Today we’re super excited to turn to a region of which we’ve never featured before here on TraveLinkSites, the Middle East! We’re sitting down with Dubai based travel writer and blogger Cate Brubaker to get the low-down on what life’s like here and what kind of travel adventures you can have. Over to Cate!
1. Hi Cate! Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in the United Arab Emirates?
Hi! I’m Cate Brubaker and I’m from Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawai’i. My website is called www.c8tastrophe.com. I started my blog a little over a year ago, mainly to keep friends and family up-to-date on my whereabouts. I started getting good feedback from strangers, so I decided to expand. I’ve been living and traveling in the United Arab Emirates for six months, and I’ve experienced everything from the world’s fastest roller coaster to knee surgery. It’s been quite an experience.
2. Why did you choose this country? What was it about it that called to you?
I’d have to say that the UAE chose me. My husband was offered a job in Abu Dhabi and after seven months of free time in South America, the steady paycheck was quite enticing, as was the opportunity to use the UAE as a base for more travel to other parts of the world. Also, I was quite intrigued with the idea of living in a Muslim country, and so much about the UAE is made up of extremes. The extreme heat, the extreme wealth, and the incongruously extreme search for pleasure in a part of the world not really known for “fun”. I haven’t been disappointed so far.
3. How much money can someone travel around UAE for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?
The UAE is very expensive. Everything from food, to lodging, to entertainment is pricey. Entertainment costs seem to be the most prohibitive, especially for the budget traveler. A day at Ferrari World or the Aquaventure waterpark at The Atlantis hotel will set you back nearly 75USD per person. A night out for drinks easily tops 100USD very quickly. On the other hand, a walk or bike ride on the Yas Marina Circuit Formula One track is absolutely free, as is the Al Ain Camel Market. It’s just a matter of knowing your budget and sticking to it. However, if you’re one of the lucky ones who has no budget, the UAE is absolute paradise. You can also find fairly inexpensive flights to the region with a search for holidays to Dubai at Expedia.
4. What is the local cuisine like? Do you like to try new things or do you find yourself pining for the familiars of home?
The UAE is certainly not all hummus and pita. However, since most food products have to be imported, especially fruits and vegetables, eating here can be very expensive. This is mostly true if you’re going to cook at home and it is often less expensive to dine out, and that is fine with me. Since there are so many foreign workers here, the dining choices are multi-cultural. Everything from humble shawarma stands to celebrity chef owned five star restaurants are on offer. Arabian food is not my favorite, but I’m determined to try the camel burger at some point. If it’s anything like the alpaca in Peru, I’m sure I’ll love it.
5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in UAE and why?
Depending on the time of the year, there are several choices of activity that reflect the culture of the Emirates.
Definitely plan to experience Iftar at the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Iftar is the daily breaking of the fast at sundown during Ramadan, and thousands of people gather on the grounds of the Mosque to partake of the meal and festivities. Just be sure that your dress follows the rules, especially for women. In March at the Meydan Race Course in Dubai is the running of the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race. The Emiratis have a long history with horses, and take great pride in them. Fancy dresses and hats are the rule, and prizes are awarded for the best dressed. Last year’s prize for the best dressed lady was a brand new Jaguar. In November is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit. Formula One racing, concerts, and mega-yachts in Yas Marina combine to create a surreal fantasy land that really sums up life in the UAE for me.
6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?
I just love how posh everything is. Sometimes it makes me feel strange that I can be as awe struck by a man-made island as I am by Machu Picchu, but the Palm Jumeirah can have that effect on people. The seven-star Emirates Palace Hotel also leaves me speechless. The opulence here really lends a dream-like quality to everything, and I love that. On the down side, the weather during the summer resembles nothing short of hell. The temperature regularly pushes 50 degrees, and the humidity bumps the heat index even higher. I now know what it feels like to be cooked.
7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about this country? Why do you choose these things?
I try to seek out more authentic Middle Eastern experiences, which is difficult here, as most of the focus is on appealing to travelers’ search for luxury. I have visited and blogged about authentic souks which sell carpets, spices and other treasures most associated with this part of the world. I’m attempting to shift toward some of the other tourist options that reflect the lavishness of this country, as I find that to be an integral part of this culture as well.
8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around UAE without?
Water, moisturizer and sunscreen, with a heavy emphasis on the water. Women should also consider carrying a sweater, as most of the malls ask that your shoulders and knees be covered.
9. What kind of response have you had to your blog posts about UAE? What post had the most interest?
The response has been sporadic, because, as I said earlier, my blog still flies well under the radar. However, my post about the Al Ain Camel Market generated quite a lot of traffic. It could be that I have some very cute camel pictures, as well. The post about the Blue Souk in Sharjah was also quite popular.
10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone told you before you started travelling around UAE what would it be?
I wish that I had known more about the decency laws in the UAE. I’m all for respecting local culture when I travel, but this goes way beyond taking your shoes off when necessary or knowing what not to do with your chopsticks. Conservative dress is one thing, but the possibility of being arrested for kissing my husband in public is quite another. I’ve become more and more knowledgeable about what could potentially send me to jail, but I feel badly for other people who don’t know, and suffer the consequences.
Bug thanks to Cate for being the first traveller to open our eyes to the wonders of the United Arab Emirates!
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