The warmth of a cosmopolitan city extends beyond the weather and almost always fills the hearts of those who live there. Dubai is the most liberal city in all of United Arab Emirates’ and the entire Gulf region. With more than 80 percent of the population being expatriates, and with a steady flow of European, American, Canadian and Australian immigrants each year, the city’s irresistible charm knows no bounds for all these people who call it their home.
Dubai – A potpourri of palates and pockets
Islam is the state religion and yet the city welcomes people from all religions and nationalities. The rich culture of the city is best reflected in the plethora of options available to satiate myriad tastebuds. And these come with prices to suit different pockets. Undoubtedly, the city spoils you for choice.
When I first moved here four years ago, I considered this assortment of cuisines a luxury (partly because I have spent a few years of my life in Brisbane which, at that time, had very very limited options for vegetarians). I still consider it a luxury even today when I think of the range of cuisines available in India at affordable rates. I often wonder how the Udupi restauratn around the corner from my home does good business in spite of two more joints in the neighbourhood. Even while taking a stroll through the downtown boulevard, I cannot help but notice how the outdoor tables are almost all taken – on a weeknight.
The average working class spends a lot of time outdoors, with the day starting much earlier here than in India. Most often than not, my husband finds parking only on the two top levels at 7:45 am. Meetings are scheduled over breakfast at 8:00 am at coffee shops within the office premises. I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that more meetings happen over meals, irrespective of the time of the day, than in meeting rooms. Evenings see a lot of the young professionals (single and/or childless) socialising over dinner and drinks in restaurants, sports bars and pubs.
Sheesha is an integral part of the local life here, with several fine-dining restaurants dedicating area for Sheesha lovers. The Emiratis prefer enjoying their meals and Sheesha in the company of same sex friends and/or relatives. Glamorous Arab women sport a Sheesha and a mocktail with the same elan as their male counterparts at late night outings.
The women are painting the town red
Dubai has a ladies club that, along with a few other places around town, regularly hosts events only for ladies. Thursday night spas, Friday brunches and high-tea on Saturdays – all for the charismatic and classy womenfolk of Dubai. Play-area for children have become quite popular with mothers, allowing them to enjoy their cup of coffee with their gal-pals while they drop off their children at the adjacent play area – all for a very paltry sum. And there are other play areas that offer salon and spa services for the mothers too. A place that understands the locals’ comfort levels and caters to them is more easily accepted.
Eating out during the Holy Month
During Ramadan, all the residents must obey the law which demands that during daylight hours when the Muslims observe their fast, one cannot be seen eating or drinking in public places or any commercial establishment. Offices provide a separate area for employees to have their water and meals. While most of the restaurants will be closed, small eateries in malls that would be open with a temporary enclosed area so that its patrons are not seen eating. Iftar (the breaking of the fast) and Suhoor (the last meal in the morning before commencing the fast) buffets hosted by the city’s top restaurants are as lavish as your imagination can stretch; and yet a small joint offering perhaps a local cuisine will also have an Iftaar and Suhoor special. During Ramadan, the hospitality industry works harder to lure customers and make their meal times special.
There’s something for everyone
Evidently, religion plays a vital role in the social interactions of the residents here. But in spite of that, Dubai offers flexibility to those belonging to another faith. Most importantly, it allows for the growth of other cuisines as the locals themselves love to eat out and experiment with food. Barring the few cultural adaptations that one must make, Dubai has a near-ideal social setting for the wandering soul.