Surrounded by the sultry heat of the desert, expats will find that the lifestyle in Dubai largely revolves around activities best accompanied by air conditioning – apart from those adrenaline junkies who like to play on the dunes with bikes and trucks, or surf the waves with kiteboards and windsurfers.

But for an expat community lured to the emirate by inflated salaries and visions of tax-free wealth, heavy heat means that shopping and indoor entertainment options make up the epicentre of life and go nicely with the extra income.

Nightlife in Dubai

Expats can enjoy a vibrant social atmosphere as Dubai dishes up a heady dose of everything from indoor snowboarding and phenomenal music festivals to world-class restaurants and shopping malls galore.

Most of Dubai’s nightlife is centred on the hotels due to the strict liquor laws, and it’s not uncommon to find expats gathered around hotel bars until the wee hours when last rounds are being called.

However, a few clubs and nightlife spots do exist outside the hotels; Arabic nightclubs have become increasingly popular with locals and expats over the years.

Shopping in Dubai

For the expat whose idea of fun is cruising the aisles, Dubai’s city centre can be thrilling, with selections of malls, souks and specialist stores on offer. Authentic Bedouin paraphernalia, Persian-style carpets and textiles abound at the local markets, while brand names and electronic goods can be scooped up for a song.

Most shops open from 8am to 1pm, and then reopen again after the heat of the day at around 4.30pm until 8pm, or even later. Malls are air conditioned and remain open from 10am to 10pm. Most shops, malls and souks usually close on Friday mornings.

It won't take long for expats to realise that malls in Dubai have revolutionised the retail experience. These shopping meccas don't settle for the stock-standard stores and food courts typically on offer in other cities – rather, they take on the roles of entertainer, curator and cultural director all at once. Expats will find movie theatres, ski slopes, ice skating rinks and libraries alongside their favourite restaurants and international brand names. 

Dubai Mall is the city's largest mall and seems to take the philosophy of 'bigger is better' quite seriously. The mall boasts a fountain that rivals that of the Bellagio, one of the largest single-tank aquariums in the world, a SEGA Republic theme park and an ice rink. Other popular malls include Ibn Battuta Mall, Wafi City and the Mall of the Emirates.

Eating out in Dubai

Expats will be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in Dubai, with hundreds of restaurants to suit any taste and budget. 

One not-to-be-missed eating experience in Dubai is the famous "brunch”. Hosted mainly by the larger hotels, brunch is an eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet, normally accompanied by unlimited beverages or house wine, beer, and even champagne in some cases, and are held on a Friday from 12pm onwards. Prices vary widely, as does the quality of the food on offer, so it’s best to get some recommendations before deciding where to go.

Alcohol is only served at select restaurants licensed to serve liquor. In most cases, the impressive array of hotel restaurants satisfies this requirement. Any dishes containing pork or alcohol are clearly marked on the menu, and pork products are only served in establishments that have a special licence. 


Bear in mind that during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims and even some expats fast. One is not permitted to eat or drink in public during the day for the duration of the holiday. Many restaurants remain closed until evening, although those in the larger hotels still serve food.

Lunch-time dining takes place behind covered windows in order to show respect. As take-away meals are allowed, many restaurants remain partially open to provide this service, or else do home deliveries. Fasting is broken after sunset, and restaurants will open as normal at this time, often remaining open into the early hours of the morning.

The sale of alcohol is also impacted during this period, with some restaurants not serving it at all for the duration of Ramadan.

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