Back in 2010, Houston-born schoolteacher Lynda Martinez traded the Gulf of Mexico for the Persian Gulf—with two sons in tow—when her husband was offered a job in Dubai. Though her “heart is still in Texas,” Lynda has grown fond of her current home base and shares the love on her blog, Longhorns and Camels.
What does Lynda like best about living in one of the most diverse cities on Earth? Being able to “build friendships with people from all over the world, sample cuisine from far-flung places, and learn about a variety of customs.” Here’s a look at Dubai through Lynda’s unique lens.
Dubai Is My City
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is the souks. It can be easy to get wrapped up in Dubai’s glitz and glamor, but few things beat the colorful markets and bustling creek where it all began.
October through April is the best time to visit my city because May through September is uncomfortably hot.
You can see my city best from the observation deck of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. The view gives a dramatic perspective of how the city sprang up in the middle of the desert. Tip: Be sure to buy tickets online (and in advance) to save money on admission.
Locals know to skip the fancy chain restaurants and check out local, casual eateries instead. For example, try Bu Qtair, a little fishing shack on the beach. Savor freshly caught fish while enjoying an unbeatable view of the iconic Burj al Arab Jumeirah hotel.
The spice souk in Deira and the Old Souk in Bur Dubai are the places to buy authentic, local souvenirs. Spices, pashminas, and gold jewelry are popular items to take home. Another option is the Antiques Museum. Located in a warehouse in an industrial part of the city (Al Quoz), a maze of endless rooms are filled with every imaginable souvenir from the region.
My city’s best museum is the Dubai Museum because it’s housed in the oldest existing building in Dubai and gives visitors a fascinating peek into the city’s history.
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that Dubai is full of crazy drivers. The Dubai metro is expanding, but for many, driving is still the easiest way to get around. Be prepared for tailgating, speeding, and reckless behavior on the roads.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Safa Park. Enjoy a barbecue, play soccer, or go for a stroll in this vast urban park.
My city really knows how to celebrate National Day because there is a great sense of pride and patriotism among locals and expatriates alike. People go to the parade downtown or decorate their cars and drive around honking and waving flags.
You can tell someone is from my city if they remember when Dubai was just a small, sleepy town.
For a fancy night out, I enjoy going to the Palace Hotel, where you can watch the beautiful dancing fountains and admire the twinkling lights of the Burj Khalifa. Take in the view while eating a fantastic meal at Thiptara or Asado.
Just outside my city, you can enjoy mesmerizing desert sunsets and enjoy a lovely Arabic meal under the stars at the beautiful Bab al Shams resort.
My city is known for being modern and flashy, but it’s really proud of its heritage and humble beginnings, too.
The best outdoor market in my city is the Ripe Food and Craft Market at Zabeel Park.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Time Out Dubai, a weekly magazine you can find online and in grocery stores across the city.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I head to the Dubai Marina, buy a coffee at an outdoor café, and people watch.
To escape the crowds, I take an early morning walk at one of the beautiful beaches.
The dish that represents my city best is machboos (known as kabsa in other countries) and mint lemonade is my city’s signature drink. Sample them at Al Tawasol Restaurant and the Arabian Tea House, respectively.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Seeing a camel run alongside cars on a busy motorway could only happen in my city.
In the spring you should go to the Souk Madinat Jumeirah, an atmospheric indoor souk.
In the fall you should visit the vast, breathtaking desert either through an organized desert safari or by driving your own 4×4. If you opt for the latter, make sure to go with at least one other car.
In the winter you should go to a camel race—a truly unique experience.
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Wild Wadi Waterpark.
The best book about my city is City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism by Jim Krane because it’s a fascinating account of how Dubai has grown from a quiet fishing village to a modern city attracting millions of tourists in just 60 years.