Dubai – Walking Around JBR and the Marina

Although Dubai is a prime tourist destination, I’ve done a couple of different projects there – hence me including it on this site.

I have transitioned through Dubai many times to other countries for work (in the Middle East), or pleasure (the UK).

I’ve not gone into detail here on the different attractions in Dubai, because there are many websites that already do that. These are just pictures and descriptions of what I came across as I wandered around.

For me, Dubai is a deceptively easy place to live. The reason I say ‘deceptive’ is because underneath the surface it is still a conservative Arab state, and it’s easy to forget that.

The availability of alcohol in hotels, and in restaurants that are part of hotels, the modern buildings, the modern infrastructure and the exceptionally high proportion of foreigners, easily lull a Western visitor into thinking they are in a cosmopolitan place that shares Western values.

Not so, as quite a few unfortunates have discovered.

An unmarried couple sharing a hotel room can find themselves looking at a spell in jail. Drinking alcohol on the beach, wearing swim-suits anywhere except on the beach and even walking barefooted in the streets just back from the beach can all get you into serious trouble.

Always dress conservatively in public, no mini-skirts or halter tops, and do not, as a male foreigner, attempt to address an Emirati woman or take her picture without permission. This is considered deeply disrespectful.

Basically, if you’re visiting Dubai, keep reminding yourself that you are a guest in a very conservative Arab state and act accordingly. Dubai jails are not nice, and the legal system does not work in the same way as it may do in Europe or America.

All that said, Dubai is a very modern place and everything works very well. Taxis, the Metro, telecoms, all work smoothly and reliably.

The standard of food in restaurants and hotels is excellent because, although much of the raw ingredients are imported, they don’t have to travel as far as they do when imported to Hong Kong, so the quality is a lot better.

Dubai never had much oil, and so the ruling family has focused on diversifying the economy, focusing on tourism, financial and IT related industries.

Today, only 20% of the population is Emirati – the other 80% are foreigners, there to work in one of those industries.

All construction projects are built by foreigners, all the taxis are driven by foreigners, all the F & B and hospitality outlets are staffed by foreigners, all the retail outlets are staffed by foreigners – as I said, Dubai appears to be very cosmopolitan because of all the foreigners.

I described my Dubai dune bashing trip in this article, so this time I’ll take a look at what you can see if you spend time wandering around the city.

These pictures were all taken in the Jumeirah Beach Resort area (better known as JBR).

I have stayed in a couple of different places there, and this is the view from my hotel room in the Amwaj Rotana:

View from my room at the Amwaj Rotana, JBR, Dubai

I was not as impressed with the Rotana as I was with the Sofitel, which is about a 5-minute walk away. There was a smaller choice of restaurants at the Rotana, and they were not as good. One of them allowed smoking (generally not allowed in public places in Dubai) and was definitely not appealing to me (I’m a non-smoker).

As spectacular as parts of Dubai are during the day, it looks a lot better at night (like most cities!).

Here’s the view from my room at the Sofitel at night:

View of the JBR beach front at night

And this is on the beach front itself, not far from the Sofitel:

Walking on Jumeriah Beach at night

The Dubai Marina is in the JBR area. This marina was literally dug out of the sand, effectively converting JBR into an island:

Map of Dubai Marina

Here’s what the Marina looks like during the day:

Dubai Marina

And another part of it:

Dubai Marina

I’ve said before that I like to explore new places on foot as much as I can, and this is an early scene I found further north from JBR, towards the CBD.

It was right next to a hotel (typically posh) where I’d had some lunch.

Dubai is constantly being built or re-built, and there is a lot of places that are just open scrub land, like this one, or building sites, right next to expensive, modern high-rise towers:

Scrub land in the middle of Dubai

I talked about the efficiency with which everything works in Dubai earlier. The Dubai Metro is completely driverless and there were 2 lines open when I was last there, with a third one due to open in 2020.

This is taken from the front of the train as we’re heading towards the CBD:

Burj Khalifa from the Dubai Metro

As impressive as the Burj Khalifa is (that tall thin one further back) it always made me feel uneasy. I don’t know why, but I have never liked it – it leaves me feeling a bit creeped out.

Also, see some more construction sites and waste land on the right of the railway tracks.

Here’s another picture of the Burj Khalifa. While I don’t like the building, there’s no question it’s quite an engineering feat:

Burj Khalifa Tower, Dubai, UAE

Wandering around the beach on a weekend you will likely come across some of these chaps:

Camels on Jumeriah Beach

I’m not fond of animals being tied up like this, waiting for someone to pay a few Dirham in order to be led around on the sand but, to be fair, I never saw anyone riding them.

Standing in the same spot and turning around, this is what you see:

Atlantis at the Palm and the light aircraft field, from Jumeriah Beach

In the distance you can see the Atlantis at the Palm. The Palm is a man-made complex of islands, in the shape of a palm leaf, that support residential areas and shops.

In the foreground is the runway for a small aero club, from which you can go sky diving. It was pretty busy at weekends with sky-diving flights taking off every hour.

I’m not a big fan of Malls, but they are something Dubai has a lot of! And they do Malls very well – one of them contains a ski slope.

I did take some mall pictures, though, so I’ll cover those in another post.

Have you been to Dubai? How did you like it..? Let us know in the comments!

Cheers,

Martin Malden

Martin Malden
The Expat Traveller

What do you think?

2 comments… add one
  • Matt Mar 5, 2020 @ 12:24

    Hi Martin,

    Dubai is so modern at the outside, but the inside is still very conservative based on your descriptions.

    I love the ruling family’s hard works to make Dubai more suitable for foreigners, especially for the amazing buildings around CBD and many on-going projects.

    Besides the modern marina and CBD, I would like to know more about what cultural activities tourists can do in Dubai since it’s the way I get to understand more about the country.

    Looking forward to your response on this,
    Matt

    • Martin Malden Mar 5, 2020 @ 13:12

      Hi Matt,

      That’s an interesting question!

      The first thing to realise is that only 20% of the population of Dubai is Emirati. The rest is made up of people from many different cultures, but particularly Pakistan, India and the Philippines.

      Of course, there is also a large Western community, most of whom are there on term contracts with one of the multi-nationals.

      As a result, you can find a few different cultures there, and centres where you can experience them.

      The focus on building up Dubai as a tourist destination has led to the development of modern attractions like the dancing fountains. These are classed as a cultural activity, and they dance to Arabic music, but they don’t really reflect Dubai’s history (which is as a trading port).

      Even the souks (markets) are largely modernised now, and haggling in those is a thing of the past!

      Probably the best place to get an understanding of Dubai’s history and culture is the Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding.

      Emiratis today, though, get their enjoyment doing things like sky diving (that I referred to above) and Dune Bashing – typically Western types of activities.

      And remember, in that Dune Bashing article I described the dinner at an Arab camp in the desert – that’s another way for a visitor to get a sense of Dubai’s history and traditions.

      At the end of the day, though, I actually found Dubai to be impressive, but soulless.

      Cheers,

      Martin.

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