Saturday, 2 February 2013

Destinations: Dubai and 31

As you know, I’ve tried very hard to keep my private life private, to the point where I think I’ve actually alienated some of my colleagues/friends. I should apologize, but the truth is that it’s a defense mechanism and I think my instinct to keep people at arms length has helped me discover what gems they really are. After months of reminders to add my colleagues/friends on Facebook (something I didn’t want to do because of the personal information that’s posted), I finally began adding them...Mostly out of fear that they’d either take offense, or think something was fishy. I guess the cat’s out of the bag. No one knows about my mother, my ex-fiancé or Habibi. They don’t know how much this experience has meant to me because of them. I guess it’s time to open up-again, lol!

Prophet Mohammed’s birthday was last week, thus Thursday was declared a national holiday making a long weekend-perfect for a trip to Dubai! I went with my Lebanese colleague/new roomie (yes, I've moved yet again!). We arrived at the airport to a very long check-in line, but we weren’t bothered because we were well prepared and ahead of schedule. What we didn’t know at the time was that our flight had been cancelled and that we had been emailed this information. However, the airline personnel at the counter never gave us straight answers, wouldn’t clearly answer our questions and outright lied to us, so we weren’t sure if we were going to fly out that night or the next day. It was one of the worst experiences flying I have ever had.

Dear Fly Dubai,

I don’t care what positive feedback I receive from anyone regarding your airline. Personally, I will do everything in my power to avoid flying with you ever again.

Fog caused the cancellation of almost all of the flights to Dubai that night. After a massive amount of confusion from the masses of people waiting at the Fly Dubai counter and hoards of people frantically scurrying around the airport to find other flights to Dubai (which were either ridiculously overpriced or full), we were confused, annoyed and exhausted. We gave it six hours, but after six loooong hours our spirits were low and we called it a day: at 12:30am my friend and I returned home.

When I got back to my apartment I passed out and awoke hours later to knocking on my door. I groggily looked through the 
peep-hole and there was my Lebanese friend with a pleasant look on her face, “Come upstairs. I think I found us a flight out of here.” We ended up booking two one-way tickets to Dubai just mere hours before taking off. We landed in Dubai to looooooong lines at immigration. Before I go on though, I would like to say “Thank you” to Kuwait for providing me with residency, without which I would have had to pay a ridiculous amount of money for an entry visa (Canadian citizens who are residents of Canada have to pay A LOT to enter Dubai). Why do Canadians have to pay so much to enter Dubai?!? “Extra! Extra! Read all about it: They gave us a bit of a hard time at immigration, although I don’t know why. No worries! We eventually we got through! Hello, Dubai!!!

The weekend was bright and sunny and it even got hot and humid! Oh, happy day!!! The air was fresh and clean and there was TONS of greenery! It was amazing! I loved it!! We ate, of course, and saw Burj Al Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel. We walked through the maze of Souk Madinat Jumeirah and enjoyed the sunset there. We strolled down Jumeirah Beach Road at night just people watching and enjoying the warm weather. We met my colleague’s old friends; we made new friends. We also went out dancing at a club called 360 (not to be confused with 360° Mall in Kuwait). It’s literally a plastic and glass ball that is situated on the water. It was beautiful! I think it's safe to say that no matter where you are in the world all bars are the same. However, our drinks definitely had a Dubai price tag (over $30.00 for two alcoholic beverages), and I repeated to myself that I’m on vacation and that I haven’t enjoyed a drink since August of last year, so a steep price tag wouldn’t ruin my enjoyment. I sipped appreciatively on my liquor (on the rocks, because how can you appreciate it otherwise? I wanted to drink it straight but was worried that with my low tolerance it wouldn’t be a good idea), and drank slowly so as not to become an immediate tomasian (tomato-asian because I get red when I drink. My sister made it up about Japanese people in general). We danced a lot and when people started to get out of hand (as inebriated people usually do at bars), we left. 
 In front of Burj Al Khalifa
Burj Al Arab & Jumeirah Beach Hotel
Souk Madinat Jumeirah (Burj Al Arab in the background) 

 We celebrated my birthday with cake…Twice! I had chocolate cake and carrot cake-mmmm! We shopped at Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates (we didn't actually buy anything since the stores are all also in Kuwait). We walked along the waterfront and chatted about politics, culture and education in the gulf and the Middle East amongst other topics. We laughed and smiled and I saw my friend transform into a different person. We stayed with her twin sister and my friend became extremely giddy and playful. She was glowing! I couldn’t help but feel that Kuwait has sucked some life out of her. Leaving Dubai wasn’t a nightmare, although I have to say that after flying with Fly Dubai on our way back to Kuwait, I don’t mind the airline service on board the aircraft, but other than that, I still don’t recommend Fly Dubai. As we waited in the immigration line coming back into Kuwait I felt happy to be returning home. My friend was not as quick to call Kuwait home, hahaha! I can understand how Kuwait can be unattractive to people. I felt happy to be back here to see our friends. I deduced that I love Dubai, but I don’t want to live there. Truth be told, I rather prefer Kuwait and only my friends here know why.

In Dubai Mall
I don’t want to compare Dubai to Kuwait in the sense that one is better than the other, but if you are someone who is wondering about living in Dubai and/or/vs Kuwait, there are a few differences that I would like to share. Please note that this information is only meant to be helpful, it is not meant to criticize or negatively portray either place. In addition, I’m not an expert on either country by any means, and most of this information is coming from my own experience(s) or those of others who I have spoken with about the countries.

1.) If you want a lifestyle that is healthier (in terms of climate, air quality, cleanliness and an environment that is conducive to outdoor activities), then Dubai (UAE) might be more appealing. I barely saw any sand in Dubai and when people saw sand, they avoided it, while my friend and I were the only people who walked through it! Talk about standing out, hahaha!

2.) My friend’s sister said that she doesn’t think that Dubai has a lot of great places to eat. I thought that Mom’s Food (a traditional Lebanese restaurant) was great! Baker&Spice (we were at the Dubai Marina location) was great, too. If you’re Canadian and love Tim Horton’s, you’ll be very happy to know that there are Tim Horton’s located all over Dubai. Apparently, the coffee is even pretty good (clearly NOT the same coffee that is served in Canada). I think Kuwait also has amazing eatery for the small country that it is. Eating out is a lot cheaper in Kuwait than in Dubai.
 @Mom's Food

Breakfast @ Baker&Spice

3.) I can’t discuss jobs, job opportunities, salaries or professionalism in Dubai because I just don’t know enough about it. However, after speaking with my colleague’s family and friends, the general impression I got was that the salaries that they receive are just enough to cover the cost of living (not a lot is left over as disposable income). I guess if you’re just interested in the experience and not saving or travelling, then that’s fine. If you’re more interested in saving money, then Kuwait might allow you more opportunities to save as long as you’re smart and have a budget that you stick to. Rent is high in both countries. Food is more expensive in Dubai-especially eating out! The cost of clothing, shoes and accessories is a bit higher in Dubai-unless you’re there during the annual Dubai shopping festival which runs from January to February. Taxis in Dubai are also waaaay more expensive. However, the public transportation system in Dubai is waaaaaay better than in Kuwait.

4.) You don’t see many, if any, Emiratis in Dubai, whereas in Kuwait you see a lot of Kuwaitis. Dubai has A LOT of expats and most were Caucasian. I heard a lot of English and European languages. I think in Kuwait you’re more likely to find a higher percentage of Americans, people from India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Nepal. Although I don’t think this would be a factor, I admit that for me, I LOVE the idea of meeting people from distant places who I would likely never encounter-even in Canada! I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is the first time in my life that I’ve had friends from Georgia, Turkey and Hungary and met people from Nepal!

5.) You can have alcohol in Dubai and cannot (legally) in Kuwait. In Kuwait, it’s illegal for women to dance in public, hence why we took advantage of going out dancing and enjoying a drink while we were in Dubai.

6.) People are more open and relaxed in Dubai, but I personally don’t find Kuwait restrictive in the sense that I am or my lifestyle is being restricted in any way. I don’t feel any inconveniences to my everyday life in Kuwait. I’m very thankful for that. I don’t think expats feel restricted in Dubai either.

Yada, yada, yada. That’s all I really have to say on that matter. I won't even try to hide the fact that I'm biased; 
my friends are in Kuwait, so Kuwait will always hold a special place in my heart.

When I arrived home from the airport, I called my father for his birthday (the day before mine) and felt regretful and sad that I wasn’t able to celebrate my father’s birthday with my family. I know it’ll only be a short time before I get to enjoy a nice dinner out with them in Canada though. My friends in Kuwait made up for my lack of family as I celebrated out at Paul with the other halfie and Strawberry shortcake (It was amazing!), with a home-cooked meal made by the Irish chef, and then out with a large group of lovely ladies from work (the Georgians, the Turks and my Lebanese friend) to Solidere, a Lebanese restaurant close to my place (it was VERY yummy!!!). My birthday celebrations were sooo wonderful and I’ll ever be thankful that I’m surrounded by such amazing people here!

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