Dubai is a place of opposites. Against the towering skyscrapers and glossy high rise buildings you see dull panels of construction and rust coloured cranes. Alongside the neatly paved roads you see plains of yet to be developed dust and sand. Among the click clack of high heels and whirr of Ferraris you can see swarms of construction workers dotted around the city.
It’s definitely a place where extremes exist side by side; a phenomenon that is largely explained by the rapid development of a city over a short period of time. As with any city there are positives and negatives in terms of culture but it’s a worthwhile place to visit, particularly in terms of lifestyle, design and architecture.
There’s no doubt that Dubai has a reputation for extravagance; there are a lot of places that are luxurious and perhaps a little excessive especially if you’re travelling on a budget and are interested in exploring some of the more authentic hotspots in terms of culture and design. So we’ve put together a list of places that are a must-see if you’re after a chilled out break in Dubai. A lot of these places are accessible by Metro (the metro system is relatively easy to figure out) or by taxi (which are not too expensive).
Dubai is a very interesting place in terms of architecture, housing the tallest skyscraper in the world, The Burj Khalifa. The views from the top of this building are magnificent and it’s definitely worth visiting the bar on the 123rd floor (book first!) and viewing the fountain shows (which are run every half hour). Apart from the Burj, the DIFC in the financial district houses some crisp and clean lines, ideal if you’re interested in architectural photography.
The DIFC also contains galleries showcasing home-grown abstract art and design, perfect if you are looking to be inspired by the region. Walking around the DIFC we also came across a quaint little office, which upon further inspection was an office for an independent publication called Brownbook which focuses on the origin and culture behind fashion in the UAE and northern Africa. These guys sell to retail stores so it’s definitely a good one to check out if you’re into fashion and culture and are looking for an authentic representation of the region.
One thing Dubai do exceptionally well are brunches, probably highly influenced by the brunch culture in New York. We’re talking unlimited food and drink for a fixed price, and a lot of places do good ones. Pavillion is an awesome combined work space and brunch spot that we’d recommend. It’s also a nice space in terms of design and an ideal place to take some quirky pictures and enjoy some tasty food while you tap away on your laptop.
Travelling a little way out of the centre of town, the area of Al Quoz is a great up and coming area for designers and artists. A must-visit spot is the Raw coffee shop tucked away amongst the warehouses of the area. These guys eat drink and sleep coffee, from sourcing the beans, roasting them right there in their warehouse to grinding and serving the coffee by whichever method you please (Aeropress? siphon? cold brew? cafetiere? by a one handed pirate doing the macarena? perhaps not but I’m sure they’d try). If you’re into your coffee like we are it’s good place to go and get your caffeine fix before perusing the art galleries in the design district, most of which are artfully set up in warehouse spaces (very New York).
Finally if you’re interested in venturing out of Dubai for an excursion, the neighbouring country of Oman is a good option. It’s across the border so you’ll need to consider car rentals/hiring a driver as well as paying tolls and entry fees but it’s well worth the effort for the stunning scenery. The dry land is framed by an expanse of mountain ranges bordered by brilliant blue sea, a dream for any landscape photographer or travel junkie. Take a Dow boat cruise to the neighbouring telegraph island where you can snorkel (and lamely joke about the fact that you swam with the fishes with an Italian accent) and take in the beautiful sights of the mountains and the sea. Of course travelling in the Middle East is something you should be careful with, always making sure you adhere to their customs in terms of culture and dress code where possible!
Overall Dubai & Oman are awesome places to experience and there are definitely areas you can go if you are looking for an authentic representation of the Middle East and inspiration in terms of design, architecture and lifestyle!
Patches & Flash x