The Mall of Emirates and the Dubai Mall are just two standout names, but each mall has something that makes it unique and worth a visit.
Before I got married, I expressed to my friends the desire to devour a ginormous steak with a peated single malt. The closest destination that could serve this was the city of Dubai and that is how this plan was developed. But then I got more than just a juicy cut. Here’s why, for Asians, Dubai can be the answer to anything.
Yes, for the most part Dubai has been considered a giant shopping destination, but it is changing fast. From India, shopping there is expensive, for one.
You better pick up stuff somewhere else. But the reason you would do your designer shopping here is because (a) everyone is walking around dressed like a fashion celebrity and (b) everything is available under one roof, a giant building that stretches out like the sky and has more stores than most other countries. The Mall of Emirates and the Dubai Mall are just two standout names, but each mall has something that makes it unique and worth a visit.
The new Dubai is great for shopping, but it offers much more, for example fine dining. Restaurants like Gaia, Coya, Netsu, and Tresind set the bar for expectations in general, serving up cuisines and culinary delights that could easily surpass anywhere else in the world. Of course, there is always great Arabic cuisine all around, but that doesn’t take away from the international flavor the city is now marinated in.
This international flavor then extends to other aspects as well. I wish other countries (especially ours) could pick up in Dubai the delicate art of balancing the two sides of time – the past and the future, the traditional with the contemporary; how to stay rooted in religion and local practices while embracing the modern, the futuristic and the international. Dubai perfectly shows how it is possible to move forward without losing sight of where you come from and this is very important not to lose your identity.
Back to the party, the idea of nightclubs may have dulled a bit in the wake of this pandemic, but Dubai has managed a nice pivot with spaces that serve exemplary gourmet cuisine that then doubles as cocktail lounges with an excellent selection of drinks. The music rises as the evening rises, the lights go out and the space takes on a whole new avatar. I think of Nammos, a beach restaurant where we did everything from mostly Mediterranean lunches to sunset-style parties, all in the space of a few hours. Another star of a venue was Cé La Vi, a bridge-top bar, 54 stories high in the air, giving you panoramic views of the city. We struggled to choose between the two moods: brunch by the infinity pool by day or cocktails with the jeweled city backdrop in the evening.
But all is not plastic and showy here. The Design District brings beautiful works of art and facilities to the city in turn. During my visit there, I also managed to cross paths with poets who were there for a recital in an art center. The recently opened museum sums up the history of the place and is quite insightful.
And yet, for me, all of those things I listed above are still far behind the two things that most attract me to this city. The first is cleanliness. Few Asian cities can boast such a high level of hygiene (Singapore is the only other) and for me nothing beats cleanliness. The second is their high level of operating efficiency.
When you don’t waste time haggling with hobbyists, non-professional service providers, or corrupt officials, a lot of work can be done. The latter is perhaps the most important factor in helping any place to progress.
In the meantime, if you have serious itchy feet, I suggest a quick getaway to Dubai. But, as a security latch, don’t carry all of your credit cards around the mall!
The writer is a sommelier
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