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Expat life in Dubai – part 3

Making friends

In Dubai, you will have lots of international neighbors and acquaintances. Besides, expats can make new friends by joining one of the local branches of many international networks, e.g. Internations.org or Meetup.com. They are very useful to find small groups according to your personal interests. There are also many groups just for spouses, who are offering a variety of activities as well as support and advice.

Besides, Dubai offers hundreds of local groups that are open to everybody. Join a running club, a cooking club, or a book club. Maybe use the time abroad to learn something new. There are plenty of courses available – from belly dance or desert drumming to yoga or breathwork. Scratch beneath the shop-around-the-clock surface of Dubai and you’ll find many likeminded people.

Learning the local language or at least some key phrases is always a good idea to make new friends. At the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), for example, you can take an Arabic class or learn a little bit more about Dubai’s culture. The centre was founded to educate expatriates in the traditions and customs of the UAE and to be a bridge between the many nationalities living and working in Dubai. There is a range of activities on offer, e.g. sign up for a traditional Emirati meal and take a seat on a Bedouin-style carpet to enjoy a selection of traditional dishes. And with the motto “Open Doors, Open Minds” local Emiratis are happy to answer all your questions.

Activities

Dubai is known as one of the premier holiday destinations in the world for good reasons. There is plenty of entertainment to suit everyone’s taste. During the height of summer with soaring temperatures, the city offers plenty of air conditioned indoor activities. This may be the time, when spending a couple of hours in the world’ largest shopping mall with 1,200 shops and 120 cafes is the best idea. Or visit the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, to look down on Dubai or to enjoy the dramatic displays of the musical fountains. A welcome relief from the heat can also provide the skiing centre with its huge white sloping structure. Or just go ice skating!

The winter months on the other hand are the perfect time to get outdoors. Dubai is a coastal city and its breathtaking beaches are not only for holiday makers but also part of expat life. Landscaped beach parks with many designated activity areas are typical weekend hangouts for many residents. Shorts, skirts and even bikinis are fine to wear, but bring something to cover up when leaving the beach. And don’t ignore the many signs that remind you of being in a Muslim country: “No public displays of affection” – meaning: You can hold hands, but don’t kiss each other! The beach police won’t allow any behavior that could offend someone.

Another option for going to the beach is to pay a daily rate to use luxury hotel facilities. Here you can also find the ultimate spa experience for the weekend. Dubai has an abundance of luxury resorts where you can unwind, the famous Burj Al Arab is only the top one of many others that are a bit more affordable.

Have a break from all the glitzy shops and skyscrapers and take a stroll through the Al Fahidi historical neighborhood, one of the oldest areas in the city. Here you will also find many cultural events and museums.

Of course, Dubai also offers all kind of sporting activities, e.g. watersports, football, tennis, rugby or golf to name a few. Heritage sports include camel and horse racing, falconry, and endurance races. Not to forget the many different desert sports. Why not try a 4×4 desert driving and camping outing? Or go dune driving in buggies that are equipped with roll cages? Popular pastimes are desert safaris that include activities such as sand skiing.

If that sounds too adventurous, you can also go spectating only: Dubai organizes a number of world class tournaments including the Dubai World Cup (horse race), the Dubai Desert Classic Golf Championship, the Dubai Tennis Championships and the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens.

In terms of eating out, the global character of the city is reflected in the choices on offer. Here, you are going to find cuisine from every country in the world. Anything is available, from fast food to fine dining in luxury restaurants.

A vast range of nightlife can be found in hotel bars and nightclubs where very expensive cocktails and drinks are served. With many pubs and venues, Dubai has also established itself as a music-lover’s destination.

And should you ever get tired of Dubai, weekend getaways to Europe or trips to the Far East and Africa are easy to manage. It is not for nothing that Dubai is considered the travel hub of the Middle East!

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