Dubai: A concrete jungle or a cultural hub

Exactly three years ago, I crossed the Dubai border from Oman with my family in our sedan. I have always looked forward to visiting this wonderful emirate, and finally, my wish was about to be fulfilled. While Oman was a developing country with little towns and rich heritage, I had no idea of what to expect in Dubai save for the concrete jungle, and Burj Khalifa. All that revolved in the mind was whether Dubai would appear to be a vast concrete jungle or a cultural hub.

As soon as I caught a glimpse of the Dubai skyline, I knew that this trip was going to be expensive: Sports and luxurious cars parked on the glistening ribbon of road and magnificent rows of buildings that reached for the sky. Every shop stood apart from the other in offering an array of commodities.

I had a couple of days left in front of me, and I knew that the best way to explore was on foot or by public transport. Deira – a traditional commercial centre is where I began my visit. With many locals and foreigners, I climbed aboard the water taxi to cross the sea water flowing between Deira and Bur Dubai. Seeing the city from the water crumbled my misconceptions about Dubai. The luxurious and sparkling city was just an outer cover that enveloped the cultural diversity borrowed from millions of outsiders who now called Dubai their abode.

Bur Dubai was a different experience. It wasn’t sleek and stylish with restored historical districts and traditional souqs (marketplace). The whole place was enveloped in a community spirit that could rarely be found elsewhere in Dubai. After a two-hour long souvenir shopping spree, I walked into an ethnic eatery to munch on some traditional delicacies. Stuffing my tote bag with the souvenirs, I boarded a metro from Al Fahidi Metro Station to The Dubai Mall.

The Dubai Mall, also known as the world’s largest shopping mall, was breathtaking with Burj Khalifa situated next to it separated by a fabulous fountain. Though I couldn’t climb up to the top level of the world’s tallest building, I was content with having caught a glimpse of it. Dubai had everything to keep the richest, and the poorest of the people happier. In fact, the place was built of things that put it over the top.

My stomach was rumbling by the time I stepped out of Dubai Mall, and I was craving some coffee and snacks. I walked to the bus station and went straight to Jumeirah Beach. The place was lined with cafeterias and restaurants that served mouth-watering pastries, sandwiches, and beverages. I spent the evening on the beach under a palm tree reading a book that I had purchased before heading for dinner with a dozen other foreign nationals.

Yet another thing that impressed me was how safe the city was even during the wee hours of the night. Despite the enormous amount of riches, the majority of the people left their lavish vehicles unlocked. And the people were more than friendly to offer you rides, and to lend a helping hand at the time of need.

The place was much more than I had ever expected. The walks through the corniche, creeks, and countryside left me wanting for more. As we finally packed our bags with dozens of gifts to return back home, all I could do was look forward to my next trip to Dubai.