Dec 10, 2011

HOME. Solo in Dubai.

That first glimpse of the Harbour Bridge from an aeroplane window always gets me.

I'm officially capital H, Home.  I landed around 7 this morning and the day has gone by in a flurry of sleep, laundry, grocery shopping and that first hot shower in my own bathroom.  There is not a hint of marble to be seen but the shower nozzle is just the way I like it, the water's steaming hot and the towels have that slightly exfoliating scratchiness to them.

My face survived the 12 hour flight better than expected (first world problems, readers, first world problems).  I have my La Clinica rose hip oil and Avene spring water spray to thank for making my skin look vaguely hydrated when we deplaned.  It is with just a little sadness that I now realise that this was in fact the last time I will be 'deplaning' for the year.

In case you were wondering, the GAP logo hits mid thigh on the left hand side - as opposed to across the butt.
I found these GAP track pants in Dubai and they were a wise choice of attire for the plane.  They have cuffed legs too so they don't ride up when you're trying to sleep and they're too comfortable for words. I have them in grey as well.  Not sure if they are available in Australia yet, so I didn't take any chances.

S. , a regular reader asked how I found travelling to Dubai as a solo female.  I thought I might use this post to answer her question.  As you may have gathered, I had a fabulous time and am hatching a plan as to how to return.  However, I've had a 12 hour plane trip to think about my time in Dubai and whenever I have time to think, out come the 'deeper issues'.  You have been warned.

I will preface what I say by providing context.  This was my second trip to Dubai but my first as a solo female traveller in her mid thirties (!!).  This time, I was there primarily for a conference.  I stayed close to where my conference was held and really had no expectation of my free time other than to make use of the facilities at my hotel and yes ... shop.  I was fortunate to not be locked into a strict budget whilst I was visiting.

Dubai is a fast paced, exciting and cosmopolitan city.  I found the mix of cultures intriguing and the way these influences worked together for a rather dazzling and authentic common goal inspiring.  Dubai is driven to be the best, by whatever means necessary.  The modern city has been created from dust, sand, business acumen and considerable amounts of cash.  It is a city whose face has changed at a rapid pace.  The building sites here 4 years ago have been filled in by sparkling high rise offices.  The train lines and stations appeared out of nowhere.

There is opportunity and profit to  be found everywhere.  The communications infrastructure is fast and more than capable of supporting the businesses that exist there.  However, it is impossible (and perhaps illegal?) to download Skype for personal use.  Googling from within Dubai fails to explain this.

Beyond the glitter though, are real people on modest incomes trying to get by in an expensive city.  As I mentioned in a previous post, converting things like meals and coffees to Australian dollars from Dhirams wasn't too painful but I am not sure just how many locals regularly buy coffees that cost 18 dollars in local currency or macarons that cost 11 dollars each.

A couple of stories in the regional paper caught my attention.  One was the plight of a young couple whose first child was in a neonatal intensive care unit at a Government hospital.  They have been told that their child's treatment will cost them approximately $200 000 USD.  The hospital has advised the family to seek financial aid from one of the 'local charitable institutions'.

The other story concerned a spate of fatal falls from high rise apartment windows involving toddlers.  Four children have died in the last month and there has been an outcry as to who is responsible.  The parents who should never let their toddlers out of sight or the building owners for not making the windows childproof?  In the cross fire, the parents of the last child to die have been apprehended by police on suspicion of negligence.

In some ways Dubai is a familiar place with its glossy malls and hotels full of familiar brand names but in others, it is very foreign to the Western mind.  There are fundamental differences in government and social policy between my country of citizenship and Dubai.  However, it is not my place to comment on these except to note some striking examples that caught my attention.

As for being female?  I followed the advice of seasoned travellers to the region and packed dresses with modest hemlines and necklines.  Conveniently, I am also heading to that 'invisible' age of womanhood.  Where there is no pressure to dress to please or attract others.  I only ever used trains and taxis and never felt threatened or unsafe.  I often used the train at night and walked from the station to my hotel and again felt very safe doing so.  I wasn't at the clubs or pubs (those days are long gone) so I can't really comment about what the night life is like for foreign women.  I was treated with great respect and courtesy wherever I went and was never unfairly done by.

I took a photograph of The Dubai Mall Magazine to remind myself to talk about the fashion and beauty press in Dubai.  The official magazine of my favourite shopping centre in the region is more than advertorial.  It looks and reads like the high end fashion glossies.  Okay, it does help if your range of products start at Forever 21 and end in the region of Galliano/McQueen/Temperley not to mention the usual big hitters of Pucci/Chanel/Dior.  The styling and photography is highly engaging and original.  It had me craving winter fashion despite us only just getting out of the season here in Australia.

The standard is just as high elsewhere.  The local Harper's Bazaar is wall to wall fashion.  No item in the editorial is ever photographed more than once for different stories.  Each page of 'new season buys' runs at least 20 items, many of which are discretely 'Price On Application'.  The women featured in the lifestyle stories tend to lead 'simple lives' on billionaire budgets.  It takes the dream world element of high end fashion journalism to the realms of surreal fantasy.

On a more familiar note, the gossip pages in the daily papers provide reassurances that celebrity (mis)behaviour is universal.  There are the same nude photo scandals, the same diva antics, the same power couples leading idyllic lives.

And on that note, it's time to try and re-establish myself into the Eastern Daylight Saving Timezone.  Good night and talk again soon.


  1. that first sighting of Sydney coming home from anywhere always makes me sad, and just reading it here brings back memories.
    I hope something is done quick smart regarding safety of residential buildings in the country, how many more kids have to die before the govt will act?!

  2. Love this. I want to go to Dubai... No budget would be lovely too :-P

  3. Glad you're home safe and sound, and what an interesting post about Dubai - it certainly is a unique place and full of contraditictions. I like the idea of the simple life of billionaires! Hope you recover quickly from the flight! xxx

  4. That was really informative SSG, thank you! Hope you get to catch up on some more sleep today! x

  5. Have loved reading your thoughts about Dubai... Willow and I are also hatching a plan to go but there has been a resounding N.O from respective husbands so far - they aren't silly, they know what goes on in Dubai and they aren't interested in being dragged from mall to mall!!


  6. Really interesting post SSG... and as you say, there is no place like home (and your own bed!) XX

  7. Thanks for your in depth response to my question!

    I am happy to hear that you enjoyed yourself and encountered no issues. Of the people I interacted with I was treated very well, it was more from men passing by (such as in the souk)or workers that I felt uncomfortable. Not in the sense that I felt endangered but it's not a nice feeling to be looked up and down. I did the same as you and dressed modestly and still had that problem! On my last day I caught up with a friend who lives there and she was dressed in a short summer dress and I asked her how she feels comfortable dressing that way knowing it will attract some attention. She told me that having lived there all those years it's just something you have to get used to and ignore because it will happen regardless so she dresses for comfort in that unforgiving heat. I suppose it, and many other things, is something that you'd just have to get used to as an expat.

  8. This was such an interesting blog post to read. I wouldn't have ever considered traveling to Dubai solo before because of "feeling safe" issues. Reading about your experience has really opened my eyes. I'm so glad you felt safe and cared for.

    On the idea of being an invisible woman - I totally feel like that at the moment and felt like it last night when I was getting ready for our Christmas party.... I felt "old" last night probably for the first time ever. What a strange thing to feel at the age of 30.



  9. Welcome home SSG! What a fab trip and thanks for the round up. It certainly makes me feel that I would be fine travelling to Dubai solo if the occasion arises.

  10. Great snapshot of Dubai, I love that you read the papers while you were there, what a great way to get a feel for a new place, and understand what people are focused on.

    I'm glad you were able to feel safe venturing off on your own. I had a similar experience, ended in a potentially very risky situation, only to have it turn out to be a shopping scheme. I was surprised though - for as conservative as I was warned to be, the men were quite forward. Here was my adventure:

    happy travels!


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