Dubai, the "Gold City," perched on the coast of the Dubai Emirate, gazes out upon the glittering waters of the Persian Gulf. Its economy grew off the back of oil revenues from reserves discovered in 1971. In less than three decades, a city stood where once there had been only sand dunes.
With only a fraction of the oil reserves enjoyed by neighboring Abu Dhabi, Dubai’s Sheikh Maktoum resolved to create a booming hub of commerce and invited the world to join him, tax-free. Within decades, the city boasted thriving tourism, real estate and financial services sectors to rival any developed nation.
Dubai is now the most expensive city in the Middle East and, according to independent consultant Mercer, is the region’s "best place to live." The "shopping capital of the Middle East" boasts no fewer than 70 malls (including the world’s largest, Dubai Mall), alongside its plentiful boutiques and souqs.
Only roughly 5% of Dubai’s population comprises Emiratis, who top the social strata. Emirati nationals enjoy free education up to PhD level, a free house when they get married, free health care, and free phone calls among other perks.
The majority of Dubai’s population comprises an immigrant working class of laborers and domestic helpers. This group has recently become the focus of human rights groups.
Having opened its doors to the West, Dubai has traditionally been more liberal and tolerant than its neighbors. In recent years however, the Emirate has become more conservative; foreigners have been incarcerated for a chaste peck on the cheek, debt, drunkenness, (pharmaceutical) drug possession and for making certain hand gestures. If you are moving here, it is strongly in your interest to become familiarized with the local laws.
Dubai City’s modern, westernized exterior, its beaches, malls, and excellent international schools make it any easy place for western expats to call home. Do bear in mind, however, that beneath Dubai’s cosmopolitan exterior lies a conservative Islamic state whose social norms should be observed at all times.
What is special or unique about your city?
Dubai is a modern city surrounded by beautiful beaches, desert landscape and rugged mountains. One of the seven Emirates in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is where Middle Eastern traditionalism meets Western glitz. It is noted for being a very safe, tolerant and friendly city.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Newcomers are usually surprised and impressed by Dubai's modern architecture as well as its cosmopolitan community.
Are these impressions likely to change?
No, except they may be enhanced.
What is the local language?
Dubai's official language is Arabic, but English is widely spoken (especially in the business sector).
Hindi and Urdu are other popular languages.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
Very easily, as you do not need to speak Arabic to get by. Most road and shop signs, restaurant menus, etc., are in both English and Arabic.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
As Dubai is a Muslim city, visitors should be aware of their dress. It is acceptable to wear shorts and T-shirts but the shoulders should be covered. Women should avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing. Expats should notice that some Arab individuals do not like to shake hands with non-Muslims.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Dubai has a desert climate with temperatures ranging from 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to 118 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The summer months are marked by the omnipresent roar of air conditioners. Most people term the UAE's climate as "seven months in paradise and five more in an inferno." Rainfall is infrequent.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Emiratis are well known for being welcoming, hospitable, tolerant & friendly