Myth 1 – We worry about being arrested all the time. Friends back in the UK have frequently said ‘I couldn’t live there’ when they hear about people being arrested for breaking the law. But they could live here – it really isn’t hard if you know the laws and respect the culture. If you hear about somebody being arrested, it’s almost always tourists that think they can act exactly the same as they would at home. The irony is that I feel a lot safer in Dubai than I ever felt when I lived in London, there is very little crime and everyone is very honest – for example, if you leave your wallet in a taxi, the likelihood is that you will get it back. So no, residents don’t walk around trembling at the thought of being arrested. Respecting the local culture isn’t difficult either. We chose to come and live here, after all.
Myth 2 - It’s hot all the time. Lots of people hear the word ‘Dubai’ and think about the heat. It is in the desert after all. But we have winters too. They aren’t as chilly as home by any means, but between November and February, you’re going to need to wear long sleeves in the mornings and evenings. We also get a fair few overcast days and quite a few rainy days during these months. When it gets to April, the temperatures do soar and we spend most of our time inside until late October – but the irony is that during those scorching months, we are usually quite chilly as the air conditioning is switched up so high.
Myth 3 - There’s no green space. It’s true that we live in the desert and there is a lot of sand. There are patches of sand everywhere, waiting for buildings to spring up or used as make-shift carparks. If you drive out of the city, it takes a matter of minutes to reach the desert – and when you get there, yes, you do see wild camels walking around. But Dubai also has a lot of green space. The city is full of lovely parks – from huge sprawling parks with boating lakes, to small community parks to head with the kids and a picnic. We spend a lot of our time at the weekend heading to these parks and spreading out a blanket on the lawns. So our children are definitely not alien to a bit of grass. We can get a green fix whenever we want it.
Myth 4 - You see people walking their pet tigers down the street. I’ve been here five years now and I’ve never seen it. Disappointingly.
Myth 5 - Everyone is materialistic. It’s true that there are a lot of people in Dubai with money. It’s also true that there are a lot of people without it. And it’s true that there are lots of people in between. It’s certainly not true that everyone you meet is money-hungry, shallow and materialistic. The community spirit is so strong here and there are appeals for charity donations and volunteering roles on a daily basis – and people respond in their droves. The truth is that people don’t come here because all they care about is money – they come here because that is where the job is and they want to do the best for their families or further their careers (and that is true for every job, every salary level, every nationality). I have met very few people that are shallow and materialistic (there are always a few, of course, wherever you live) but I meet lovely, down-to-earth mummies on a daily basis that are just trying their best for their kids. We don’t talk about what car we have, where we are going on holiday next, or what we fancy buying our kids to spoil them that week – we talk about the fact our toddlers are going through the terrible twos and got about two hours sleep the night before with a teething baby. Most the time, life is as normal and repetitive here as it would be at home, with the benefit of sunny weekends on the beach.
Myth 6 - Dubai is rubbish for kids. I wasn’t aware of this myth until a few friends at home mentioned coming to visit and told me that they wouldn’t bring the kids, as ‘obviously Dubai isn’t suitable for them’. I was surprised, as this city revolves around families. It’s so much more family friendly than I have experienced elsewhere in the world – kids are welcomed everywhere, breastfeeding is encouraged and accepted everywhere, and weekend events seem to revolve around families. Dubai has a very young population, as people tend to come here to have their families, before returning to their home countries several years later. Prams, pregnant ladies, and small children are everywhere you look – and the city seems to revolve around them.
Myth 7 - Dubai is rubbish for women. I’ve been here for 5 years and haven’t felt repressed or belittled once. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I feel totally respected in a way I hadn’t experienced until I moved here. It’s not surprisingly really, as women are traditionally the backbone of Emirati families. In fact, the UAE was ranked number one in the world for treating women with respect in 2014’s Social Progress Index study. I’ve been trying to think of examples to demonstrate this, but I’m struggling to put it into words. It’s really just a case of being seen wherever you go and helped if you need it.
Myth 8 - There is no culture in Dubai. Of all the myths, this is the one that winds me up the most. In fact, at a wedding recently, I got in a really animated discussion with a man who told me there was no culture (having been here for one day, nicely tucked up in his five-star hotel). There might not be much in the way of culture if you don’t venture any further than your hotel room, but head to the old town (or further afield) and you will discover so much waiting for you. You will find old wind towers built in the days before air conditioning, you will find abras crossing the Creek that have been in operation since the first settlers on its banks, you will find bustling old souks filled with glittering gold and pungent spices, you will find camel races with locals following the animals around the track, you will find historical villages showing off ancient crafts, and you will find so much more. So yes, there is culture. You just have to be brave enough to leave those shiny hotel lobbies to find it.
And a few things that are true:
- A tank of petrol costs us about Dhs100, which is £20
- We have the world’s tallest building, biggest mall, tallest dancing fountains, and tallest residential tower.
- You can drink alcohol, as long as you have an alcohol license.
- 24 per cent of the world’s cranes are in Dubai – there’s that much construction.
- We have an indoor ski resort, located in Mall of the Emirates