I was recently invited by an amazing female promoter and a cigar company to host my “She Smokes Too” event in Dubai. Luckily, one of my colleagues had worked with the cigar company, so I immediately felt excited about the opportunity. However, this excitement was followed by anxiety. What will I wear? How will the locals respond to me? Can I even afford 3 meals a day there?? It’s SO expensive there! Ok I’m exaggerating about that last one, but honestly, these are all the things that people “warned” me about.
Once I stepped off of the plane at around 8PM into 90 degree weather(32 degrees Celsius), I realized that the climate was REAL! Nothing exaggerated about it. However, during my week-long stay, I found several of the cautious tales to not be applicable at all to my vacation.
Here are 3 things They Told Me vs My Experience:
“Dubai is VERY strict about your clothing”
This is listed first because it was the one I stressed over the most. I spent hours and lots of money because I felt the need to do a complete wardrobe makeover for my trip. I can’t tell you how many loose-fitting, long-sleeve GARBS i bought just so that I wouldn’t be “THAT” American. To be quite simple, if you’re planning a trip to Dubai any time soon, just use some discretion. If you’re going to the mall, leave the booty shorts, tank tops and crop tops at the hotel. Outside of hotels, they just don’t want to see your intimate parts exposed. Other than that, you’re pretty much within the scope of decency. Bring a Pashmina along, just in case. Obviously, if you’re going to a mosque, the rules are different, but do 5 minutes of research, and you’ll be fine.
“It’s SO expensive”
While it took a little time to adjust to the exchange rate, it became fairly obvious that the cost of things were comparable to the states. However, the one place I saw a major difference was at a nightclub. It was “ladies’ night” which is HUGE in Dubai, and the bartender kept trying to push the promo cocktail to my friend and me. We continued to decline the free drink and insisted on buying the drinks we actually enjoy. The check for our two drinks was equal to $70! I’ve been to cities that pour $20 drinks, even $25 for something REALLY special, but $35 for regular schmegular drinks?? Let’s just say we left that place immediately.
“It’s the Middle East, they do not respect women”
I will add a disclaimer that because it was a work trip, I did not experience ALL of the Dubai culture. Aside from cab drivers, every male I encountered treated me quite well. They held doors, smiled, said hello, even offered their seats. Even the UAE citizens that my friend and I came across were polite enough. Respect can come in different forms and is subjective. If a culture has certain customs for women, I’m not sure I can call it a lack of respect. As a westerner, I have to accept that they simply do some things differently.