Kyrylo Silin

Full-stack developer at Airbrake.io. Core team Pry. Passionate about open source, debuggers and food.

Dubai

Prior to going to Dubai, I already had certain expectations. That said, I didn’t expect that my first experience would be falling for a scam. Well, kind of. You see, as a Ukrainian citizen, I can visit the UAE without a visa. However, I was dumb enough to pay some agency to provide me with a tourist visa. When I had paid them the full amount, I realised that was a mistake. When I asked for a refund (30 minutes after my payment), they refused.

Alas, that’s the price I had to pay for being careless. I was able to enter the UAE with a visa that nobody even checked.

Let’s start. Dubai is the land of cars.

When you are a pedestrian in this city, it’s considered a mishap. When you are a pedestrian, you wait. No, you WAIT.

If you don’t want to WAIT, you may go. Just don’t expect this experience to be safe or pleasant. Sometimes there are no sidewalks in Dubai.

So, if you don’t want to take a taxi, don’t expect that it’ll be free either. Dubai forces you to pay. The more, the better. The fine for jaywalking here is 400 dirhams (about $110).

Without a way to cross the road, without a safe sidewalk, a daily routine such as going to the grocery store turns into a suicide mission that you’ll have to fund if the police catches you.

Although I am a daring individual, I would not go beneath an overpass for no apparent reason. I found myself there looking for a method to go around this juncture. There was no such thing, as it turned out. A kilometer away was the nearest crossing (not just a safe crossing, but any crossing).

You have no chance against this concrete jungle, even if you wish to take a gamble and run for your life while evading rapid cars.

Some of the crossings are not that safe. Take a look at how broad this junction is. You can easily erect another skyscraper here.

This particular crossing has a tiny pedestrian island. I wouldn’t feel comfortable there waiting for my green light.

Basically, everyone here screams that you’re not welcome when you transport yourself using something other than a wheel.

It’s really surprising to me that walking in Dubai is tough. I can clearly see that the city invests in public transportation. Walking and public transportation go together (or walk together?). Dubai offers multiple ways of budget traveling. One is renting a bicycle. I was eager to try it out, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have mobile data when I was on the street. In order to rent a bicycle, you need an app and an internet connection.

Cycling infrastructure does exist in Dubai, but it’s not connected together. The bicycle lanes here end abruptly, and you are forced to yield to cars.

As a result, not many choose to cycle.

Those who do prefer cycling might even have no infrastructure whatsoever.

If you don’t yield to a car, you might bump into a road worker’s middle finger in the form of pavement construction.

In other cases, the cycling infrastructure is there, but the cyclists have not yet been born in that area. And to be perfectly honest, some paint on the ground is not cycling infrastructure.

Anyway, enough of the cycling. You can take a tram in Dubai.

The only problem is that the coverage is rather poor. The tracks start from nowhere and lead to nowhere.

A much better alternative would be the Dubai Metro, a fast and completely autonomous railway system covering all key destinations in the city.

Every station looks identical (unlike in my city, where every station must have a personality).

The metro is also completely safe. There’s no way to fall on the tracks. What I love about it is that everything is automated. What I don’t love is that there are separate coaches for women and men. Women can go inside coaches for men, but men are not allowed to go to the women’s place.

I also am not a fan of strict rules like no eating or drinking, or even chewing gum.

No chewing gum yadda-yadda, very dangerous yadda-yadda, can cause a trainwreck yadda.

Those four birds that are not following the leader clearly didn’t obtain their flying license legally. I don’t think flying like that is okay in the UAE. Does anyone know how many dirhams the fine is for that violation? And also, if they chewed bubble gum, that amount would probably be doubled.

In general, most of Dubai's life finds itself on Sheikh Zayed Road. The cars and the trains make this experience quite noisy. Even with your windows closed.

Speaking of penalties, the signs informing us what’s not allowed are everywhere. I actually think some of them make sense, like this “red light violation” rule. However, given the technological advances Dubai has made, I think it’s a rather poor attempt. We can install such a sign here in Ukraine, but it won’t do any good. Dubai, with trillions of dollars, can develop a more advanced solution. An automated system that imposes certain rules on everybody would be perfect. The little human interaction, the better. Anyway, I’m not gonna solve it for you, Dubai (unless you share with me some of your petrodollars).

If you do speed, you have no chance against the police here. By using muscle cars, they can chase anyone without breaking a drop of sweat.

This is probably the only place in the world where bus stations have automatic sliding doors and air conditioning.

Having no internet on the go, I did appreciate the detailed map of bus routes.

However, at a bus terminal, the stops were rather inconvenient & uninformative, providing only a little bit of shadow.

The buses themselves are fairly modern and convenient to use (and air-conditioned as well).

Wheelchair passengers are welcome to use them as well. I didn’t spot any people using wheelchairs in Dubai, though.

At some metro stations, I saw a hi from the past: a payphone. In order to use this particular exhibit, you would need to bring some change and also wire up your own telephone handset (inserting the ends of the wires directly into your ears can be tried but is not recommended).

While most of the things you see in these pictures are brand new, this lamp post is not. I’m sure it’s new as well, but it tries to look vintage, which makes it look out of place.

Similarly to the Philippines, the rear side of trucks mentions a number to call in case the driver goes bananas on the road.

In turn, if you want to go bananas, there’s a number for “Home & Hotel” service available in town. The service can be Russian, Turkish, or Pakistani. Hmmmm…

Basically, closer to the evening time, there’s someone who sows the unfertile soil of Dubai with these pamphlets. I was surprised to see something like that in a place that is protected by Sharia law.

Most of the time, the streets of Dubai look deserted. Wide highways and large distances between buildings with no people walking make it hard to believe that the city is home to 3.3 million inhabitants.

Everything changes at night, when the heat is lower. Dubai is about luxury, so people spend their time spending.

If you are from a hot climate country, or maybe you’ve been to such a country, you might take a guess and say that during the day there’s nobody on the streets because everybody is inside malls. Well, that’s a witty observation. Let’s take a gander at one of the malls during lunchtime.

Nope, nobody’s here. Maybe they went to a park for a picnic?

I can see a few lost souls, but that’s not a park for a city that has such a high population. Maybe they are skiing?

It seems like it’s almost nobody, again. Maybe the men are at work?

Nope… Yo, where’s everyone in this city?

Dubai’s land skyline is dotted with skyscrapers. But who is this built for if the streets are empty?

You turn your head to the left and see skyscrapers.

You turn your head to the right - the sea?

Most of the skyscrapers look blue.

Not all of the city is like that. These barracks are for Indians or Pakistanis. They make up the majority of workers here in Dubai.

This is apparently a church in the same area (or a mosque?).

I was ignorant enough to read this as “TOILET”. To be honest, in some of the areas of this neighborhood, I could smell an unpleasant presence.

Guys, I am not lying. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is also the scariest place I found in Dubai. The city feels very safe in general.

Even in the worst neighborhoods of Dubai, school buses dare to go inside.

Sometimes there’s even fancy architecture.

Being a multinational city, occasionally you will see Russian signs in Dubai.

I was especially surprised to see this Russian ballet dance center on the outskirts of the city (and, please, don’t ask me what I was doing there. I was just trying to find a way to cross a road, okay?).

You can also find some imported Russian products.

I was especially surprised to find Ukrainian ice cream here (which is the best ice cream in the world, by the way).

Speaking of other products, there were a lot of Filipino goods available at supermarkets.

That’s not an accident. According to my personal perception, 1/3 of the country speaks Filipino. No matter where you go, Filipinos will be working there. It was fun to practice my Tagalog once again and surprise a few folks. “Kabayan” in Tagalog means “fellow citizen”.

There’s a Catholic church available to everyone. But I guess it exists mostly because of the Filipino community here.

What I don’t get is why it looks like Alcatraz. Look at the gate and the barbed wire.

Usually, the Catholic churches I’ve been to look very nice both inside and outside. This one has a 3-meter concrete wall, which can withstand a direct hit from a modern tank, and 3-meter screens to catch all incoming grenades. Do they do masses there or mass shootings? What are they hiding there? Or is it to protect them from the outside? There are too many questions for a church.

Filipinos do love their pork. I think that’s why in certain supermarkets there is a pork section. The sign says “for non-Muslims,” but it should really say “for Filipinos.”

Dubai keeps erecting new condominiums. The construction is sprawling.

Surprisingly, at the same time, the city feels empty.

Tolerance bridge won’t save the situation if there’s nobody who can tolerate or be tolerated.

Don’t forget that the climate here is pretty harsh. I was lucky enough to visit Dubai in February. People told me that the coldest season is now. All the bushes, all the grass, it wasn't growing by itself.

It’s all man-made. Without a man’s touch, nature will eventually restore everything back to how it was.

A lot of money is wasted on these green pastures. What’s the point? Nobody walks here, people who drive don’t care that much.

Moreover, to keep it green, you have to waste the most precious resource on our planet, water.

I also don’t see any cows around. Who knows, they might convert that into a cow field and produce some Dubalpine milk.

Dubai isn’t a new city but it still lacks history. They tried to build “historical” places, but they look too modern.

But I will admit that some of it does look very beautiful.

I love the idea of donating old or unused clothes. We don’t have such boxes in Ukraine, so I just donate some of my clothes to people I know. If we had these boxes, I would do that much more frequently.

I heard the Dubai Mall is the biggest in the world. I don’t know if that still remains true, but I do know that it’s a clever idea to denote what language every staff member can speak.

Being the biggest mall in the world doesn’t guarantee the largest number of visitors. It was relatively empty.

I don’t blame people. In order to get here, you need to ride the metro. When you’re at the station, it’s a 15-minute walk through an overpass tunnel going straight to the mall. Yes, there are conveyor belts to speed this up, but even with them, it’s a very uncomfortable experience because there’s not much to look at.

I think people would happily use golf carts or electric scooters in order to get to the mall or back to the metro station. That’s a free business idea for you, Dubai.

I have a tradition: I go to McDonald’s in every country that I visit and order a Big Mac.

What’s cool in the UAE is that I can customize my Big Mac and literally beef it up.

I didn’t see any squirrels here. Who should live in that house?

This guy?

A lot of famous tech companies are located in Dubai Internet City. Oracle.

Microsoft.

Most of the fancy buildings are built by Emaar. Their brand name is everywhere.

Emaaaaaaar! Find it in this picture.

A lot of these buildings look nice, but when you build thousands of them, they start to look the same (and bland).

Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V.

Despite the abundance of skyscrapers, there are also a lot of wastelands.

This is still very much inside the city.

I don’t know any Arabic, but I found it interesting that the spelling of “men” is so long in this language.

Free hot drinking water is a rare find. Kudos to those who thought about it.

Sharps disposal box. I had never seen anything like this before. Is this for diabetic people? How interesting.

This guy is likely from Yakutia, the coldest inhabited region in the world. Old habits die hard.

What a dynamic duo they are!

This is a sad broadwalk if no pets are allowed. Maybe it’s okay if my doggo wears modest clothes?

What I loved about Dubai is how clean it is. The fact that you can go outside, spend the whole day, and come back home wearing completely clean shoes is pure bliss. This is something that’s practically non-existent in my country.

It’s not a capitalist country if there’s no golf course.

These houses are also situated on the territory of the same golf course. I guess you can live and play here.

In very rare cases, you can see traffic helpers, just like in some Asian countries.

In order to lay down a few bricks, you need nine workers. Open question: how many workers does it take to screw in a light bulb in Dubai?

Some of those guys could visit this place and fix it.

In very rare cases, manholes can be left open.

Where the school buses sleep.

Where “environmental-friendly” vehicles sleep. I’m not sure why this parking space is reserved for them. There’s no charging station here.

Where distribution boards (?) are left in the open air. This is not typical of Dubai.

The gap between the rich and the poor is very evident in the UAE. I had thought that everybody in Dubai swims in luxury. It turned out that only some people really do swim in luxury. They swim their yachts.

The rest swim in their own sweat, induced by the sun.

Unfortunately, similarly to many Asian megalopolises, you have to use overpasses. At least in Dubai, all of them have working elevators.

That’s because the streets belong to cars.

I really love how some malls in Dubai make the directions clear. The malls here are huge, and it’s really easy to get lost.

Quarantine rules due to COVID-19 are taken seriously here. If you need to wait, you need to wait.

That was my Dubai story.