Dolled up and wearing my very Gulf-hip skinny jeans, some fancy heels and long-sleeved party top, I was pumped and ready to hit the famed Dubai night life with my gorgeous husband. Or was I?
Before leaving the hotel, we spent quite a while pouring over review after review in the handy TimeOut Dubai magazine. Would we even be able to get into all these sexily exclusive clubs on the top floor of beachfront hotels? All of a sudden I felt like I didn’t belong. I can rock South Bend, Indiana with my eyes shut and fit into Chicago’s classy nightlife no problem, but could I hack Dubai’s competitive and elitist party scene? Perhaps I just felt intimidated—maybe I could pass unnoticed. But for even a seasoned big-city clubber, Dubai can be a bit of a shock. The drink prices listed were astronomical and nearly every review said that if you weren’t a Brangelina lookalike and sporting the right labels—forget about getting in. Maybe the movie-star standards are flexible and a drink or two would suffice, but since when did having a night out become a designer-label, richest-date competition?
Don’t get me wrong, I love to get decked out and drop a bit of change now and then going out. Feeling like a million dollars and looking amazing has its place, but if you can’t find a friendly, fun bar to wile away an evening with your favorite people and get a buzz without going bankrupt—and without it being a favorite prostitute hangout—then there is something lacking in a city’s nightlife.
This being said, as we were scouring the TimeOut Dubai for a classy joint that didn’t require us to have the paycheck of consultants or actuaries, we happened across a review for a one-of-a-kind spot in the city. Without seeing this article, we might have had to live in the city for months, maybe years, before finding this gem of a place. Tucked away in the Crown Plaza, with a lot less show and publicity than the supposedly hotter joints, we found the Belgian Beer Café. It was a haven of excellent beer, excellent service, and most importantly, excellent company. The clientele were clearly regulars and the sound of engaged conversation roared over the chill background music. For more on this place, see my new blog, Expat Eating.
Despite my new favorite bar, and perhaps a few others, Dubai’s nightlife is a place to show-off, spend a lot, and hopefully “get seen”. This begs the question: how trivial or insecure is most of Dubai’s expat population? How did being seen rise above having a good time? This question could be analyzed by sociologists and therapists alike, but to me the answer is evident. People adapt to their environment, or they leave. Dubai was brought up on money, thrives on money, and will likely die when it runs out. A place where glitz and consumerism dominate over culture and intellectual deepening only knows how to offer what it has been given. Dubai’s extravagance demands to be noticed, as do its peoples’.