Watching movies in the UAE: What’s it like?

Dubai cinema

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote a “What’s it like?” post to give you readers who are not living in the UAE a glimpse of our life here. This time, I’d like to let you take a peek of what it’s like to watch a movie or go to a movie house in the UAE (Dubai, specifically, where I live).

First, Hollywood movies are up to date. Unlike in Japan where we previously lived, we have to wait for months (minimum 2!) after a Hollywood premier to be able to catch a movie in a cinema there because of the translation stuff, here in Dubai,  it’s almost simultaneous premier and showing as in the US. The cinemas are very modern and plenty too – some have VIP perks like premium chairs that recline and butlers to serve your every wish and whim. The average cost of a normal movie ticket for one person is AED 35 (approx US$10).

I’m quite happy with the cinemas, the show timings, the ticket price. My major issue of movies shown here is the censorship.

A few nights ago, one of my all time favorite movies, “My Bestfriend’s Wedding” was on tv. I do not normally watch TV at night but when I saw this, I had to sit down even if I have memorized each scene and dialogue – the jello and creme brulee scene, yep, even my daughter has memorized that by heart!

Anyway, the movie is pretty clean scene wise but the words “gay” and “f*ck” were bleeped out. Ok, I can handle that. Then cue what must be the most important part of the movie – where Jules professes her love for her guy best friend Michael on the day of his wedding in an attempt to win him again and choose her (don’t roll your eyes until you’ve watched it!).

*Spoiler after this but this movie is old, like more than 10-years-ago old. Like, which-cave-did-you-hide-from-that-you-haven’t-watched-this-movie old so I will go ahead and spill the scene *

Jules then kisses Michael then his bride to be, Kimmy sees it. In typical girly shock, Kimmy runs and Michael runs after her.

That was the original/uncut scene.

But what happens when you watch it here in the UAE? Jules says I love you, choose me, blah blah blah…and…cut to the scene when Kimmy runs.You can watch the video capture of that scene here.

I swear to God, if it’s your first time seeing this movie, you would need a fork to scratch your head as to what happened that made Kimmy run. Ok, the two co-ed best friends were standing in a Gazebo, staring close at each other but is that a valid reason to ran like a mad woman?

The cut version just doesn’t make sense. Thank God, I have watched the original version (like 100x).

So that’s the rundown of Hollywood movie in Dubai tv. Now on to the movies at the cinema.

Yesterday, I made an important life decision to watch the new Nicholas Sparks movie “The Best of Me” which was showing at the cinemas here. I’ve never been a fan of Sparks (and actually HATE The Notebook and his other book-movie movies – stop throwing stones!) but a friend of mine insisted that I watch it.

And I did. Because sometimes, you love your friend too much, that love overshadows your hate for sappy Sparks movies. 

Before that, I’ve watched a few versions of the trailer of the new Sparks movie and told myself, hmmm, cozy. I’ll watch it for a change.

I went inside the cinema expecting to cry. I did for some parts of it but that cozy, romantic, warm, fuzzy feelings escaped me when I had to bear heavy scene butchering. Minor kissing scenes, including the young sweetheart’s first kiss(!), the love scenes (ok you can cut that) BUT really? ALL the kissing scenes were cut, no matter if it was a peck or a kiss that lasts 5 seconds.

And I heard a baby cry inside the cinema.

So what is the point of assigning a movie rating (PG, R13, R18) if the scenes are still heavily butchered? So parents can bring babies to the movie house?

Also I find it hard to digest that all kissing scenes were cut but VIOLENT scenes were shown completely, in all its bloody gory, even if it obviously overkill. (Yes, there’s violence in this piece of Nicholas Sparks weeper.)

But I get it. I have to be thankful that we, most especially women have the liberty to go to the movies anytime we want even unaccompanied. It’s perfectly safe to do so. Some countries in the Middle East don’t offer that simple privilege. 

But while I get it, I will spare myself from watching movies of romantic genre in cinemas here from now on. It’s pointless. It is a waste of time and money and nachos calories. Too much censorship and the movie actually loses the very essence of the story. Those small pecks and kisses and raw emotions do matter, they are part of the flow of the story, after all. I will wait for the DVD.


I don’t know if it’s just me that’s thinking about this but wouldn’t it be great to have a separate showing for censored and uncensored movies? Like those who don’t like to see pecks and kisses and love scenes for whatever reason can see it in a different theater room and then there’s another room for the uncut and original version, proceed at your own risk type of stuff? C’mon, tell me you thought this would’ve been awesome too!

Grocery shopping in Dubai: What’s it Like?

When you go grocery shopping in Dubai, prepare to get dirty. Not the ‘dirty’ that you think…it’s literal. You get your hands dirty and sometimes stinky. At least compared to where we previously lived (Japan), grocery shopping in Dubai is a whole new experience.

In Japan…(I hope you don’t hate every time I start my sentences with “in Japan…”) most if not all fruits and vegetables are properly washed and packed. In fact, it’s so proper that it reflects in the price.  Here in Dubai, while there are pre-packed fruits and veggies, most are not – they are stacked and grocers pick how much they like and have the goods weighted and priced.

Onions, sweet potatoes and other yams can get your hands look black and the vegetables grown here are as expected, sandy.

Nevertheless the fruits and vegetables here are aplenty despite the region where we belong. They come from all corners of the world and still come cheaper than in Japan. Grocery stores that give most bang in the buck with food shopping are Lulu’s Hypermarket and Union Cooperative.

When I went to shop last Friday, I saw something interesting…

With the number of British expats living and visiting Dubai and with the British queen celebrating 60 years in the monarchy, there are several events here to commemorate the event. At the grocery store where we frequent, they have a dedicated section for British products from vegetables to frozen food.

This is not a comprehensive post about grocery shopping in Dubai and sorry I couldn’t write more than I like to. Have to rush to get the cranky bebe!

Jaywalking and Foot bridges in Dubai: What’s it Like?

no jaywalking

Lately there had been so many people caught and penalized for crossing in non-designated areas all over Dubai. Police officers, sometimes in plain clothes, sometimes in hiding catch pedestrians and confiscate their ID (mostly Labor Card) to be later redeemed at the police station for a fine of 200 dhs (US$55).

This catch and fine stuff would be reasonable if only there are ample pedestrian lanes in the roads here. If the road structure had been more pedestrian friendly! Sometimes one has to walk for at least a kilometer to be able to cross the street properly!

There’s a road near to where I live where people getting off the bus had to walk far to cross the street that no one bothers. Who will bother walking all the way to the next traffic signal (where the pedestrian lane is) during the hideously hot summer months?

Pedestrians cross the very busy street like they’ve got death wishes written all over them on a daily basis. I always end up standing on the other side of the street for so long until I know it’s clear to cross. Thankfully, an overpass (foot bridge) was built.

foot bridge

foot bridge

Never mind that we have to tackle these flight of stairs:

foot bridge stairs foot bridge stairs

The elevators had been installed but for some crazy reason, it is not operating at all. But no further complaints. This is better than the worst that can happen on Dubai roads!

Finding a home in Dubai: What’s it Like?

to let

Photo for illustration purposes only.

Finding a place to live in Dubai can be a bit stressful – and I’m not just talking about the price. Would be residents have a choice to live in a single detached house, commonly known as a ‘villa’, a flat in an apartment building, hotel apartment or in a room inside a flat or villa to be shared with other tenants*.

Villas, depending on size and location are the most expensive option. Another option would be a  flat in an apartment building which depending on location and room area, rents vary greatly. Be sure to check as you may be surprised it’s more expensive than renting a property back home. Dubai’s property market has gone down with property rent prices slashed to as much as 30% from last year. Too bad for the greedy landlords but good news for us residents. Our apartment is up for renewal next month and we got a notice that the rent is 20% less than what my company paid for last year.

If you drive around Dubai, the “To Let” signs are plentiful, mostly because most of the buildings built during the great construction rush has been completed. Residents are suddenly having many choices on their hands, which is good. Everything has gone down or as my husband says it, “things are slowly turning to normal, Dubai is becoming more realistic.” I still wait for the time the rents will come down more since the properties are still overpriced against factors like building quality, maintenance, apartment size and location.

It’s just ridiculous that the rents here are more expensive than in Tokyo.

Things to check when looking to rent a place (applies mostly to looking for a flat in an apartment building):

  1. Rent – all of the landlords/real estate agents ask for the whole amount to be paid in post-dated cheques. Open a current account at any bank to have a cheque book. For expats negotiating their job benefits, it would be great if you could include it in your salary package so you’ll be safe from future price increases. Times have changed though with more and more companies offering to give home rental allowance monthly than paying for the entire year of rent for one employee.
  2. Security deposit and agent commission – a 5% security deposit, refundable when you leave your flat and a non-refundable 5% agent commission is to be paid upfront when you sign your tenancy contract.
  3. Building age – the irony here is, if the building is new, as in it’s just been completed last month, be careful. There could be leaks here and there and few other surprises. If a building is already at least, say, 3 years old, chances are those little adjustments have been made to make your life easier.
  4. Maintenance – ask the other tenants around how’s the building’s maintenance. They can be good reference for feedback.
  5. Direction of your room – this is a personal preference. We would like our flat to be facing east or north-east and never west. One reason is that, I love to take photos of the sunrise and the other reason is that we don’t like our room to look like it’s 5pm when in fact it’s still 8am.
  6. Balcony – where you can hang your clothes.
  7. Building facilities – some buildings include a public pool and gym.
  8. Mosque – they are loud, 5 times per day. If you are a light sleeper, you might want to check on the location of the nearest mosque to your possible apartment since the first call of prayer is around 5:30 am.

* Dubai Municipality has imposed a stricter policy again sharing flats and villas. Many have been given notices to vacate, especially in overcrowded places – like a flat is intended for a family of 4 with 10-15 people living in it. I can’t really blame the people sharing accommodation with other people. The rents are insane expensive and overly unbalanced compared to what some people earn.

Weekend in Dubai: What’s it Like?


Weekend in Dubai or the UAE as a whole is different and as a new expat, that must be one of the many things you need to adjust. Fridays are holy days in the Islamic world so all offices are closed. There’s no work or school on Friday.

The UAE weekend has different patterns, depending on the company you work for.

  • Friday-Saturday – the most common weekend, it is also the weekend for all schools
  • Thursday afternoon-Friday – stingy companies implement this
  • Friday only – just plain abuse

Our weekend schedule is globally unsynchronized. On Fridays when people from other countries are still working, making transactions and sealing deals, we are either at home, at the church, at the beach or at the malls. And when people living outside the UAE are enoying the Sunday sun, having picnic and barbeques outside, we are working.

Crazy stuff.

At first, it was hard for me to adjust to working on Saturdays and Sundays. I felt it was just not right! But then, what can an employee do but follow. The popular expression among expats here ring in my head, “If you don’t like it then leave.”

Christmas in Dubai: What’s it Like?

Living in Dubai Christmas

Dubai, being a city located in the Middle East, Arab region, prevalently Islamic environment…one would think Christmas won’t have a place in its book. Wrong. I bet first time visitors and expats who come during Christmas time has that little fear of losing the Christmas feeling just because they have landed in an Islamic country. I had the same worry three years ago.

Living in Dubai Christmas

Every year, Dubai makes all the needed preparations and decorations to welcome Christmas and make the atmosphere Christmas-sy to foreign residents who celebrate it. There are Christmas trees in most (if not all!) malls and hotels. The photo above was taken inside Radisson SAS Hotel in Deira. The streets are lit up. There are lots of Christmas events like annual Christmas tree lighting or meeting with Santa which is always a hit for the kids.

December is a very comfortable month, weather wise here in Dubai so with the festive events and decorations around, it’s a great opportunity to roam around the city to see the lights in our light jackets. Needless to say, Dubai is kind and generous to all faiths where locals (UAE residents) and other non-Christian friends nonchalantly greet us Christians “Merry Christmas!” instead of the ‘politically correct’, “Happy Holidays”. I love that.

When compared to Japan, Dubai has a much better edge to giving that Christmas feeling. The Catholic/Christian churches even hold a Christmas masses to celebrate.

The only downside? December 25 is a normal working day (we can always take a leave if we like), just like in Japan. Thankfully, December 25 falls on a Friday* this year so I’ll probably be staying home, watching Polar Express or opening the gifts with my daughter.

* Fridays are our normal day-off every week.

The Postal System in the UAE: What’s it Like?

mail box

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Dubai may be having the tallest structure on Earth or the biggest man-made island, etc but believe it or not, we’re still in the dark ages with regards to postal service. Translated: there’s no sexy postman with a big, brown leather bag ringing  our bell.

I don’t know any country who still uses the post office box. Even in the Philippines, our mails are conveniently delivered to our doorstep. Unsexy mailman, however but that’s not the point. It’s been three years since we’ve relocated here and nothing has changed with the UAE’s postal system. Most of the expatriates here either rent a post office box for their personal emails or have it go through their company’s post office box. Usually there are ‘office boys’ who go to the main post office to collect the company mails and distribute them to employees.

I admit, we still don’t have our own post office box for private use and all of my mails go to my husband’s address (i.e., hi s office’s post office box). I have stopped addressing my mails to my company because they seem to get lost every time. It’s either because of the volume of the mails the company gets or the office boy hates me. Anyway, there’s not much inconvenience in our part, except that, if the packages are big and won’t fit in a standard post office box, we have to collect the package at the main post office in Karama.

Karama Post Office is about a 20 minute drive from my office on a mild-traffic day. It gets pretty difficult when I’m busy at work.

I admit, we have postponed owning our own post office box because when we arrived here in 2007, I was optimistic that Emirates Post will deliver our mails in our doorstep, soon. Fast forward three years, nada, still the PO Box style.

If you’re living in Dubai and want to rent or know the rental charges, it’s found on the Emirates Post website as follows:

For Individuals
During the first 4 months of the year, rent is Dhs 200 + Dhs 10 for every key
During the second 4 months of the year, rent is Dhs 150 + Dhs 10 for every key
During the last 4 months of the year, rent is Dhs 100 + Dhs 10 for every key

I need to go out to get a parcel (small box) from Karama post office which would mean I need permission from my boss to go out or go later after work and face heavy traffic. I might not even catch Pristine still awake when I go home after that.

I wish we’d all come out from this dark era. I need my mails delivered directly to me and I would thank the government for this little privilege.

Drinking in Dubai: What’s it Like?

Don’t scream now but I have not had alcohol for more than six months already. For non-drinkers, I’d get a duh! in the face but for my friends and former office colleagues in Japan, I’ll get a high-pitched unbelievable!

Wait! I was not heading to rehab prior to our move to Dubai. Got to get that straight and clear, ahem.

Drinking in Japan does not carry the stigma with which it is saddled in other countries like America. In fact, it is viewed as a trust-building endeavor that helps cement relationships. The Japanese even has a name for this form of communication through drinking: “nominike-shon”. It implies an opportunity to speak candidly and to let off steam, and even provides an acceptable excuse for what otherwise might be deemed inappropriate behavior. Let’s put it this way, you can smother your boss saying his management sucks and get away with it on Monday, he could not blame you…you were under the influence.

Back to my real point. Drinking in the UAE which is a muslim country is not allowed. Technically. When drinking a pint of beer could land you in prison in some parts of the Middle East, alcohol is tolerated in Dubai, with non-Muslims allowed to imbibe alcohol in city’s bars, restaurants, clubs and hotels.

Beer and other spirits are not available in supermarkets but they can be bought for personal consumption only in special stores like A&E and MMI and would require a liquor license. No liquor license, no booze.

Although we are of legal age no matter how young we look hee hee, M and I don’t have liquor license. Six months of not having a single drop of alcohol and we are perfectly ok. Did we miss alcohol at all? Hard question…but my answer would be NO.

Now, I can’t even think of any relevance why it has to be served on parties and make a scene like this. Can you?