Dubai is a blast, but it can blast a hole in your pocket

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

THE FLIGHT from Doha to Dubai lasts just 45 min­utes. I can’t help think­ing, as it lands, that it takes longer for many Capeto­ni­ans to travel to town in peak-hour traf­fic on the N2.

It’s no use even or­der­ing a cup of cof­fee – I have barely started sip­ping mine when the flight at­ten­dant asks if she can take my cup.

“I won’t be much longer,” I smile, only to be met with a glare in re­turn. I think she needs the cof­fee more than I do.

I am trav­el­ling to Dubai for my com­pany’s an­nual con­fer­ence, along with the rest of the team from the Qatar of­fice.

“What do you think about Dubai?” I ask Mah­moud, my Egyp­tian col­league dur­ing the taxi ride to the con­fer­ence.

It’s Mah­moud’s first time here. “Very dif­fer­ent to Doha.” He shakes his head. “Doha is like a vil­lage com­pared to this. Dubai seems huge. But it’s not for me.”

I ask why, and his re­sponse can­not be more suc­cinct: “Dubai is for busi­ness, Doha is for fam­ily. I am mar­ried and have a child – Doha is bet­ter for kids.”

That said, there are plenty of fam­i­lies in Dubai, many of them ex­pats, although the fi­nan­cial melt­down has changed the land­scape sig­nif­i­cantly.

But com­pared to Doha, there is no doubt the pace of life is quicker in Dubai. And while rent and school fees are fairly sim­i­lar, money seems to burn faster in the glit­ter and glam that make up the Emi­rate.

Dubai is big­ger and pro­vides more en­ter­tain­ment – for kids and adults. Shi­haam and I found that out to our cost – quite lit­er­ally – when we vis­ited in Fe­bru­ary. We paid 730 dirhams (about R1 608) for the two of us plus Aqeel and Saabi­rah to en­ter the Wild Wadi Water Theme Park.

And it cost 95 dirhams (about R209) for Aqeel to visit the Kidza­nia cen­tre at Dubai Mall, where chil­dren get to act out grown-up roles – from be­ing a sur­geon to a fire­fighter – in a bid to teach them real-life lessons.

Un­for­tu­nately it failed to teach them about stretch­ing a pay­cheque.

Aqeel en­joyed his Kidza­nia ex­pe­ri­ence so much he begged to go back a sec­ond time. And a third.

Come to think of it, Shi­haam and I didn’t get to ex­pe­ri­ence much of the adult en­ter­tain­ment.

So, while Dubai can be a blast, it can also blast a hole in your pocket.

“I went to the su­per­mar­ket last night to buy some things I for­got to pack in, and I had to pay one dirham for a trol­ley,” pipes up Mona, an­other of my col­leagues in the taxi.

“That’s ridicu­lous,” I ex­claim. “They’re off their trol­ley for mak­ing cus­tomers pay.”

You won’t get any of that in Doha – at least, not yet.

The Gulf state, an un­doubted pow­er­house in the re­gion whose econ­omy grew 19.4 per­cent last year, still boasts none of the flash and brash­ness of its noisy neigh­bour.

Ex­pats I speak to, who have lived in both Doha and Dubai, say Doha is at least 10 years be­hind in terms of de­vel­op­ment and in­fra­struc­ture.

But that will surely change, with its win­ning bid to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup likely to prove a cat­a­lyst.

Not that I hope it changes too much. Since mov­ing to Doha, Shi­haam and I have of­ten spo­ken about the dif­fer­ence with Dubai, and how our lives might have been dif­fer­ent if we had ac­cepted ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties there in­stead.

We’re happy in Doha, con­tent with the fam­ily-friendly life­style that lends it­self to (free) play­time in the park and glad to not be sub­jected to the hus­tle and bus­tle of Dubai – at least not ev­ery day.

You see, we can still visit for a hol­i­day, which al­lows me to bud­get for those trips to Wild Wadi and Kidza­nia.

Don’t for­get, while Doha and Dubai might be worlds apart in terms of looks and feel, they’re still only 45 min­utes apart by plane.

Twit­ter @rid­waan­bawa

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