Opinion

I Got That Christmas Deal: Lessons Learned From My Trip to the United Arab Emirates

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On Christmas morning I was awoken to a barrage of text messages. At first I thought they were the usual holiday greeting chain texts. So as I was about to delete them all, I realized it was a group message but this one was about a computer glitch with flights going to Abu Dhabi for under $200 and EVERYONE was buying a ticket. I’ve seen flight deals come across my screen so I almost skipped on this one as well especially being that I’ve been on that side of the world already. However, when I saw my Facebook timeline and Black Twitter was raving about it as well I learned real quick that this was the deal of a lifetime. So I called a couple of people and the only one who responded at 8 a.m. on Jesus’ celebrated birthday was my best friend. Due to our work schedules we booked our travel for Columbus Day weekend, almost a year after our purchase.

It took forever for the trip to come but it finally came!

1. DO try to get direct flights. I did have to travel from New Orleans to New York seperately, but then the 14-hour flight from New York City’s JFK Airport to Abu Dhabi International Airport wasn’t too bad. To me, direct is the best because you can go to sleep and wake up in another country and not have to worry with transferring in the middle of the journey.

2. DON’T exchange money in the hotels. I withdrew from the ATM at the airport and mostly used my card for purchases being charged the AED Dirham rate and have my bank convert the cost. I used an exchange rate website from Google the whole time I was there and whenever I bought an item or paid for my hotel room and whenever they wanted to charge my card in dollars it was a higher cost.

3. DO dress for both cities, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Abu Dhabi is more conservative and traditional and Dubai is definitely more modern and metropolitan. The girls in Dubai wore freakum dresses to the club and it was live like a Miami party. In Abu Dhabi, leave the poom poom shorts for your hotel poolside and wear preferably loose comfortable pants and long maxi dresses with a denim shirt to cover your arms or a pretty shawl you can purchase at the local market.

4. DON’T be surprised if you experience subtle racism. I heard this from other people too that live in Dubai. Saturday night, we went to a place called Club White (I should’ve got an idea from the name we weren’t welcomed). We were going to meet friends who did get inside but when we arrived we noticed a lot of Black people standing outside and groups of people of other nationalities walking right in. When we went to the door they told us we weren’t on the “guestlist” so in order to get in we would have to pay U.S. $1,000 to get a table. I never had to pay that much in the U.S.! Also, some other girls I spoke to outside said they couldn’t get in because some of their friends had on flat sandals and not dressed up enough to the club’s standards. We ended up going to another club called Crystal that was doing the same thing except we got a group of White girls in sneakers with shorts and tank tops to get us in as a female partner for their male friends because you could only enter in boy-girl pairings. Go figure.

5. DO turn up on Friday and Saturday, because that’s their weekend. My best friend and I left the States Thursday evening, but because of the 8-hour time difference and long flight, by the time we got there Friday it was the evening so we missed out on the weekly Saffron Brunch at the Atlantis. You know I love to do brunch so I was devastated I didn’t get to take advantage of it. I heard great reviews of it. We did coordinate with people from a Facebook group that planned a yacht party on Saturday and had a great time.

6. DON’T spend all your time in Dubai. Everyone likes the fast, flashy life of Dubai because it reminds us so much of the major cities in America, but that’s not what you’re abroad for! The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Ferrari World, Emirates Palace, Yas Island (Yassssss! It’s beautiful at sunset) and the safari tours in Abu Dhabi (Check Groupon when you are in country to get reduced price deals) are well worth your time in the capital city of the UAE to have fun and get cultured. We also took the city bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi for less than U.S. $10 so traveling between the cities was inexpensive.

I have friends that currently live in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, most of them teachers and some work for the U.S. government. They all enjoy living there. I met a guy from Brooklyn who’s there with his wife and kids and is a college professor and on his past time he’s a popular hip hop DJ! So if you are looking for a temporary relocation, maybe a vacation can turn into a living and working abroad opportunity!

Did you get that Christmas deal and go to Abu Dhabi/Dubai this year? Let us know how your trip was!

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