I Bet You Didn’t Know These Things About Dubai (and so was I before coming here)

What’s with Dubai?

Two years ago and fresh from college, my brother wanted me to join him in Dubai. But I said a big “NO” to him. Lots of reasons, I’m too young, I need experience, I am a girl (and on the good-looking spectrum of attractiveness), and I’m scared. Yup. I was. Until I overcame my fear and went here. And I’m so glad I did. It is a different environment, lots of places to go, things to do, food to try, etc.!  Then, whenever Brother and I go place, I also notices differences and new things all around and I can’t help but comment on what I see. I am also surprised at the many discoveries I find in here which kind of altered my initial perception of Dubai. Like a well-known desert. But you’ll only get to know a place if you’re actually in that place. So here are things I’ve actually  seen, learned, experienced, etc. Dig in to this pile of nerdy info! 🙂

  • Dubai is composed of more Indians than Emiratis (local). Yep. I see them here, there, everywhere! Even more often than when I see my fellow Filipinos. The workforce is still dominantly Indian (and other neighboring countries like Nepal and Pakistan), even if Emiratization is in full force to provide opportunities to the locals.
  • Other nationalities refer to female Muslims in their full black ensemble as “ninjas” I know, that’s bad. But that’s it. Really. And a fellow Filipino told me the younger ones even just have undergarments under those robes. And I can even categorize them into the fashionable ninjas, half-ninjas and full-fledged ninjas. The wannabes are usually the younger generation or the “emancipated” ladies who wear fashionable, even Western clothing then the abaya, or their black veil. Oh wait, sometimes it’s not even black. Usual getup would be any dress style that would still cover their arms, legs and chest (to be more specific, the collarbones). Cardigans and its cousins are favorites. Either jeans or full-length skirt will also do for the lower body. They don’t cover their faces. Then, the half-ninja. Just imagine the one on the picture below but without covering the face. I might also include here others who wear all- black ensembles (not casual) that are still better fitting the the cape of the full-fledged ninjas. And for the “real” ones, well they really do have to cover their faces as they’re married. Especially the younger ones. As far as I can remember, most older Muslim wives do not have to cover their faces.


  • Emiratis (and other Arabic people) have what I call as “camel eyes”. As in large, solemn eyes with super thick and long lashes that you want to take them off their eyes and make false lashes out of these. Indians, too. But not as thick as the Arabians. Perfect example would be Your Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Crown Prince of Dubai.


  • Dubai beaches are usually free. Especially in Jumeirah. Jump in! But no skinny dipping, please, unless you want to be thrown into jail. You’ll drool over the villas overlooking the beach, imagine your home is such a stone’s throw away from paradise. You’ll love the golden sand and turquoise seas along the Persian / Arabian Gulf. BTW. Don’t call it “Persian”, call it “Arabian Gulf”.


  • “Laban” is the cheap source of live gastrointestinal flora / gut culture / macrobiotics. This is the Indian or Arabic equivalent of yogurt drink and Yakult. Laban is basically milk + culture. I prefer the one with fruit juice / flavor, though. For Filipinos, beware, Yakult here is expensive!
  • Filipinos refer to each other as “Kabayan”, or compatriot / countryman and address the other non-Western expatriates as “My Friend” (actually it’s pronounced more lke “My pren”). Strangely enough, the other nationalities adopted this as well when addressing Filipinos.
  • Kabayan, in your visa, it’s Philipino. Yep. Just because our country name is Philippines. We are usually referred to as “Philipino” in written documents. The Grammar Nazi in me had to deal with this and…


  • Jebel Ali, Jabel ali and Jabal Ali are one and the same place. Yep, you might get confused, why accept different spellings, no? Apparently in the Arabic world, what’s more important is the pronunciation. The Grammar Nazi can just tolerate the fact that these three words sound similar, anyway, especially when pronounced by Arabic speakers. But still, it’s confusing at times. In quiz bees, for example, what would be the correct spelling for the area in Dubai most famous for its beaches facing the Arabian Gulf, then?  Jumera, Jumerah, Jumeira, or Jumeirah?


Photo by Ajeet Kumar, from this website: http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/community-reports/misspelt-signs-cause-confusion-1.1037274

  • Gold is cheaper here. Yeah, I think you know that. But do you know where to get the best deals? At the souk (flea market) especially along the Dubai Creek. Go to Deira for your gold jewelry needs at a lower price. I’m really craving to earn my money and scour the souks, and feel that Divisoria or Quiapo feeling all over again.
  • Electronics are cheap also. So cheap you are compelled to change gadgets every season (winter / summer). Wait for the mega sales and fabulous deals. Something like: buy this gadget or purchase for a particular price range and you will get gift certificate, speaker, headphones, car charger, protective case, mouse, battery pack, even travel bag.


  • You’ll love shopping in Dubai. From the souk to the Dubai Mall. And all other large malls and smaller establishments in between. Large malls are Dubai Mall (the widest mall alongside the tallest tower, Burj Khalifa), Mall of the Emirates, Ibt Battuta Mall (with themes areas like the Persian, Chinese, Tunisian sides), Deira City Center and Al Ghurair Center. Then some of the posh malls are The Mercato along Jumeirah and BurJuman in Bur Dubai. Then in the near future, the Mall of Arabia will top this all.


A fave tambayan with Kuya, the BurJuman


At Dubai Marina Mall


At the Mall of the Emirates


At the Dubai Mall


Where we go for movies, Deira City Center. Noticed the escalators without steps?

  • Dubai comes alive at night. To the point when last full shows in cinemas are at 12AM. When malls and establishments close at past midnight especially during Ramadan.
  • Dubai is the chicken-lovers’ paradise! On the airplane to Dubai alone, I’ve been eating chicken. I’m loving it. Too bad for Filipinos who are accustomed to pork (which is not eaten by Muslims). Try Chicken Mandy.
  • Public Transportation is efficient.  Dubai has various buses for different routes, two train lines for Metro and feeder buses that take passengers from the Metro around the vicinity. Some bus stops are air-conditioned so do not worry about the heat beating you to death. Advantages of these buses? Unlike in the Philippines, the public transport has a good system. The buses have their assigned names, routes and schedule, so one can time their arrival at the bus stop. For example, the F20 bus leaves Business Bay Metro Station every thirty minutes (let’s say, at 7:30) and goes around the Al Safa neighborhood and goes back to the Metro by 8 o’clock. The interiors are very comfortable and there are monitors showing the next few stops. There is also an area reserved for females and families. The stop signal is also at hand to inform the driver in advance that someone will get off the next bus stop. You can even use Google Maps to check directions of the buses and know what to ride and when.


  • The disadvantages, though are that if the route is not a busy one, then you’ll have to wait longer in bus stops, or the route will not be used anymore. The bus is also more expensive than the Metro when you compare the fare by distance.
  • One must have the Nol “fare” card when using the public bus and Metro (train). Fare is cheap, but not when converted to pesos. You must absolutely tap your card in and out and not lose it or else you’ll be fined. There are also different Nol cards: those that are non-reloadable (for tourists, the one-day pass and the extended days pass), and then we have the reloadable Silver Nol and the Gold Nol (for entry to the first-class carriage at almost double the fare price)


  • Do not chew gum in public especially in buses and trains. It’s impolite.
  • Strict law enforcement. Hefty fines even for just forgetting to tap your card when riding the bus. (Sa mga Pilipino, please wag na dalhin ang ugaling Pinoy dito sa Dubai, please lang.)
  • Dine in or TAKE-AWAY. Not take out or to go.
  • Lunch is at 1 or 2 pm. Most people here sleep very late. Especially on Thursday, as Friday is the de-facto weekend here.
  • Everything starts late on Friday. Metro resumes operations after lunch; most establishments open late.
  • Free magazines! From the Read. Of Dubai Metro to the grocery giant Choitrams’ Good Life, you’ll have access to more and more info via magazines. But still does not beat HK for the prevalence of such free reads (complimentary of tourist spots, transport, coffee shops, literally everywhere!)
  • The exit procedures. Most of us tried our luck here in Dubai on a visit / tourist visa. When someone on such visa got hired, he / she must cancel that visa by going outside of Dubai (exit stamped on then passport) then re-enter with employment visa paper on hand. Note that employment visa is just an entry permit valid for two months from entry date. On this period, your employer must already process your residence visa (serves as work and residence permit) and labor card.


  • You might know this already but, remuneration in Dubai is TAX-FREE .
  • Assisted murder / euthanasia / mercy killing is forbidden. In a small gathering, my cousin who is also a nurse is taking care of a completely paralyzed patient for 3 years already. When someone commented on the sheer magnitude of  expenses, he said that euthanasia is forbidden. Even taking the patient off the life support is condoned.
  • Zoom is the equivalent of 7-Eleven in the Philippines and other countries. And unlike in the Philippines, Zoom is also found in metro stations.
  • Some nationalities don’t recognize “rest room, water room, or comfort room”. It’s more of washroom and toilet.
  • Speaking of toilet, this is what I thought off when I first saw a sign like this on the corner of my eye:


But the space between the words “TO” and “LET” are almost nonexistent so my first thought, “Is that a “toilet” without the “t‘”).  Well, “to let” is to the Filipinos, “for rent” or for other nationalities, “for lease”

  • The cat-lover that I am, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that cats here are really big!!!! I want to take them home. BTW, it’s very rare for yuo to see dogs roaming on the streets. The dogs have to be registered, and dogs of expats sort of have a passport, or some similar documentation.

Okay! I’ll keep on adding more tidbits in the following weeks. 🙂 Ma`a as-salāma!!!!

Love from Dubai,


P.S. For Christ’s sake, please dress conservatively esp. in public.

Covering the shoulders and knees and of course the cleavage is acceptable. Guys, don’t go topless unless you’re on the beach or at home.)




  1. law · November 23, 2013

    such a big insight, ‘my pren’! i have read each and every word of this atticle, and i cant wait for my travelling docs to be ready! i shall be coming their in a months time, and i just hope it will be right! my main worry is this shit about slavery, passports being confisticated and being over worked with less pay! by the way, how much do they sell smart phones, talk of samsung note, S3 or techno Phantom F7. should i come along with mine, or its cheap to purchase one over there.

    • aerislair · November 23, 2013

      About those work woes, my pren, well it’s sheer luck I guess. Maybe going to well known companies will be a good start, or at least to companies which are already established, whether great or small. Whatever happens, don’t give all those impt docs just yet. Try to feel the company vibe on your 1st week and always be vigilant and persistent that they will really process the docs. It’s tricky. And the electronics are a bit cheaper esp. during sales. And promotions are plenty, so just wait for them then do you smart shopping.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s