Dubai - United Arab Emirates Travel Guide

January 22, 2019 2 Comments

Dubai is mostly used as stopover destination for travelers flying in and out on Emirates. While Dubai can easily be a stopover city where you hit the big sites in a couple of days, there’s a surprising amount of things to do here for those looking to spend more time. I loved my time in Dubai more than I thought I would! It’s a city trapped between the old and the new. A place in a conservative culture with old world customs while at the same time a Middle-Eastern Vegas where anything goes (so long as it’s behind closed doors). I was surprised at how much there was to do in this city – and how even in a week I barely scratched the surface. Dubai is a fascinating, multi-cultural city that deserves a lot more than stopover and I hope you use this guide to help plan a trip that won’t break your budget!

Typical Costs

Hostel prices – Hostels are not that common in Dubai. There are only a few here and most charge between 100-120 AED for a basic dorm. If you want a private room, expect to pay between 250-375 AED. Most will include free WiFi and a couple places also offer free breakfast. If you can avoid them, I would as they aren’t that nice in the city.

Budget hotel prices – Budget hotels start between 200-250 AED per night for a basic twin or double room. Free WiFi is standard, and many budget hotels also include extras like free airport shuttles or swimming pools. Mid-range hotels start around 250 AED per night, but if you’re looking for something more luxurious, the sky is the limit here! Airbnb is also an option here (I suggest you avoid other paid sharing economy services as they are reliable here). A shared room on Airbnb starts around 100 AED per night, while an entire home or apartment will be closer to 400 AED.

Average cost of food – You can find cheap meals in Dubai for around 30 AED, while fast food will cost a bit less (around 25 AED). The best meals are usually shared by the table and consist of hummus, pita, falafel, foul, fattoush, tahini salad, and grilled halloumi cheese. Operation Falafel is a great cheap restaurant chain with 7 locations around Dubai. If you want a meal at a mid-range restaurant, expect to pay closer to 100 AED. For an all-day brunch extravaganza, expect to pay at least 375 AED per person. If you plan on cooking your own meals, groceries will cost between 175-225 AED per week. Debonairs in the Dubai Mall has a lunch special for 15 AED ($4 USD). It’s one of the best bargains I found. Be sure to head into Old Dubai for cheap eats. Meals at restaurants in this area generally cost 20-30 AED ($5-8 USD). I really loved Al Usted, an Iranian restaurant near the Al Fahidi metro.

Transportation costs – The metro, while not extensive, is efficient and well-maintained and the public buses can take you anywhere. A single fare will cost between 4-8.50 AED (prices are based on how far you are going) and a day-pass is 20 AED. Taxis are on the cheap side, though if you need to call one, call an Uber instead since the addresses here can be a bit wonky to explain over the phone to a taxi company. The prices between the two are comparable, so stick with whatever is most convenient. A bus to Abu Dhabi will cost around 40 AED (you can also take a taxi there for 290 AED each way).

Suggested daily budget – 300 AED / $80 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, doing lots of free activities, keeping your drinking to a minimum, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher! Dubai is not cheap but it doesn’t need to be super expensive either!)

Money Saving Tips

  • Walk around – Dubai is full of places that are free to enter, and stunning to walk around. Spend the day at any mall or shopping area: Mall of the Emirates, The Dubai Mall, Ibn Battuta Mall, City Center Mirdif, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Sunset Mall, Souk al Bahar, etc. There’s plenty to see and if you leave Dubai without going to a mall – you did it wrong!
  • Eat hummus – Lots of restaurants have hummus and “tapas” style food available. Have a filling meal by ordering 2-3 instead of ordering a main meal. This is especially good if you’re eating with others so you can split the bill too!
  • Skip the Burj Khalifa at sunset – If you’re going up the Burj Khalifa (not my favorite activity), tickets during the sunset hours are much more expensive. Since the sunset view really isn’t that much better, skip it. You’ll pay around 30% less!
  • Talk to the locals – The people here are incredibly hospitable and sweet, making them a wonderful resource for the intrepid traveler. Don’t hesitate to ask the locals for suggestions on places to eat, things to do, etc. Not only will you get to interact with the population but you’ll definitely get some great, local insight!
  • Pick your accommodation wisely – Stay within walking distance of a subway stop. The subway is really cheap, so if you can walk to a stop, you’re able to get to so many places without much money or effort.
  • DIY desert safari – Don’t rent a car. If you know anyone who lives in Dubai, ask if they have a friend who will take you to the desert. This isn’t a big deal as locals go to the desert very often in the cooler months. You might even get lucky and find someone who wants to camp out there.
  • Use Groupon –Groupon is very popular in Dubai. Use it to find discounts on restaurants, activities, and attractions. If there is something you want to do, check here first. Chances are you can find a discount!
  • Attend a budget happy hour – The lifeblood of any drinker, happy hours are where you can go to save a buck: from McGettigan’s drink specials (29 AED ($8 USD) for selected house drinks) to Agency’s 100 AED ($27 USD) bottle of wines. Dubai is FULL of happy hours (and drink specials can be found in The Entertainer too).
  • Get The EntertainerThis magazine has discounts and specials for hotels, restaurants, and activities, including 2-for-1 offers. You can get a hardcopy at a supermarket or bookstore for 495 AED or download the app for 445 AED. While it’s not cheap, chances are you will get you money’s worth if you plan on doing a lot.

Top Things to See and Do in Dubai

  • Visit Burj Khalifa – The tallest building in the world lets you go up to the 128th floor for 100 AED ($27 USD). From there, you get panoramic views of the city and desert. When I went it was pretty hazy, but it still made for a beautiful contrast. I would highly recommend it (but don’t pay 500 AED ($136 USD) for the 148th floor. It’s not that much of a difference!). At night, the building is illuminated by a spectacular light show of fish, palm trees, and other scenes while the fountain below dances to music
  • Take a desert safari – If you want to get a taste of the desert, head out on a day-long safari with Arabian Adventure. You’ll be able to ride a camel, hold a falcon, explore the desert, and eat some traditional food. A day-long excursion will cost around 315 AED. (Note: there are other desert safaris that may be cheaper, but this is the full experience).
  • Visit Global Village – This is a massive entertainment extravaganza, with shopping, dining, and live performances all coming together to create an incredible cultural experience. This is like Epcot Center at Disney World, except it showcases the different cultures of the Middle East. There are dance and sword shows, as well as plenty of local foods to try. Admission is only 15 AED!
  • Dubai Miracle Garden – This quirky and colorful garden is worth spending some time seeing. The garden was opened in 2013 and is spread over 72,000 square meters, making it the world’s largest natural flower garden featuring over 109 million flowers planted. Do not forget your camera for this. Admission is only 40 AED. (Note: it’s best seen in the daytime).
  • Visit Kite Beach – If you’re into kite surfer or water sports, this is a great place to catch some waves. The winds pick up in the afternoon, making it a good time to hit the water or just sit back and watch others do it. If watersports aren’t your thing, just come here to catch some rays and relax. My favorite, more “local” restaurant is called Tent Jumeriah, and it’s on the walkway between Kite Beach and the Burj Dubai Hotel.
  • The Marina – The marina area is surrounded by tall buildings and contains a beautiful boardwalk. You can see the fancy boats and get some stunning photographs of the harbor and skyline. Be sure to checkout Pier 7, which is seven floors of restaurants and bars on the water. I liked Asia Asia, with its gaudy Asian theme (it has 2-for-1 specials in The Entertainer too!).
  • Souk Madinat Jumeirah – This souk (market) is a modern building designed to look like something out of Aladdin, but it’s home to some incredible restaurants, like Agency, a modern wine bar with a huge selection of wines and yummy meat and cheese plates. There’s a beautiful inner courtyard pond in this complex, too.
  • Dubai Museum – A small museum in Old Dubai with not a lot of information but some really cool displays. It teaches you the history and culture of Dubai and life in the desert. At $1 USD admission, you can’t go wrong.
  • Visit Old Dubai – This is Dubai as it used to be. Markets (like the famous gold market) pepper the area, small shops line the streets, and you can get lost in a maze of alleyways. Take a boat across the river, wander aimlessly, visit the Dubai Museum, eat at some of the traditional restaurants, explore the art district, and see Dubai as it is away from the glitz of the malls and high-rises.
  • Hit the mall – Malls in Dubai are not like malls anywhere else in the world. Between the Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates, you’ll find a ton of amazing things to see and do. Beyond shopping, you can watch the nightly fountain show (think Vegas) or visit the aquarium at the Dubai Mall, or go indoor skiing at the Mall of the Emirates. Just be sure to dress appropriately (avoid tank tops and mini skirts).
  • Visit the Grand Mosque – Located in nearby Abu Dhabi, the Grand Mosque is definitely worth a half-day trip. It’s a 90-minute drive from Dubai (about 290 AED each way in a taxi or 40 AED on the bus), and you’ll want to make sure you wear appropriate clothing. They do have cover-up items available there, however, for anyone without suitable attire. Admission is free.
  • Stroll along Jumeirah Beach – This is a great place to sunbathe and stroll along the boardwalk. There are lots of shops to visit, and there is even an outdoor movie theater. Not only is this a great place to visit, but it’s a great area to stay because you’re surrounded by so many things to do.
  • Enjoy Ripe Market – This outdoor market has many locations around both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Browse organic foods and crafts made by people living in Dubai. This is held in a gorgeous park, so grab lunch from the food trucks and sit on the grass to relaxingly eat it.
  • Go dancing at Barasti – This dynamic outdoor bar is full of locals and expats. It’s multi-level with a beach at the bottom (so don’t wear heels). There’s a huge dancefloor, sheesha smoking, food, a food truck, and many different lounge areas. Drinks are 45-75 AED each (normal for Dubai).
  • Watch an outdoor movie – By the beach or up on a rooftop, when the temperature dips in the winter, Dubai offers the perfect place to catch a screening of your favorite films outdoors. So grab some popcorn, curl under a blanket and unwind under the stars at these open-air cinema experiences. There’s one at the Galleria Mall, Wafi Mall, Cinema Akil, and Reform Social and Grill.
  • Go deep sea fishing – It’s quite easy to book a spot on a boat and head out to sea if you want to try your hand at deep sea fishing. Operators like Go Fishing Dubai cater to all ages and levels of experience, and most packages even include lunch. Prices will vary depending on what sort of vessel you book but more luxurious boat packages will cost upwards of 900 AED.
  • Visit the Jumeirah Mosque – This beautiful mosque is one of two in the city you can actually visit. It consists of one large room and there is a guided tour every day at 10am. It’s 20 AED and comes with a great breakfast spread. If you don’t know much about Islam or the role it plays in the UAE, it’s pretty a interesting tour.

The Outsider - A Journey From Loneliness To Solitude

January 11, 2019 2 Comments
The word “outsider” is just a combination of different letters, which precisely refers to a person, who is unacquainted with the matter in question, but what if it becomes how you constantly feel?

A feeling of isolation affects all sorts and ages of people. However, the adolescents are more likely to be affected than others. The age, where there is a number of hormones change in your body, does not let you suppress an urge to be a rebel.

On the contrary, wanting to be alone and being left alone has a big difference. Here comes the factor, which naturally helps you embrace such type of situation; introversion. I do not intend to say that extroverts cannot get through this. In fact, it is more difficult for them to get used to the actuality. On the other hand, introverts have a better tendency to deal with such sort of situations.

If you could relate to what it seems like to feel alone in a room full of people, then you are not that different after all. It is only a perspective, but I feel every individual is unique yet not that significant from fellow beings.

I had a phase in my life, when I got to experience what truly a feeling of loneliness is. At first, it was full of terror. It was like being lost on a voyage; you see around yourself and are not able to discern anything visually that you can feel connected to. It was like being invisible while being physically present at the moment. Loneliness captivates absolutely no other thing but a sense of emptiness. It persistently persuades you to think that you are being eaten alive, but it is only because you allow it to take over your conscience.

After all these years, I have learnt that the fear of being left alone is only a deception. You live under the false anticipation that you are not good enough for people around you and eventually lose your true identity while trying to be sufficient for others, which is incredibly wrong.

Nevertheless, having a feeling of not being able to fit in can be beautiful, too. I did not have much interest in reading earlier, but in a way some people changed my life for better when I started giving books a chance. William Wordsworth has been a great inspiration for me and I relate to his life so much. He made me realize that people may not look the same but humanity and a beating heart connects them at some level. I remember reading the first stanza from one of his amazing poems. It felt like I had been rescued from nothingness. “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” helped me find my way home.

When you are born, you are destined to accomplish, make memories, feel emotions, suffer, find happiness and lose it, but all that matters is living at the moment and loving yourself. Do not let the darkness take over you. The best time to realize your worth was when you started considering being alone a threat, but the second best time is now. Here is how I coped with it, I genuinely hope that might be useful:

- Embrace Your Personality:

You may think you do not know how to figure out what your strengths are but never lose faith that you have them. The qualities that makes you unique are the substructure of your success. You only need to work on them.

- Know Your Worth:

Do not settle for less than you deserve. It is your own attitude toward yourself that allows others to treat you the same. Love yourself.

- Live In The Moment:

People may make you feel that you do not deserve good but the fact is that happiness is the choice. No one can truly define who you are until you let them. Do not let them steal your peace.

- Be Grateful:

Some fewer but closer relationships are important. As I have said before, everyone is different. Open doors for new people in your life and be grateful of whatever the outcome is. You will indeed have a lesson or a lifelong friend to be thankful for.

In sum, I would say that no matter what you are going through, there comes a point in life, where you admit that all these lessons have helped you turn out the best version of yourself. If you had a similar experience, I would love to know how you dealt with it or are still coping. Champions like you are the reason, people still believe in standing up after falling apart.

Growing up poor in a rich town

December 29, 2018 1 Comments

We didn’t have a lot of money. We weren’t poverty stricken. It’s not like I was eating out of a can of beans that I shared with my brother and sister over a fire made in a barrel. But we certainly weren’t well off. The houses in the town I grew up in were HUGE. These are mansions that sell for upwards of $13,000,000 now. I knew a lot of the kids who lived in those houses but we weren’t friends. All the kids knew each other because we would all congregate at the public pool in the summer, we’d ride our bikes up and down the suburban streets, and run around in the forest. Problem was there was always a disconnect. It’s only really through retrospect that I realize it. I didn’t know that when I was 8. It was this kind of feeling that they knew they were better off than myself and several other kids in the neighborhood. But they outnumbered us. So when 3 or 4 of them would pin me down and feed me grass it was supposed to be that way because I was one of the poor kids. It was made worse by the fact that their parents seemed to have the same outlook, which is most likely where they got their behaviour from. But I wanted so badly to be a part of that group, I wanted to be their friend. The more I tried to ingratiate myself to them the more they took advantage of my good nature. Stealing my comics, bullying me even taking the little bit of money I had to go buy themselves candy from the store the next town over. Like dude, you live in a house with 10 bedrooms and you need my $3?

I was always a shy kid, I wasn’t able to just approach people and become friends with them. I mean I’m friendly enough and I make friends easily once I’m comfortable but I would always be afraid of approaching groups of kids I didn’t know. It’s a trait that has carried into adulthood but luckily my kids have seemed to be able to avoid this social awkwardness. So because I was so shy I guess I was more trusting of these kids, or more wanting to be a part of their group. They seemed so cool. They had cool bikes, big houses, they were members of the yacht club and went on vacations. Of course I wanted to be one of them. But know I realize I had something they didn’t have. I had parents who paid attention to me, who encouraged me to pursue my interests. I wasn’t coddled but I wasn’t ignored. I had freedom but also limits. They did their best with what they had. We never went without at Christmas, we always came down to piles of presents under the tree (paid for with he change and money they’d been able to save over the year).

I think as jealous as I was of those rich kids who bullied me and treated me like garbage, they may have been equally as jealous of me. My parents actually cared about me, took an interest in my life, they sent me outside to explore and learn not just because they didn’t want me around. I can’t say for sure that this is what was happening behind the walls of those mansions but more and more it seems likely. I was just a kid what did I know. Maybe their parents were around and did pay attention to them and they just raised shitty kids. But they certainly weren’t taking an interest when their children were pinning me to the ground and shoving handfuls of grass and dirt in my mouth, or beating me, or stealing my comics or money. And they saw. I remember lying on the ground, tears streaming down my face as one of them sat on my chest, laughing as he made me eat the fresh grass. His parents were sitting in lawn chairs on the soccer field at the pool not 50 feet away from us. Nothing. Not a word of admonishment, not a raised eyebrow, didn’t lift a finger to help. This is the way the world is, their kids were strong and showing their dominance. I was weak, to be dominated.

I can’t stand bullies. I talk to my kids about it, I make sure they treat everyone with respect. You don’t know what’s going on at home or in their lives. But back in those days it wasn’t like it is today. Bullying wasn’t viewed as a problem. It wasn’t seen as something that needed to be stopped. It was a part of life. There were bullies and the bullied. If you were too weak to stand up for yourself no one was going to do it for you. At least that’s how it was in my little social circle.

If you see some kid pushing around another kid who looks scared and uncertain step in. Kids need heroes. There’s too much evil in the world, too many problems that a kid shouldn’t have to worry about if the bully from his neighborhood is going to take the comic book he bought with his only couple of dollars. Someone needs to speak up for the poor kid in a rich town.

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Not Everyone is meant to be in Every Phase of Your Life

December 28, 2018 0 Comments

This lesson was a very difficult one to learn for me. I had to experience some disappointments and let-downs to understand it properly.

We have friends and we have close friends, we also have friends like family and least of them all are our acquaintances. We have certain, expectations of each of these people, but what we don’t realize is that God has classified their responsibilities towards us differently, not even close to the way we see it.

If you would look back on your life, you would see that not everyone that was present when you were a child are there with you presently and not everyone that was close to you then are close to you now, as our environment changes, our acquaintances change, sometimes even our friends change, New faces, new friends, new friends like family.

Now, based on the expectations we have for these people according to the respective classification that we’ve put them in, if these expectations are not met or if we are denied certain requirements that we expect them to give without any issues, we conclude that they have let us down or betrayed us or have refused to help hence we are greatly disappointed at them.

That brings me to this point that not everyone you have put in a certain box to meet a certain need is the right person to carryout that responsibility at that time. They might have done it before, maybe for you, or for someone else, that doesn't mean God has designed them to do it for you again another time you need it.

Our help comes from God so we trust him but we have to see with his eyes, don’t get angry at your friends when they refuse to help or when they tell you they are unable to help you at that point. It’s may be very painful and disappointing especially when these people are inside the box of friends like family,  I Know, but you need to understand something, For every door that God will open or has opened for You, he has placed the right people, specific people that will help you at your side. You might know them, they might be close to you or not close to you, it can be someone you just naturally say HI to (acquaintances) sometimes it might not be that friend like a sister, that doesn’t mean she hates you or she doesn’t see you as a friend anymore, understand this that God has not given her that responsibility to meet that need for you at that time .

You might have experienced this, sometimes these friends help us and at the end it doesn't work, that’s also because they are not the right person to do it, in most cases, the job gets done by a mere friend, sometimes not even a friend, maybe a stranger we met once.

Maybe someone close to you just casually walked out of your life, don’t be bitter it’s not easy but then it’s time for the next phase/level of your life that he/she wasn't meant to be in. Sometimes until these people walk away you might not discover a certain potential that God has placed in you.
Challenges makes you realize how strong you are and your staying power. It’s better to discover it than to suppress it due to the presence of a certain person. There’s a lot of potential in you that needs to unfold but you need to be able to accept the fact that not everyone is meant to experience/contribute to the unfolding of that potential.

Therefore, not everyone is meant for every phase of your life. Like the quote say " you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life". That’s it for today.

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How to Become Confident

December 25, 2018 4 Comments
If you're desperately looking for some way of regaining your confidence, this article shares some tips which could help you out. Read to know how to get back that secret ingredient, back in your life.

"Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve." - Napoleon Hill

The thought above is the seed that you require to get your confidence back again. With confidence, everything's possible and without it, almost everything seems impossible. What do you do, when confidence eludes you? How to regain your confidence back again? How to regain your self belief? How to get your flow back again? These are the questions, which I try to answer here.

Every once in a while, unforeseen circumstances throw our life into total chaos and the most precious of all ingredients, which is confidence, eludes us. You hit the rock bottom of your life. The once roaring river of confidence is down to a trickle and you become a shadow of your true self. Every one of us may go through such phases of depression. Still, how much ever life hits you hard, you can claw back every inch and get your confidence back. How do you do that? It may be the simplest and most difficult thing, depending on your attitude. The very fact that you are willing to take efforts, is half the battle won.

How to Regain Your Confidence

What is confidence really? It is another name for self belief and complete trust in your abilities. So, the question about being confident is in actuality, a question about how to believe in yourself again. Here are some tips.

Empty Your Cup of Negativity
The reason why you are running low on confidence is that you have let your mind fill with negativity of all kinds. You have let others make you feel that you are no good. You have started worrying a lot more about what others think, than what you think. Let me tell you the truth. None of it, is true. You are, what you see yourself to be and not what others think you are.

Let go of all the negativity and think with an open mind. Silence all the 'Naysayers' in your mind. You are the only 'you' on Earth. You are unique and special, with your own set of skills and gifts. You have the right to have your own set of opinions and beliefs about things. You are free. Listen to your own mind and your own original ideas, rather than trashing them away.

Let Go of the Past
Most people lose confidence because of past failures that weigh down on their minds. They let the past ruin their present. Moving ahead in life, while thinking of the past, is like swimming with lead weights. Past is history. A failure is supposed to challenge you to succeed. Investigate what were the mistakes that led you to failure and don't repeat them again. Nobody is perfect. It is human to make mistakes. Break the pattern of negative thought and back yourself. Winning is all about learning from your failures and turning your weaknesses into your strengths.

Practice and Prepare Yourself
Preparation and practice will give you confidence. What gives great athletes and sportsmen their confidence, is the efforts they put in, while practicing their skills. When you are thoroughly prepared for a challenge, confidence will automatically develop. From such small victories, confidence grows slowly and surely. Practice and preparation are the keys.

Love, Respect, Trust Yourself
Love and respect yourself for what you are and where you come from. Whom can you ever trust and who will ever trust you, if you do not trust yourself? Have unshakeable trust in your own self and your own principles. Confidence will grow out of it naturally. A confident you is the one who keeps his or her cool and believes in the power of positive thinking.

Build Confidence From Small Victories
Celebrate every little self-improvement and every small personal victory. Take up the confidence that is built from every little task achieved and it will go on building itself up. Take every failure as an opportunity to learn. Through challenging your limits to achieve greater heights, your confidence will be restored.

Approach Life With a Smile
Be positive and approach life with a smile on your face, rather than a frown. Don't think too much and go with the flow that you feel developing within you. Start trusting your instincts and they will always lead you into the right direction. Help people out and be gracious. This will automatically boost your self-esteem and confidence.

Only you can be your savior and no one else. Remember that getting your confidence back is eliminating self-doubt, cynicism, and negativity that tries to trap you. Let the light of positive thoughts, self belief and pure unadulterated laughter shine upon all these hobgoblins and they will disappear.

Just close your eyes and say this in your mind - 'Nothing is Impossible'. That's the code, which you need to remember, all the time. Say it like you mean every word of it. Repeat it until you feel the adrenaline rush and your confidence coursing and flooding back into you. Remember, life is full of possibilities waiting to unfold and the key to gaining your confidence back, is believing in yourself, 100%. Let go of all your self-imposed limitations and unleash yourself.
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