Between sips: Exploring Dubai

The Mall of Emirates and The Dubai Mall are just two standout names, but every mall has something that makes it unique and worth a visit.

Before i tie the knot, I expressed to my friends the desire to devour a ginormous steak with a peaty single malt. The nearest destination which could serve that up was the city of Dubai and that’s how this plan got made. But then, I got more than just some juicy prime cut out of it. Here’s why, for Asians, Dubai can be an answer to one-stop everything.

Yes, for most parts, Dubai has been considered a giant shopping destination but that is fast changing. Going from India, shopping there is expensive, for one.

You’d fare better picking up stuff elsewhere. But the reason you’d do your designer shopping here is because (a) everyone walks around bedecked like a fashion celeb and (b) it’s all available under one roof, a giant tenement that stretches like the sky and has more shops than most other countries. The Mall of Emirates and The Dubai Mall are just two standout names, but every mall has something that makes it unique and worth a visit.

The new Dubai is great for shopping but it offers a lot more—fine dining, for example. Eateries like Gaia, Coya, Netsu and Tresind up the ante on expectations in general, serving up cuisines and culinary delights that could easily outmatch anywhere else in the world. Of course, there’s always great Arabic cuisines all around but it doesn’t once take away from the international flavour that the city is now marinaded in.

This international flavour then extends to other aspects as well. I wish other countries (especially ours) could pick up from Dubai the delicate art of balancing the two sides of time—the past and the future, the traditional with the contemporary; how to remain rooted in religion and local practices and yet embrace the modern, the futuristic and the international. Dubai showcases perfectly how it is possible to move ahead without losing sight of where one comes from and this is very important in not losing a sense of identity.

Back to the partying, now the idea of nightclubs may have dulled a bit in the wake of this pandemic but Dubai has managed a nice pivot with spaces that serve up exemplary gastronomic fare that then also double up as lounge bars with an excellent drinks selection. The music rises as the evening ascends, the lights dim, and the space dons a whole new avatar. Nammos comes to mind, a beach restaurant where we did everything from quite Mediterranean luncheons to all-out sundowner-style partying, all in the span of a few hours. Another star of a place was Cé La Vi, a bar atop a bridge, 54 storeys up in the air, affording you a panoramic view of the city. We had a tough time choosing between the two vibes—infinity pool lounging brunch by day or cocktails with the bejewelled city backdrop by evening.

But all is not plastic and showy here. The design district brings some lovely art and installations to the city on a rotating basis. During my visit there, I also managed to intersect some poets who were there for a recital at an arts centre. The newly inaugurated museum encapsulates the history of the place and is quite insightful.

And yet, to me all these things that I have listed above still come a distant second to the two things which attract me most about this city. The first is the cleanliness. Few Asian cities can boast of such levels of hygiene (Singapore is the only other) and to me, nothing tops cleanliness. The second is their high level of functioning efficiency.

When one isn’t wasting time haggling with amateur handymen, unprofessional service providers or corrupt officials, a lot of work can get done. This last one is possibly the single most important factor in helping any place progress.

In the meantime, if you are getting seriously itchy feet, I suggest a quick jaunt to Dubai. But, as a safety latch, just don’t carry all your credit cards into the mall!

The writer is a sommelier

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