Friday, December 19, 2014

You Say Hello, And I Say Dubai...

After spending 4 days in Dubai, I can say one thing for sure, Dubai is a really strange place.  It's not strange in the regular ways things are strange, it's not creepy strange like Las Vegas, or it's not scary strange like Halloween.  Dubai on the surface is a very nice place, in fact it's one of the cleanest most beautiful cities I've ever seen in my entire life.  The thing that makes it strange is all about cultural geography, or lack there of.  Dubai is the kind of city that really has no culture of it's own to speak of.  Traditionally it's simply a small village in the middle of the desert, but with the amount of money that's been thrown into building massive buildings and malls, it could also be almost any place in the world as well.  A good way to understand how this city is different is to look at the snacks, food and candy of Dubai.

The one thing that strikes you about Dubai when you're shopping for food or eating at a restaurant is the huge selection.  The selection of foods in Dubai aren't unfamiliar to most westerners either.  Restaurants such as The Cheesecake Factory, Tony Romas, and Olive Garden can be found just about anywhere.  Even Canadian chains like Tim Horton's and Eggspectations can be found in Dubai.  If you're traveling from just about any corner of the globe, you'll find a bit of home in this city.  This also extends to candy as well, at the grocery stores I visited I found plenty of Hershey's, Cadbury, and Nestle chocolate.  I also found just about every brand of gummy and hard candy. I felt like a kid in a candy store, literally.  There was one thing however that I really had to hunt for, local foods.

 If you want to taste a bit of the true UAE culture, Dubai may not be the best place to visit.  The foreign chains have all but eliminated the local cuisine from the tourist path. There are a few restaurants that seem local in the old section of town, but its hard to tell.  The main parts of the city, the malls and giant buildings, have no restaurants that clearly show off UAE cuisine.  The only time I can say that I was pretty sure I ate something close to traditional food is when I took a desert safari.  At this safari we ate food that seemed pretty close to what you would expect for this part of the world.  Things like eggplant dips, cooked meats, curries, and flat breads.  I'm not convinced that this food was 100% authentic, since it's geared towards tourists, but the theme seemed fairly close.

The only other oddity about the food is the strict rules regarding food.  For the most part gum is not encouraged, or completely banned from indoor facilities.  You can't ride a subway or walk through a mall blowing bubbles. Food and drinking is also banned on their public transportation system as well.  While these rules may seems harsh, the results can't be argued.  The city is one of the cleanest I've ever seen.
The other strange rule regarding food, for westerners at least, is the lack of bacon.  This is a Muslim country and according to the Muslim religion pork is a no-no. They do compensate with beef and turkey bacon (I didn't see any chicken bacon, strange no?), as well as other beef replacements.  The good thing is the quality of the beef and other meats is fantastic (although it's expensive) so you don't really find yourself missing too much. And if you're really craving some pork, some grocery stores to sell it. 
Dubai is really a great city, it has just about anything you might want to eat, except maybe something local.  While I did miss the local food, I was very well distracted with all of the huge selection of North American and western restaurants and foods.  Candy wise I found a few interesting things that I probably can't get in many other cities, like camel milk chocolate and awesome chocolate covered dates, but I really had to search for them. I did however find some classic bars that I haven't had in a while, so I left a happy boy.


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