Dubai travel guide: things that will surprise first time visitors

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The food is good, and it’s cheap. Thanks to a large immigrant population, including a huge influx of people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran and Jordan, Dubai has an incredibly good and affordable food scene. Simply wander the streets of Deira, one of the city’s older and cheaper neighbourhoods, and you’ll find tasty treats from around the world, available on the street for only a few dirhams. And for the best Pakistani food this side of Lahore, call past the suburb of  Satwa to dine at the shabby-but-famous Ravi restaurant.

This takes a while to sink in for most first-time visitors: the fact that there don’t seem to be any local Emiratis around at all. That’s due to a few factors, most notably that only 11 per cent of Dubai’s population is Emirati. The local culture, too, is quite a private one, meaning for many visitors the only Emirati they’ll meet will be the one who stamps their passport at the airport. Those keen to learn more about local culture, however, should call in to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

Those who love to explore on foot will be sorely disappointed by Dubai. For starters, it’s usually about a million degrees outside – you don’t want to be trekking around in the sun. Plus most things in Dubai are miles apart, and the city has certainly not been designed with pedestrians in mind. About the only places you’ll feel comfortable walking are the enormous shopping malls, which, in fairness, do provide plenty of room to stretch the legs.

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