Is Dubai really soulless

Is Dubai worth a trip?

How many times have I heard this question in the past few months. "Is it worth a trip to Dubai?" Is Dubai just a modern, soulless shopping world? Or is there more to discover there?

My straight answer to this question was, "I don't know." The most memorable images from the media of Dubai have so far been the glittering worlds in shopping temples, the ski hall and the tallest building in the world.

In order to take a look into this “strange” world for me, a short stopover is made on the way to Asia. The flight with Emirates is ideal for this, as the plane has to be changed in Dubai anyway. 48 hours is the time to explore the largest city in the United Arab Emirates. There was enough time for a quick look.


Dubai in 48 hours - too little time

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't necessarily want to rush from one attraction to the next. I also enjoy simply watching the scene from a café. To try local cuisine. Using public transport to get around.

And spend hours exploring the area on foot. So you also have an insight into everyday life on site and learn a little more about the country you are visiting and its people. Admittedly, at 48 hours this is almost impossible.

Dubai skyline - view from Deira

Not only because of the short period of time but also because of fundamental logistical problems. The city is huge. And Dubai is a car city. As a pedestrian, I quickly reach my limits, especially in the new parts of the city. Seven-lane roads can only be overcome with long detours. Seven lanes per direction. Makes 14 tracks - with a fence in the middle that destroys all thoughts of crossing.

Bad tickets for pedestrians

Thank goodness the metro in Dubai has been in operation since autumn 2009 and makes the sightseeing tour easier for the individual traveler without a car. Some of the sights can be reached by metro. But even here you should be able to walk easily. From the “Burj Khalifa” station to the tower, you have to walk almost a kilometer - partly on conveyor belts. Air-conditioned, enclosed bridges connect the cooled metro station directly with the well-tempered shopping center. You don't have to set foot in the natural surroundings.

During my visit in January this seems grotesque, there are now pleasant daytime temperatures of 25 degrees in Dubai. But soon the temperatures rise again to well over 40 degrees - and then the people here are happy about every cool place. Another minus point for pedestrians in the “free nature”.

Frosty Mall of the Emirates

A walk in “Ski Dubai” at -4 degrees offers maximum cooling. From the restaurant “St. Moritz ”(snow) hungry people in summer clothes look straight into the ski hall while they warm up, at least visually, by the electric fireplace.

Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates

In addition to shopping pleasure, leisure time entertainment is also offered in shopping centers. Or is it the other way around? In addition to the huge aquarium, it seems that the Burj Khalifa is one of the attractions of the “Dubai Mall”. The elevators to the tallest building in the world can be reached directly from the world's largest shopping center with its 1,200 stores. The imposing skyscraper is one of my personal highlights in Dubai. I like to see the surroundings from tall buildings. In another blog post you can read more about the Burj Khalifa and important tips for visiting the tallest building in the world.

At a height of 452 meters, I stick my nose into the desert wind through the narrow, unglazed viewing slits in order to see the XXL dimensions of the city - including an inhabited “palm island” and a new world made of sand. From up here you can also see the desalination plants and power plants in Jebel Ali, which basically make life in the hot desert region possible.

The island world “The World” in Dubai is already partly piled up off the coast

To the north, the view leads to the Deira district and the creek. This is where the new city of Dubai meets the grown districts with their economic centers, the souqs. Contrary to their modern replicas in the air-conditioned shopping centers, the streets here are filled with life. Fragrant spice stands alternate with gold and textile shops.

Textile seller in the souq in Deira

Many a company is not in Arab hands but presents itself to the public with a Chinese name. Many only sell to bulk buyers, which may spoil the shopping experience for some.

Life on the Creek

Since I'm not particularly enthusiastic about shopping anyway, that doesn't bother me much and I switch to the other side of the inlet on a small wooden boat, called an abra, for a dirham (approx. 20 euro cents). Two parallel wooden benches provide space for the passengers, in the middle the driver collects the money for the crossing and steers the boat.

The stroll through Bur Dubai and its souqs can already continue. At night the skyline is reflected between the boats in the water.

Night on Dubai Creek

“Shawarma”, which is similar to the Dürüm we know, is available on the street. Chicken or lamb is grilled on a skewer and then finely cut and stuffed in flatbread.

Unfortunately, the selection of local dishes is very limited during my stroll. But you can find many international restaurants in Dubai. In addition to the well-known fast food brands, Indian cuisine is also strongly represented with Marsala & Co.

It's easy to get to the old Bastakya district on foot. The sidewalks are slowly being folded up, the soles of the feet are burning and the clock is already showing shortly before 11 p.m. Life on the streets is dying down and I think to myself, “Shit! Simply too little time planned for Dubai ”.


Every city has its peculiarities and charisma and stands for a certain attitude towards life. For a long time I wondered what Dubai stands for? In the new part of the city, day tourists immediately notice the huge shopping malls combined with their leisure activities. Modern high-rise buildings with offices and apartments as far as the eye can see. A glittering world that sometimes seems fake and lifeless, which was only pounded out of the ground a few years ago.

Mall of the Emirates shopping center

I am personally surprised at the diversity of Dubai. And to be honest, I was impressed by the incredible size of this city. Much is XXXXL. Those who stay longer will find offers for almost every imaginable leisure activity. In the old part of Dubai, life takes place on the streets, especially in the souqs.

Many of the attractions in Dubai are replaceable and could just as easily be rebuilt in any other city. The combination of all the offers makes Dubai what it is today.

It might be worth comparing it to Las Vegas. Located in the middle of the desert, this city is best known for its casinos and entertainment on a large scale. Why shouldn't that also apply to Dubai with the combination of entertainment and shopping? The range on offer is much more diverse and (shopping) tourism is just one mainstay for Dubai.

I would visit Dubai again. Not the malls and not the modern coast - although I know many would love it. But I would like to see the old city again and spend some relaxing time there. Much went undiscovered this time. And the desert would also have its charm.

Have you ever been to Dubai? What were your impressions, what did you particularly like and what did you not?

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Category: United Arab Emirates