What to Wear in Dubai

I’m a girly girl who likes to travel and look good doing it. There, I’ve said it. There shouldn’t be any shame in wanting to dress up and have fun with clothes on a daily basis, and it shouldn’t be any different during a holiday.

Prior to the trip I consulted Google several times regarding what to pack. It’s one thing to dress nicely, but in the Middle East, there are actual restrictions on what ladies should wear, and I wanted to know what they are.

Dubai is the most modern city, and you could say most liberal, out of all the Emirates. Therefore, you don’t have to worry that much about your attire. When packing for the trip, I decided to err on the side of caution and my outfits were really covered up. Once in Dubai, I realised that it wasn’t necessary. Plus the desert heat was torturous, so comfort matters too.

(Do note that if you plan to go to Abu Dhabi or Sharjah, it’s a lot more conservative over there and you have to be covered from neck to wrist to ankle. And bring along a scarf at all times, because you might be expected to cover your hair as well.)

Let’s start with what NOT to wear:

– Strapless tops
– Low-cut tops
– Short shorts/skirts
– skin-tight/see-through anything
– Crop tops
– Clothes with offensive/politically driven messages

There’s more, but you get the idea, right? Also, for the sake of comfort, I also advise against wearing jeans and any arm accessories, because it’s just too hot.

So… What to wear in Dubai?

Dubai 4D3N

T-shirts
There isn’t a dainty way to put this across – you will perspire A LOT. You will feel the heat from the moment you step out of the hotel lobby. You will feel the heat while standing in the shade, waiting for a taxi. You will feel the heat at night. So don’t count on wearing the same top more than once. Pack one top/dress for every day of the trip, in light colours. In terms of fabric, go as light and as thin as you can without it being see-through.

Maxi/Midi Skirt
Personally, I find skirts and dresses much more comfortable than pants, especially during hot weather. The rule is to cover your knees. Assuming you’re not doing anything too vigorous, bottoms should last at least two days.

Capri Pants
In case you’ve got an active day planned, then loose-fitting capri pants might be more suitable for running around town.

Maxi Dress
This is my go-to outfit to wear on a long flight because it’s so comfortable! Most maxi dresses are sleeveless, so just throw on a shawl or cardigan, and you’re good to go. Speaking of which…

Shawl/Scarf and Cardigan
The malls tend to blast the air-conditioning, so it gets really cold indoors. A scarf to cover your hair is also essential if you intend to visit any religious sites.

Swimsuit
Bikinis are perfectly fine at the beach or at the pool, but you have cover up until you get there. (I just wore my maxi dress on top.) And in case you were wondering, topless sunbathing is not allowed.

Footwear
For a short trip, one pair of comfortable go-everywhere shoes will suffice. Personally I prefer ballet flats since they go with almost everything, and can be dressed up or down. Flip flops are good for the pool and beach.

Accessories
Leave your necklaces, bracelets, and bangles at home, as they’ll do you no good in the heat. Dress up your outfits with earrings instead. Style-wise, the choice is yours. Personally, I used the opportunity to let my inner bohemian run wild with colourful stones.

So yes, that’s it from me. Just remember, cover your shoulders and knees, and nothing too tight or heavy. If you’re a glamorous traveler, you’ll fit right in with the well-dressed women of Dubai. And if you’re a casual dresser, don’t worry too much, you’re there to have fun!

Okay this is the fourth post in 24 hours so I’ll take a break now. See you soon!

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One Mall to Rule Them All

Where do I begin with this one? The first page of The Dubai Mall Guide says, “Welcome to Everything” and that about sums it up.

There’s not one, not two, but FIVE massive department stores: Bloomingdale’s, Debenhams, Galeries Lafayette, Marks & Spencer, and Paris Gallery. It’s like going from New York to London to Paris without needing your passport, just your credit card.

And then there are other stores… honestly, I don’t know the exact number, but Wikipedia will tell you that there are more than 1,200 stores in the mall. I can tell you that there are 29 pages in the mall guide, and it comes with a map attached. You know, a proper map, with grids and colour coding and everything.

I’m not even going to talk about dining options because it wouldn’t fit neatly into one blog post.

And because The Dubai Mall isn’t your regular shopping mall, there’s also an aquarium, an ice rink, a flight simulator, an amusement park, and an underwater zoo, among other attractions.

I could have spent all four days and three nights in the mall and still not cover everything. Needless to say, our two short visits barely scratched the surface.

Okay I’ll let the pictures do the talking now.

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Edwin and I are massive fans of The Big Bang Theory (who isn’t?) and when I saw this, I just had to try it. We ordered a starter to share, and a main course each. That’s normal, right?

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BIG MISTAKE. The portions were massive. The camera doesn’t quite capture it, but believe me, those were monsters on giant platters.

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Chicken and biscuits, or as Edwin called it, Chicken and mountains.

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I hate to admit it, but a lot of food was wasted that evening. We should have just shared a single main course.

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While doing research for the Europe trip, I read about Angelina in Paris and how the hot chocolate is supposed to be out of this world and conjure singing angels or something to that effect, and I was intrigued. On our second visit to the mall (a couple of days after The Cheesecake Factory disaster), I saw that there’s an Angelina there, which was awesome because I was having trouble fitting it into the itinerary and now we got to tick it off the list before even setting foot in Paris. Très bien!

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The famous hot chocolate, served with cream, so you can decide how rich you want (it) to be. Really lovely, bien sûr, but fell short of foodgasmic.

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Putting the “tea” in “afternoon tea”.

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Satiating our hunger with quiche and a foie gras salad.

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Right outside The Dubai Mall are some of the best views of the Dubai cityscape. The fountain show was a work of art. Not to be missed!

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What a beautiful place. I’m really happy we took the opportunity to see this amazing city that rose up from the desert to become what it is today. And it’s still growing! Mark it down in your calendars, people. You’ll know where to be in 2020.

Dubai City Tour with Viator

As tempting as it was, we couldn’t just lounge by the beach/pool all day. Being the geeky travelers that we are, we didn’t want to come home and say that all we saw was the mall. There has to be more to Dubai than just skyscrapers, right? I was imagining an older, more traditional side, complete with fragrant spice souks and music magically playing in the background. Cue images of SATC2, with the foursome’s adventures in Abu Dhabi.

Yes, I’m romantic/idealistic like that.

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We booked a half-day city sightseeing tour with Viator. The first part of the tour wasn’t particularly exciting, just photo-taking from a distance. Unfortunately we couldn’t enter the famous Jumeirah Mosque, and could only admire its beauty from afar.

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More “photo-taking opportunities”. Well, we did get to take in some beautiful scenery.

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One of the highlights was the Dubai Museum. We were only given 30 minutes to tour the place, which wasn’t enough for us museum junkies! (You won’t believe just how much time we spent in museums while in Europe. I think 80% of our travel photos are of museum artefacts.) Thankfully, most of the displays were in the (air-conditioned) basement level.

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The other highlight was taking the abra, or water taxi. It was an adventure in itself, because you won’t see this anywhere else, especially Singapore. Come on, a boat with no railings or safety anything? Yet, the absence of these things don’t equate to people jumping or falling over. It simply works because of one basic rule: sit, don’t stand. Seems universal, but sadly it isn’t.

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Stunning views of the Dubai Creek.

Now, the absolute worst part of the tour: visiting the souks of old Dubai. I was looking forward to this the most, hoping to purchase some handicrafts and maybe little bags of spices. Remember the images of SATC2? Oh, I was wrong.

First of all, there weren’t any handicrafts (mirrored boxes and things like that). But while I was okay with not buying anything, the shopkeepers weren’t. They were so over the top, “aggressive” doesn’t even cut it. I suppose they just wanted to make sales, but I wasn’t comfortable with their brand of friendliness.

“Hello madam how are you madam where are you from madam? China Japan Korea madam? Why you look so angry madam?”

Meanwhile, Edwin was held hostage in one of the shops.

I used to think shopping in Shenzhen was bad. Now I know better.

Folks, don’t EVER enter a shop unless you are making a purchase. You don’t have the option of “just browsing”, and once you ask how much something is, you’re not leaving until you buy it. A couple of blouses caught my eye, and the shopkeeper quoted 750 dirhams for two, which he kept insisting was the “friend price”, and that the clothes were of “very good quality”. They weren’t. 750 dirhams is around S$260. That’s daylight robbery, “friend”.

I must have been incredibly naive, or maybe because of my usual proximity to mainland China, I thought that the blouses would cost around S$15 each. Seriously, the quality was average at most. The fabric wasn’t great, and the stitching was all awry. There was no way, in any lifetime/alternate universe, that I was going to pay S$260 for these clothes. And I wasn’t about to bargain hard for something I didn’t even like that much. So we decided to leave…

…Only to see the narrow doorway being blocked by the other shopkeeper. They weren’t going to let us go.

They were still sort-of friendly, saying, “What price you want?” The most I was prepared to pay was 120 dirhams, or around S$42. And then they were like, “How about 600 dirhams, okay?” Nope, not okay.

I wrestled with a few shop displays, found an alternate doorway and left, thinking that Edwin was right behind me, but one of the guys had grabbed him by the arm and said that he had to buy something. I didn’t want to go back in, and so I was pacing up and down the row of shops like a madwoman with angry eyes.

Then the other shopkeepers started coming up to me with that “madam madam” chant. Nooooooooooooo…

Finally, Edwin emerged from the shop… with a bag. After the longest time, they finally settled for 120 dirhams.

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Later, the tour guide brought us to the gold souk. This time, we didn’t enter a single shop.

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We had 30 minutes, and there were only so many pictures one could take before they all started to look the same. We started to explore the side streets outside the souk, but there wasn’t anything interesting aside from Baskin Robbins. Anyway, as we walked further out, I came to the realisation that there weren’t any women in this part of town. Just lots and lots of men. And they were looking at me. With that look.

I felt so sickened and we quickly returned to the gold souk, where there were at least female tourists, and interestingly, Mandarin-speaking dudes telling us about their “special gold shop”.

To be honest, I was relieved when the tour was over. Overall, it was a disappointment. The tour guide was nice and provided some interesting tidbits during the bus ride, but for the most part, it wasn’t worth the price we paid. If you want to experience the local culture, there are probably better marketplaces. And you could just go to Dubai Museum by yourself, and travel around by taxi, which isn’t too expensive.

The end of the tour coincided with the start of a sandstorm, and the ride back to the hotel was quite exciting!

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See how everything’s a bit fuzzy? It’s sand. It’s everywhere!

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And in the midst of a sandstorm, the Arabian moon shines through, heralding another Arabian night.

Fairmont Palm Jumeirah

With our last major trip in 2012 (Orlando + New York), we decided that 2014 was going to be the year for travel. We got to go to Taipei earlier in April, and Dubai in August. The opportunity to go to Dubai came very suddenly, and even right now I can’t believe we’ve been to the Middle East and back, just like that. We’ve been incredibly blessed to get these opportunities to see the world, and we want to get out more while we still can!

Anyway at this point we’ve got a lot to unpack and photos to sort through from the Europe trip (more about that next time), but I do want to share the details of our Dubai getaway, because it was indeed very lovely, and unlike anywhere we’d ever been.

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Our trip was off to a good start when we received an upgrade to Premium Economy on Cathay Pacific. AMAZING. Everything’s bigger and better. The screens are wider, the seats are more comfortable, and the service was outstanding. Not that plain ol’ Economy offers bad service, just more… basic. In Premium, you could really tell that the crew was a lot more attentive. I can only wonder what kind of TLC they shower on the passengers in First and Business Class.

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The in-flight meals on Economy are usually a choice of rice or pasta. Here you have lamb chops. Lamb Chops. With fancy-pants potato gratin, green beans, and capsicums. And then there’s some cutesy chicken salad in the corner and glazed chocolate layer cake for dessert. Hands down, the best meal I’ve ever had on a flight.

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And as icing on the cake, each passenger in Premium Economy also received a little care package from G.O.D. (Goods of Desire), which is this kitschy cool lifestyle design and retail brand company based in Hong Kong, known for their tongue-in-cheek interpretation of Hong Kong design and culture. (By the way, I got that bit of information off Wikipedia.)

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In the bag: socks, eye mask, ear plugs, Jurlique hand cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a 10% discount coupon at G.O.D.

I used the Business class washroom by mistake, and I’m glad I did. It was spacious and spotless, and besides liquid hand soap, there’s also Jurlique facial cleanser, moisturiser, and facial mist for guest use. So this is how fancy folk fly.

After being spoilt by our awesome flight experience, we checked into Fairmont the Palm.

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Everything you’d expect from a five star hotel, but I was still blown away.

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The bathroom alone is bigger than our apartment back home.

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Oh, and we got upgraded to a room with full panoramic view! Yes, please bring on the upgrades!

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Views from the balcony. Absolutely breathtaking.

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As you can see, the hotel has its own private beach that’s literally just beyond the pool, and you get to take in the most gorgeous views while soaking up the sun. But beware, it’s about 40 degrees out there, and while it’s nice to be sunkissed, it’s another thing altogether to be burnt and peeling within the hour.

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I picked up a copy of Glamour magazine at the airport, but it turned out that I didn’t have to. There was plenty of reading material available, perfect for curling up by the balcony, so I could enjoy daylight in air-conditioned comfort.

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It wasn’t quite one of those “do nothing” holidays, but we still wanted to laze around in the morning. We ordered a Canadian breakfast to be brought up to the room. There are few things as decadent as lying in bed while waiting for breakfast to be served.

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Ahhh… Life is good.

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There was a sandstorm (!!) during one of our evenings there, so we stayed in and tried the “Arabian Nights” themed dinner buffet, which turned out to be fairly good, and according to the staff, quite authentic as well! It’s great that we didn’t have to venture too far to try the local cuisine, so that was convenient.

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Fell in love with hummus during the trip. I must have consumed a kilo of the stuff over those few days.

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The fish was a monster when I first saw it, but when I went back to take a photo, it was reduced to this.

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So happy that I got to try the chicken shawarma while in the Middle East!

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Middle Eastern desserts are incredibly sweet, and one bite was more than enough sugar for me!

That’s it for photos of our dinner! Don’t worry, we ate a lot more than that, and hopefully got our money’s worth!

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Speaking of desserts, if you have a sweet tooth, then you’d like Delicacy, which is a patisserie serving baked goods and coffee to go. Unfortunately my cookies and cream cupcake met with an accident on the way up, and while it wasn’t Instagram-worthy, it tasted just fine.

So yes, I’d definitely recommend Fairmont the Palm. It’s pricey, but it’s worth it if you have a special occasion and want to celebrate. The room was absolutely luxurious, while service was impeccable. They even have staff walking around and handing out cold towels to guests on the beach! What’s not to love about that?

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Fairmont… First class all the way.