My ‘love affair’ with Dubai started around 1994. I attended a travel exhibition for various countries, held at the Kyalami racetrack outside of Johannesburg (South Africa). The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing was there to promote Dubai as a place to visit. I remember just how impressive it all seemed, from the glistening buildings springing up alongside Sheikh Zayed Road (the main road through Dubai) to the wonderfully manicured golf courses shown in the numerous brochures on offer. It is not often that one can recall specifically thinking that ‘today was a life changing event’. But I remember thinking that exact thing when I left the exhibition. From that day I have been fascinated by Dubai and all that it has to offer.
In early 1996 I had the opportunity to plan a trip to Dubai for the first time – my first overseas experience. The Internet was just taking off as a means of travel planning, but I managed to make my hotel bookings, day tour plans and evening excursions over the Internet. I even arranged a job interview with the Coopers & Lybrand office at the World Trade Centre in Dubai. I booked my hotel accommodation online – a Golden Sands self-serviced apartment in what is now a relatively old part of Dubai, and hardly recognizable from 1996 when I stayed there. My day trips, generally undertaken with Arabian Adventures, included a tour to the East Coast of the UAE, a visit to Sharjan and Ajman, the popular ‘Rides & Slides’ tour (consisting of camel riding and dune surfing – that was a highlight), a visit to the capital city of Abu Dhabi, a safari to the Hajar mountains, and a desert and mountain safari.
I also rented a car while on my vacation. This was the first time that I had driven a left-hand drive car, and that proved an interesting challenge. I headed off one day with no particular destination in mind. I first found myself at the camel racing track, which has now been abandoned in favor of a nice new one close to the Dubai Outlet Mall. I then found myself all the way down in Hatta, and eventually stopped at the border of Oman, before returning to Dubai in the early evening.
My first trip to Dubai happened to coincide with the first ever Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). Also, as luck would have it, it coincided with the 1996 Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament, a tournament held annually as part of the European Tour, which I was fortunate to attend. I was at the 18th hole when the winner, Colin Montgomerie, played what was subsequently voted the European Tour shot of the year, a fairway wood to the green. So my two week trip to Dubai cemented my initial perception – what a fascinating place to visit, a cultural melting pot of different nationalities, and great weather.
Upon returning to South Africa, and not having been offered the position with Coopers & Lybrand in Dubai, I saw an advert that Ernst & Young was looking for audit staff in the Middle East. Having recently finished my training contract, I applied for the role, expecting to be posted to Dubai. However, having gone through the interview process in South Africa I was offered a position with Ernst & Young in Bahrain. I had never even heard of Bahrain, let alone knowing what to expect. However, since the Middle East is where I wanted to work, I accepted the position and moved to Bahrain in September 1996, just eight months after I qualified as a South African Chartered Accountant. After having lived in Bahrain for four years, I joined Ernst & Young in San Francisco for 15 months, before moving back to the Middle East. I joined Riyad Bank in Saudi Arabia in March 2002, where I was until I moved to Dubai in July 2006. The reason that I moved to Dubai was so that I could purchase property. I was fortunate, with much advanced planning from Riyadh, to obtain a mortgage and purchase my villa within five weeks of having moved to Dubai. And the rest, as they say, is history.
B – – – THE PRESENT (current as of January 2012)
1 – – – So what makes Dubai such a fantastic place to live?
Dubai, much like places such as Monte Carlo, Singapore and perhaps Las Vegas, has a great perception. People just want to visit Dubai because of what they have heard about the city. One website I read said, “Nobody ever came to Dubai in search of understatement”. And when they arrive they are not disappointed. One of the reasons that I left San Francisco was the weather – it was just way too cold for my liking. In Dubai you are guaranteed sunshine 365 days of the year. If it rains for three days of the year, that’s a lot. As much as I enjoy the rain occasionally I do not like cold weather. Even in winter you seldom need a jersey. In the evenings, nothing more than a light pullover is required. And as for summer – my friends think I am crazy but for me summer is the best time of the year. Temperatures regularly surpass 50 degrees Celsius during the day in the height of summer – just perfect weather for me.
2 – – – But what is there to do in Dubai?
I – – – The Biggest, The Best!!
Dubai has the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa. Dubai has the world’s only 7-star hotel – the Burj Al-Arab. Dubai has the biggest mall in the World – The Dubai Mall. How about Ferrari World (in Abu Dhabi, just down the road from Dubai), the biggest indoor theme park in the world?
II – – – Other activities to keep you entertained
Dubai offers indoor skiing at Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates. How about a dinner cruise onboard a dhow on the Dubai Creek? Perhaps a visit to the Atlantis Hotel, built on the Palm Jumeirah, reclaimed just a few years ago from the ocean? Perhaps shopping is your pleasure – a visit to Dubai is not complete without a visit to the world-class malls that we have here. Or how about a trip to the Dubai gold souk? Perhaps about a desert safari with dune bashing, followed by dinner in the Arabian desert? How about the Big Bus Tour of Dubai? How about a flight over this amazing city to really get a feel for what the city has to offer – consider Seawings. There are so many things to do in Dubai that a quick search of the Internet will yield many more suggestions.
III – – – What about sporting events in Dubai?
Golf – Dubai has some of the best golf courses in the world – please see my golf blog for details. Dubai plays host to two tournaments on the European Tour – the Dubai Desert Classic and the Dubai World Championship, the final event on the European Tour. In addition, the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship is held in Abu Dhabi in January each year. Even the European Tour Order of Merit is now known as the ‘Race to Dubai’.
Formula 1 Motor Racing – not quite Dubai, but Abu Dhabi (just down the road from Dubai) hosts the annual Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Horse Racing – Dubai is home to the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup.
Rugby – Dubai plays host to the annual Dubai Rugby 7’s, regularly voted the best social event on the Dubai sporting calendar each year.
Tennis – Dubai hosts the annual Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship.
IV – – – What do I like to do in Dubai? What else do I like about Dubai?
I like to get out into the desert, and do so as often as I can. I take part in a sport called geocaching. There are many caches hidden around the UAE and I have been fortunate to meet many friends through this activity. My favorite part of the UAE is the Hajar Mountains close to Hatta. I am also a member of the Jiggers Dubai golf society, and play once a month at a course around the UAE.
I am fortunate that my commute to work is relatively short, at just 25 minutes. I am based at the Dubai International Financial Centre, the Federal Financial Free Zone established by the Government of Dubai. Since the expanded Arabian Ranches roundabout was opened on 22 August 2008 my commute from Arabian Ranches has been substantially improved.
We are fortunate to be able to obtain many South African products in Dubai. Spinneys has a wide selection of South African products, such as ProNutro breakfast cereal, Black Cat peanut butter, Ina Paarman sauces and spices and even South African sweets and chocolates.
C – – – THE FUTURE
So how long do I plan to stay in Dubai? Fortunately, I am very happy in Dubai. Dubai is a GREAT place to live, is very secure and highly efficient. For what I like to do and for my preferred weather conditions, the lifestyle one is able to enjoy is second to none. I plan to live in the United Arab Emirates as long as I can, and possibly even retire in Dubai (if legislation will eventually allow me to do that).
D – – – PHOTO'S OF MY TIME IN DUBAI
I have uploaded to Facebook various albums that show my time in Dubai.
o Album 1 is here
o Album 2 is here
o Album 3 is here
o Album 4 is here
o Album 5 is here
E – – – CONCLUSION
Dubai has sometimes been referred to as the city that is made up of two types of people – the ‘have nots’ and the ‘have yachts’. The group into which I fall is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Dubai offers a very comfortable lifestyle to those who are willing to contribute to the success of this great city. Come to Dubai. You will not be disappointed.