out with four nights a week, down dirham drinks with and eat delivered Macdonalds with while sitting on the floor of your penthouse apartment on the 36th floor.

MacDonalds & Burger King Deliver…

Shut. the. front. door. I’m serious! in Dubai EVERYWHERE delivers. And on top of that everywhere that delivers will deliver anywhere. Like, anywhere you can think of. We used to order Wagamamas to the pool near our apartment block and Dominoes to the beach. I also came back to the UK a stone heavier and with a bit of a princess complex. What do you MEAN I have to go and get the food myself!!!!!

So yeah, that’s sort of what it was like to live in Dubai – obviously it all sounds pretty fan-freaking-tastic but as with everywhere there are downsides (50 degree summers, insane 6 lane highways with a lot of really bad drivers, early morning visa runs, the price of alcohol, the distinct lack of history and the obsession with everything being shiny or new or the fact that MacDonalds deliver!) however I loved my time living in Dubai, for a 19 year old who’d just quit university it was an absolute playground of fun. It’s been 5 years since I moved back to the UK so I’m also wondering if a lot of the above has changed? Maybe my old dooby friends can let me know?

And just so you all feel a bit better…I now live in London, I sweat it out on the tube everyday…I walk EVERYWHERE, no-one does my laundry or tidies up after me…the thought of going out on a school night makes me shiver with fear and I don’t even have enough space in my flat for my shoes let alone enough space for my own pool. But I LOVE my life and (almost) everything about living London.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Harry x

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