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