10 Things I miss about Dubai

This is a guest post by Didi Paterno-Magpali of D for Delicious blog (full bio at the end of this article).

I’ve been away from Dubai for almost two months now. Though there are things that I am glad to have left behind like the horrid desert summer for one, there are things that I do miss a lot. Let me count the ways…

Dubai grafitti

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#1 Accessibility of public transportation

Even when I lived in Metro Manila, I was a commuter by choice because it is definitely cheaper versus driving your own car, consider costs of car monthly amortization + gas + parking fees, and it also helps keep the environment cleaner, effectively generating less gas emission per person. And I was so glad that in Dubai, especially where I used to live, I could continue my commuting habit with the accessibility of public transportation like the Dubai metro, taxis and buses (the least used though).

Here in my current location in the United States (Greater Atlanta, Georgia), public transportation is just the shizz. No taxis I could hail down easily; plus they cost an arm and a leg. Imagine an extra passenger could cost you $12 more! And using the taxi trunk for luggage also has an extra cost! The MARTA train stations aren’t accessible as well, especially for those who live OTP / outside the perimeter. One would need to take a bus, which they said would take you at least an hour or two, to get there. Sheesh.

And to think that the nearest Dubai metro station was just a 3-minute way away from my former apartment building! Guess I got really lucky, commuter-wise, in Dubai.

#2 Real freshly squeezed juice

Having juice squeezed right before your eyes instead of the chalky, chemical tasting powdered version was a refreshing break when I was in Dubai. From the cafeteria round the corner to the restaurants and hotels, almost all food establishments served freshly squeezed fruit juices, which is actually quite strange for a desert country almost completely bereft of fresh local produce. But thank God for cheap gas that allows relatively affordable imports.

What juice do I miss the most? Definitely the lemon and mint.

#3 Dirt-cheap gasoline prices

Of course it will lead to this: unbelievably cheap gasoline prices, which are in fact, cheaper than bottled water (Note: tap water is not potable in Dubai). It always is cheaper from the source! If before a full tank of gas (for a 1.3L Daihatsu Sirion) would cost us, an average of 55 AED (15USD), now it costs us around 185 AED (50 USD) to fill up a car of the same capacity.

#4 Ladies only queues and train cars

The Middle East isn’t exactly the most ideal place for women with all the prejudices such as the latest stipulation on the Oman visit visa (http://www.arabianbusiness.com/female-uae-expats-face-new-visa-curbs-504388.html) BUT, but, but being a woman in the UAE also has its perks. I, in particular, enjoy the convenience of having for-ladies-only queues in the government offices and the for-ladies-only train car in the Dubai metro. This is especially when you have an abundance of males (Did you know that the UAE population is actually male skewed?) deprived of female interaction, whether it be by circumstance or “choice”.

#5 The round-the-corner shawarma, falafels, manakeesh, hummus and foul shops

Of course, the food lover that I am, I will not stop raving and missing the food. From across our old apartment, The Husband and I enjoyed a huge variety of cheap Middle Eastern treats from across our apartment building: the creamiest hummus of the UAE and tasty crispy, garlicky globules of falafel love from Foul W Hummus, my favorite cheese and zaatar manakeesh (where they use crispier and flatter saj bread instead of the usual fluffy Arabic flat breads) from Shoo Laziz and the uniquely UAE camel meat shawarma from Zaina. All available within reach until the wee hours by just crossing the street or, when lazy, picking up the phone and asking them to deliver to our doorstep.

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#6: Well-lit highways

well-lit highway Duba

The highways here in Great Atlanta are almost pitch dark. So it is scary to drive down the roads, especially when beside those gargantuan speeding Optimus Prime super trucks. So I kind of miss the comfort of having a well-lit highway ala Sheikh Zayed Road or Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road (formerly known as Emirates Road) where you can see and recognize almost everything on the road, even those on the roadsides.

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#7: Old Dubai

Ahhh Old Dubai: Satwa, Karama, Deira and Hor Al Anz. Though crowded and quite dirty, these neighborhoods will always have a special place in my heart and, more importantly, my tummy. The diversity of cuisines per square meter is a taste to behold for both residents and tourists. Thank God that I went on a Frying Pan Adventure tour before I left.

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#8: “Tax-free” living

How would I almost forget this bit? Why are most expats in Dubai in the first place? Of course, because living there is tax-free! Yes, “taxes” are masked in other forms like Salik / toll-gate fees, Emirates ID, etc. (The government still has to earn, right?) But, in the end, every single dirham (the UAE currency) goes into your pocket. Plus, prices of goods are as is. No need to compute for additional cost from taxes.

#9: Right-to-your-doorstep delivery

In Dubai, the neighborhood small groceries, cafeterias and restaurants deliver almost everything to your doorstep free of charge (sans tips if you are a stingy Asian like me). I often call my favorite cafeteria to deliver a cob of sweet corn and they do it, even if it cost them only 6 AED (barely 2 USD). I’ve even heard that they do deliver a cigarette stick, yes ONE cigarette stick, if you asked them to.

Addendum from Grace: I have seen them deliver one can of Coca Cola to my neighbor!

Sorry to say, that here in the US, we would have to get things ourselves, at least 95% of the time.

#10: True friends

In the short span of time that I was in Dubai (almost two years), I’ve met some of the most wonderful people ever in my life. I feel bad that I’ve left them, but feel more blessed that I have come across these people in my lifetime.

If you leave the UAE, what do you think you will miss the most? To all of you left in Dubai, greetings from the United States of Americaaaaaaaaaa!

Didi Paterno-Magpali is a modern day gypsy, always on the move. She left Manila, Philippines for Dubai to join her husband. And now they’ve moved to the US – from Georgia and now to Texas. She loooooves everything food related and enjoys writing about her expat adventures (and misadventures!) on her blog, D for Delicious. You can check out her random raves, rants and life updates on Facebook, Twitter or Google+


  1. if i ever leave dubai the thing i will miss the most is the cheap call rates to anywhere in the world….and of cause the traffic jams at bizzare hrs of the evening



  2. I can just relate to everything. I left Dubai a month ago and everyday I miss my life there. how I wish I can go back but our government is very strict in allowing Filipino citizens visit Dubai.



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