Recently named the seventh most visited city in the world, Dubai dazzled over 14 million visitors last year with its glittering skyline, man-made islands, massive shopping malls, and luxury hotels. While there are many reasons why you should choose Dubai for your next vacation (like ascending the Burj Khalifa, sky diving over the Palm Jumeriah, and indulging in Friday brunch, just to name a few), there are also some things that you should know before you visit. Here, we’ve rounded up eight of them.
1. Expatriates comprise about 92 percent of Dubai's population.
That’s right—only 8 percent of Dubai’s residents hold an Emirati passport. And, in addition to that, the median age is 27 years old, which means there’s a global millennial population that keeps the many restaurants, bars, and beach clubs in business.
2. There's only one temperature—hot.
If you come from a place where there are usually four seasons in one year, adjusting to Dubai’s climate can be challenging. That’s because the desert climate of Dubai remains more or less the same. It only rains a few days per year, and the temperature swings from hot to hotter. During the winter months, it averages about 77 degrees, and in the summer, it’s known to soar past 113 degrees.
3. You can have almost anything you need delivered to your door (and it’s awesome).
We’re not sure if it’s because of the extreme heat, the stiff competition of international brands, or the fact that many people in Dubai don’t own a car, but amazingly, most restaurants, stores, and even services in Dubai deliver or come right to you. Long before companies like Task Rabbit or Seamless were created, businesses in Dubai have been catering to those who prefer not to leave the comfort of their own air-conditioning. Instead, with one simple phone call or a click of a mouse, you can have almost anything delivered to your door. We’re talking practical things like freshly laundered clothing, medicine from the pharmacy, or groceries from the super market, as well as such goodies as a birthday cake from Cold Stone Creamery and even a single Starbucks Frappuccino.
4. You can be arrested for PDA.
Whenever traveling the world, it’s important to respect the local culture. And as Dubai is a Muslim city, kissing, cuddling, and even holding hands in public are not only frowned upon by many, but actually illegal. All too often, naive foreigners are arrested for committing indecent acts. This is just one example of actions that might be legal in your own country, but aren’t in Dubai. Others include drinking alcohol in public (except at licensed establishments) and giving someone the middle finger (or even using the emoji!). Committing any of these offenses may see you fined, stripped of your passport, and thrown in jail.
5. Weekends are from Thursday to Saturday, not Friday to Sunday.
Therefore Sunday, not Monday, is the dreaded first day of the work week.
6. The city is famous for its world-class brunches.
Yes, we said brunches—extravagant all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink affairs that take place at luxury hotels across the city. Every Friday, party-goers make reservations, put on their best clothes, and pay up to max out on high-end food and drink before dancing the rest of the day away at incredible venues.
7. Expect a different city during Ramadan.
If you visit Dubai during the Islamic festival of Ramadan, you’ll experience the calmer side of the city. As Muslims are required to fast during the day, many restaurants will be closed, and the ones that remain open often put screens in the window to prevent passersby from seeing inside. Similarly, the nightlife will be toned down, and visitors can expect some of the major tourist destinations, like the malls and the Burj Khalifa, to be significantly less crowded (which is one great reason to visit during this time). Do plan to dress more conservatively during the holiday, as is custom.
Immediately following Ramadan, however, is the Eid al-Fitr festival, which breaks the fast. Dubai comes back to life in grand fashion with many extravagant parties, so visitors will see rates rise dramatically and rooms fill up quickly. If you’re looking to celebrate here, be sure to book your hotel well in advance, otherwise you might be shut out.
8. Dubai is home to many of the biggest things in the world.
In downtown Dubai, you can find the world’s tallest building (the Burj Khalifa, of course), the largest shopping mall by land area (Dubai Mall), and world’s largest choreographed fountain show (at the Dubai Fountain). But those aren’t the only things that Dubai does bigger and better than anywhere else. The city is also home to the world’s largest man-made islands, the Palm Islands, and has publicly announced plans to build the world’s largest airport, the world’s largest entertainment complex, and the world’s largest ferris wheel over the course of the next ten years.
Read more about Dubai in our Dubai travel guide.
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