Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

,, On the tourism front, Dubai is a total scam. Their marketing is great at persuading people that this is a fantastic, must-see destination, but for me it’s overrated. There are loads of big, modern buildings, and even more that are still under construction, but all this generates tons of dust, and when they finish one they get straight to work on another; there seems to be an insatiable appetite for new buildings here. On the main roads, there are continual traffic jams, and often you can’t drive from point A to point B at more than a walking pace. The air is often polluted and dusty, or else a sandstorm blows in off the desert.

There are lots of shopping malls, bazaars, and shops, but the prices are by no means cheaper than in Europe. The fact is, I didn’t find a single thing I wanted to buy which was cheaper than back home. There was a fridge, actually, but you can hardly bring that home in a suitcase! Anything original is absurdly expensive, and if it’s cheap, that means it’s a fake. We wandered aimlessly up and down the enormous MOTE (Mall of the Emirates) and noticed all the young guys in white djellabas looking down their noses at us. I couldn’t help feeling that in their eyes we were just poor, infidel nobodies. Well, we were white, at least, so we weren’t quite such nobodies as the South Asian laborers

At least the local women are interesting, hidden behind their flowing garments. If you come in summer, though, you’ll bake in the 38° heat. Oh, you’re looking for a shady spot? But is that really why you traveled all the way here and spent all that money? To hide in some dark corner because it’s too hot to go outside? Alright, there really are some spectacular sights, like the palm island. People also enjoy imagining how good it’s all going to look when it’s finished. And how pleasant it will be for the people it’s being built for. It’s possible to spend two or three days in Dubai with some enjoyment, and maybe in a few years, it will be a prettier, greener place. But it isn’t that yet. Oh, and beware of the taxi drivers – they con you! It’s best to have a map handy, to check if it’s really the shortest route. They can speak English because most taxi drivers are Indian, and English is the second language in India. It’s important to plan your trips so you don’t spend half your time in horrendous traffic jams."

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I’ve been to Dubai several times. I’m an intellectual, and in view of my refined tastes, it would be logical for me to dislike Dubai for its artificiality, its bling, and its fake, plastic character. The truth is, though, I do like it, or perhaps it would be better to say it impresses me. I’m impressed by the city’s purposeful development. All right, you may say, but with that much easily made money it’s not hard to turn grand plans into reality. The fact is, though, it’s not the lucky locals I admire, but the foreign architects who dreamed up and realized these beautiful masterpieces of modern architecture. I also esteem the ruling family for their foresight in planning for a time when money will no longer flow from plentiful oil supplies. Incidentally, it’s worth knowing that the money in Dubai does not come from the territory of the emirate itself, but from the other emirates, and the revenue from oil production originating across the whole Arabian Peninsula. This means that the leadership of Dubai has been very skillful in maneuvering the city into a strong position. As a tourist destination Dubai far outstrips the other major emirate, Abu Dhabi, though that city has much greater oil resources. Dubai deliberately chose this role for itself, and I like that.


Dubai is a haughty, glittering, ornamental city, without any real substance or value. Empty and superficial. In my opinion, it’s probably worth a visit: your jaw will momentarily drop, but you’ll soon realize how little this means compared to how a person actually feels in such a place. Dubai shows the true essence of a consumerist society – that dead-end of selfish self-aggrandizement it’s all leading to. All this display, artifice, and pretense perfectly demonstrate that there are some things money can’t buy. Dubai holds up to us a distorting mirror, and makes us think: Is this really what we want? That may be exactly why it’s important to see it. To anyone thinking of visiting, I’d recommend making it only a stopover en route to another Asian destination, with a stay of two nights at most. After this, you’ll find in your heart a new appreciation of the ‘poverty in some Asian cities, and of those virtues – the truly valuable things in life – which make certain cities so loveable.” (2016)

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Dubai is a fantastic place! Its strength probably lies precisely in its multicultural values. If you want, you can spend the whole day sunbathing by the Burj al Arab, or in the shadow of skyscrapers. Or you could spend the day out in the desert. If you’re missing Europe, you could while away the time in one of the city-sized malls, or if you’d rather get to know the locals, you’ll find them in the lanes and alleyways of the bazaar in the Deira district. Everything in one place, and a thousand ways to relax and unwind.”

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Everything is possible! A sandstorm blanketed the city so that we could hardly see, but in the evening they used cloud seeding to increase humidity and generate rain: the air cleared within two or three hours.

Dubai may be most beautiful from above. Seaplanes take off from the waters of the Creek canal and fly a thirty-minute circuit of the city. The palm islands, Atlantis, the Burj al Arab, and the 880-meter-tall Burj al-Khalifa are spectacular.

There can’t be many places in the world where it’s possible to play a game of camel polo, but Dubai is one of them. My camel was quick, and a great tactician, but I was simply incapable of hitting the ball!”

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These days there seem to be a plethora of dystopian films. People are shown as alienated from society in an ultra materialistic world. I knew that Dubai reminded me of something. Someone actually said that ‘Dubai is like an unreliable Tinder date’ which is another way of viewing it. I’m not sure what I expected, monumental ultra-modern and ultra-shiny buildings, check. Futuristic islands reclaimed from the sea in fanciful patterns, check. A slight worry about being able to buy a drink, check. Stupid laws about holding hands, check.
 I’ll pause at this point to say that I have been married for nearly fifty years and we have always held hands. Firstly form motivations of lust afterward for reasons of affection and commitment and thirdly in an effort to try and make sure the other one doesn’t fall over and break a hip. The number of times I was told by complete strangers that holding hands was not allowed was staggering. The only other time this has happened to me was on the wrong side of the tracks in Calcutta so long ago that hopefully attitudes have changed there at least. One person even threatened to call the police. Also, it appears telling these busybodies to f**k off is frowned on as well.

There are loads of things to love there as well and going to Dubai on holiday sounds like a very attractive deal. Uptown Downtown Dubai is spectacular. As you first approach cruising down the dramatic 12-lane Sheikh Zayed Road. You’ll see the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and the grandiose version of Las Vegas’ Bellagio fountains.
Weirdly enough I’ve been to the original Bellagio and I don’t remember it being anything like this. The other thing that made an impression on me was the plethora of shopping malls. I don’t know how you feel about the fake opulence, or not, of a mall but apart from the fact that you are not baking hot, you can keep them for me. In fact, if you are prone to panic attacks leave a trail of breadcrumbs or you’ll never find your way out and end up a jibbering wreck curled up on the floor. All of those rich people in their designer clothes, which can be hideous, searching for some meaning in their lives through the media of shopping makes me want to throw up. I got the impression that everything was for sale, if it was nailed down that cost extra and if you wanted to nail it down yourself that was extra again. Perhaps ‘that will be extra’ should be Dubai’s motto.

Dubai is a Disneyland for adults. You can have the jet-set lifestyle you can look down on the workers you can live in your surreal bubble, you can ignore the exploitation. Always look up never down, don’t trust anybody, be rude and aggressive be more concerned about material possessions than anything else you’ll fit right in Dubai. It was great and I hated it. Enjoy.    (Alan Durant, 2021)

Practicals

Transport

,, One of the things that I noticed is the number of really expensive cars, even the police have flash cars you can come across them abandoned, not so much the police ones, as people caught out doing dirty dealings do a runner. Not the locals of course as long as they know which side their bread is buttered on they can do as they like. I even saw a guy driving a Bugatti with what I think was a Cheatee in it. Don’t worry it wasn’t driving, although I had the feeling it would be less likely to run me over than the actual driver. Maybe you think that it is cool to have a lion or cheatee as a pet but in reality, wild animals are supposed to be in the wild, not in the front seat of your car, even if they have excellent map reading skills. Driving People often say that Dubai is the worst place in the world to drive your car. I didn’t drive while I was there but it seemed watching from the inside of taxis that local driving would be aided by a strong death wish.

Traffic is every bit as bad as Tel Aviv or Delhi so my advice would be don’t bother. The local drivers are crap they cut you up, they undertake they have no driving etiquette, and they drive way too fast. “The streets are full of show-offs who cover their vanity with money and kill people with their ignorance.”(Kasparas Asmonaitis) (Alan Durant, 2021)


Dubai - taxi

Food

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Dubai - camel milk - d.j. photo

Shopping

“On the way home, we made a detour to visit an alcohol shop – a supermarket-sized warehouse in the middle of nowhere, selling literally nothing but booze. For reasons of both religion and culture, people here don’t really drink alcohol, but the country is also home to many foreign workers. For them, these shops are the only alternative to hotel bars, and the prices here are much less eye-watering. It turns out, though, that you need a permit for this too. Everyone gets some photographic ID, and can use this to buy alcohol. But only a certain amount – only a given percentage of your salary can be spent on alcohol. I’m not saying there isn’t a black market as well, but those are the rules. (f.c., 2019)

Fun

Booze: For those of us who like a pint Dubai is probably not the ideal destination. They have Sharia law but not for foreigners, sort of. But sort of not. They seem to make it up as they go along so you have to be careful, no dancing in the streets. Alcohol sale and consumption, though legal, is tightly regulated, not quite to the extent of chopping off your privileges but not far off. Adult non-Muslims are allowed to consume alcohol in licensed venues, typically within hotels, or at home with the possession of an alcohol license, it’s virtually impossible to get a license to consume alcohol but it goes by on the nod. There is however the underlying worry that the police could burst in on you at any moment. Places other than hotels, clubs, and specially designated areas are typically not permitted to sell alcohol.

I read a thing put out by Mastercard that found that tourists spend more in Dubai than in any other country. “In 2018, the country topped the list for the fourth year in a row with a total spend of $30.82 billion. The average spend per day was found to be $553.” (WIKI). At between eight to ten pounds a pint I doubt you’ll be indulging very much or adding a lot to the spending figure. (Alan Durant, 2021)

Dubai - Emirate guys have fun - v.g. photo

Dubai - Al Mamzar Beach - dance - r.g. photo

Public safety

Prostitution: The oldest profession in the world, prostitution, is booming in Dubai. There are more than 30,000 prostitutes, who openly show their skin, and charge $500 per hour. I don't know much about this business, but $500 sounds like an unreasonable amount of money. A lot of these women and girls are trafficked and they can be used in sting operations to extract money from foreigners. Questions of taste aside don’t be an idiot stay well away. There is also what they call lady’s night at some establishments. If you think this means free admission and two for one deal on drinks it doesn’t "Lady's Night" is a code name for a night with a lot of women to choose from, and if you are a woman, standing alone by the bar, businessmen of the sleazy persuasion will assume that you are for sale. So watch out ladies! (Alan Durant, 2021)

Dubai - police car - a Bugatti Veron

Health

“Would you ever have imagined someone catching a cold in Dubai? Well, it happened to us. The mall inside the Burj Khalifa is absurdly air-conditioned, so we spent a lot of our first afternoon shivering. It was worth every minute, of course, but take this advice: however warm it is out there, bring a scarf and cardigan for the periods when you’re indoors.”

Background

Destination in brief

Dubai in brief

Dubai is a city-size emirate in the Middle East, part of a country called the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Neighbors of the UAE: Saudi Arabia (south) and Oman (southeast). Dubai is on the coast of the Persian Gulf and on the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. 

Dubai’s size is 4114 km² (1588 mi²), while the size of the United Arab Emirates is 83,600 km² (32,268 mi²)

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates. When compared to the other emirates, Dubai has by far the largest number of incoming tourists.

Dubai is actually a city, not a country. However - and this is where the confusion comes from - Dubai is also the name of the emirate that the city of Dubai is the capital of.

Population: 4.1 million (2019), only 15% (!) are native (Emirati) citizens. 75% of the population is male because practically all immigrant workers (expatriates) are men. 71% of the total population is Asian, about half of them from India.

Dubai has a huge wealth gap. Many of the immigrant workers live and work in terrible conditions while Emiratis have their rents, education and medical bills paid for by the state and Western expatriates earn very good salaries.
Islam is the official religion in Dubai. About 85% of the Muslims are Sunni.

Official language: Arabic- English is widely spoken.

Official currency: dirham (AED)

Dubai is an absolutely safe destination for tourists (less so for construction workers). It would be hopeless for a thief to run away and not be caught. Dubai’s police force has the world’s fastest cars in its fleet (for efficiency, but also to impress tourists and show how high-class the city is). This includes cars such as the Ferrari FF (US$ 500,000), Lamborghini Aventador (US$ 397,000) and an Aston Martin One-77 (US$ 1.79 million).

Kissing or holding hands in public is illegal and can result in fines or deportation. Dubai is therefore quite a suitable destination for couples planning a divorce.

Most frequent surname (among Emirati citizens): Ali

Most famous tourist attractions: Burj Khalifa (total height of 829,8m or 2,722 ft), The Dubai Fountains, Marina, The Dubai Frame, Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, Dubai Museum, Burj al Arab, Atlantis Hotel Complex (Waterpark, The Lost Chambers), Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, The Palm, Jumeirah Beach, Wild Wadi, Arabian Team Adventures

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,, Dubai Creek Park in Dubai Creek also plays a vital role in Dubai tourism as it showcases some of the most famous tourist attractions in Dubai such as Dolphinarium, Cable Car, Camel Ride, Horse Carriage and Exotic Birds Shows.[182] Dubai has a wide range of parks like Safa park, Mushrif park, Hamriya park, etc. Each park is uniquely distinct from the other. Mushrif park showcases different houses around the world.

A visitor can check out the architectural features of the outside as well as the inside of each house. Some of the most popular beaches in Dubai are Umm Suqeim Beach, Al Mamzar Beach Park, JBR Open Beach, Kite Beach, Black Palace Beach, and Royal Island Beach Club.” (DTB) However the truth is “this is Disneyland for adults. If you can’t play with toys in your home country, set a home base within its superficialities where you will never have to question its virtue or your conscience.” (Shitika Anand) Environment In a world that is currently being run unsustainably one of the most unsustainable places is Dubai. It is a slap bang in the middle of a desert which means the vast amounts of water it uses have to be imported. Of course, as long as money is growing on the trees in Dubai, drinking water doesn't seem to bother anyone. They actually seem to enjoy wasting water. There have been moves to set up desalination plants for seawater but so far it's a trickle, (Pun intended). There is a massive desalination plant Jebel Ali plant but that barely scratches the surface of what is used. Similar to places like Spain there are plenty of golf courts in Dubai, which need close to “4,000,000 gallons of water per day just to keep the grass green.”(WIKI) Aimed at the rich and tourists I wonder what better use all this water could be put to. Largely as a consequence of all the construction work even what you might think of as being a big attraction, the sea is being messed up. There is a lot of sewage and chemical waste from the construction sites. There is legal waste overwhelming the sewage treatment set up as well as illegal dumping and it ends up mostly in the sea. Many tourists started noticing that the sea is getting dirtier, and soon it will become dangerous to swim there. “How did the government react to this? They simply shut these lives from the people with a wall of silence. Also, the government made sure that people understand that bringing this question up to the public will result in deportation out of the country.”(Shitika Anand) -   (Alan Durant, 2021)
 
 

 

Climate

,, Weather I must admit I thought I would see oil wells all over the place but Dubai seems to have cornered the market in the sand of which there is probably more than you might want. Not just sand but hot sand as well. Dubai is hot, very hot. Sometimes it can even be hotter than that. Not only is it hot, but it’s also hot windy, and humid. Why does the wind not reduce the humidity? No idea. Did I mention that it’s hot? “In the summer it has an average high around “40 °C (104 °F). It cools down to a chilly 30 °C (86 °F) at night. Most days are sunny throughout the year. Winters are not so bad though an average high of 24 °C (75 °F) down to a positively freezing 14 °C (57 °F) at night. At times the question seems to be whether you like Turkish baths or not, though the locals get twitchy if you take your clothes off. If you like the associated experience of a cold plunge just go into one of the shops or malls where your breath virtually freezes on your beard. (Alan Durant, 2021)


Nowadays

 “All everyday work in Dubai is done by immigrants. We only saw an Arab working when our passports were being inspected. There were a surprising number of working women, all of course in black abayas. The hotel staff was also all foreigners, including many Indians.

Practically the whole city is a construction site, and yet the intensity of work seems lower than in Europe – most workers seem to spend most of the day lazing in the shade.

The hotel staff was all foreigners, including many Indians. If you ask them for something, don’t be surprised if they nod as though they’ve understood, but nothing actually happens. In fact, they had no idea what the ‘white gentleman’ was asking for.

The idea that everyone in Dubai drives a luxury car is a total myth. Maybe it’s true of a proportion of the indigenous Arab population, but more than 90% of the Indians, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, and Arabs from other states drive the same cars as Europeans. We saw a couple of Ferraris and Porsches, but honestly no more than that.

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 “One afternoon we took a bus downtown from the Jumeirah district. A local woman was sitting on the seat directly behind the driver. At one stop, two gentlemen in snow-white robes and burnouses got on, and when they saw the woman they immediately began berating her with shouts and angry gestures. Soon they had chased her to the crowded back of the bus. Even several minutes after this conflict the men were still angrily discussing what for them was an unbelievable occurrence: a woman with the temerity to sit in a place where (they felt) she had no business. There was no sign or notice indicating that the front seats were reserved specially for men.” (2016)

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Objectively speaking, it’s a winning ticket to be born in Dubai. The locals are well aware of this, and in addition to their healthy natural pride, they look down on foreigners – and especially on those guest workers who do all the manual labor. Every Dubaian family has foreign servants, and these are generally considered a lower order of human beings.

The relationship between young Dubaians and Western mass culture, however, is more complex: while they have an almost jingoistic national pride towards both the United Arab Emirates and their own emirate, and devoutly follow all the precepts of their religion, still, they are no less devoted to following the latest trends in western fashion (films, music, shopping malls, new gadgets and phones, drugs, etc.) The older generation and those in power fear that respect for traditional values will further decline in the future.”

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Who are the 1%? Dubai is what they call a constitutional monarchy owned, sorry ruled, by the Al Maktoum family since 1833, When I think they invaded it, not that there was much there in the first place. Constitutional monarchy means they have a parliament that decides things as long as the Sheikh agrees with them. “Al Maktoum is the absolute ruler of Dubai. Of course, he is in no way a tyrant, no really he’s not. Tell them this as they drag you away. The family is interesting I think one of the sheik's wives, he has six at last count, ran off to England Just a question, he’s in his seventies where does he find the time and energy? He has had a couple of daughters kidnapped and brought back from various places. Probably not the best advertisement for women’s liberation. He “Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum “has so much power that his word is final and any fool who thinks otherwise has to face the cruel consequences. Welcome to the 21st century.” (Kasparas Asmonaitis) It is extremely ill-advised to mention or even to allude to any of this in Dubai. In fact, say as little as possible, just go ooh and ah at opportune moments. The sheik seems to own most of the horses in the world and his son most of the cars. He also has enough large unfriendly guys at his beck and call to make you feel extremely uncomfortable. (Alan Durant, 2021)

Dubai - typical - v.g. photo

Dubai - prayers - i.h. photo

Dubai - Deira - d.j. photo

Dubai - where the South Asian migrant workers live - d.j. photo

People

,, Originally Dubai was a small Arab pearling community but it is a very international mix now, although the status of many is questionable. Ninety percent of the population of metropolitan Dubai was foreign-born, about half of them from India or Pakistan.” (WIKI)

There is not a lot of past history to be seen in Dubai. Dubai Museum is now the oldest standing institution in the city. It’s lives two levels below the ground and it’s the only architectural structure from more historical times. Everything I knew was shiny expensive and fake. An aspect of Dubai that doesn’t seem to make it into the tourist brochures is the way its workers are treated. These are the poor sods who built this fantasy land. They have virtual, if not actual, slave labor conditions. Most of the people who do the actual work there live under such conditions tied to low-wage contracts, physically and sexually exploited their passports confiscated. The poor foreign worker nobody wants to discuss. They do 12-hour shifts at a construction site in the middle of the desert on a 50C day. Their living conditions are horrendous with four to five workers sharing a shoebox-sized space to sleep. Yet they are the men who have given Dubai its gleaming glory. You can bet your life anyone actually doing something is almost certainly not a native. You won't even see most of the people who do the work The government of Dubai advises tourists never to stay under the sun for longer than five minutes when the temperature goes over 50C degrees. Perfectly reasonable I would say but no one cares about the workers. They still work often for at least 14 hours a day. Deaths and accidents are all carpeted over with Dirhams. Of course, some of the foreigners are what are called ex-pats. Why is it that if you are, preferably, white with a bit of money you stop being an immigrant and become an ex-pat? These might be making loads of money until they retire with their often ill-gotten gains or tread on the wrong toes and have to do a runner. Of course, if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist, no really it isn’t there. This is what the ex-pat community in Dubai will teach you. “People remain so obnoxiously intoxicated in their own shelter of seven-star hotels, Friday boozy brunches, and ladies’ nights, they forget the realities that come attached to this part of the world.” (Alan Durant, 2021)



Dubai - typical mall scene - d.j. photo

Dubai - citizen - d.j. photo

Dubai - Deira - Fish and Fruit market - ata photo

Tourist etiquette

“A Scottish man, Jamie Harron, was on holiday in Dubai when he touched a man’s hip as he carried a drink through a crowded bar in Dubai. Because of this ‘crime’ – which Harron insists was entirely accidental – he was arrested on charges of public indecency, and was finally pardoned only after three months in jail.

The 27-year-old Scot said he just wanted to avoid spilling his drink, so touched the other man to get past. He was released on a personal pardon from Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al Maktum.
Harron’s three months in jail meant he lost his job, and he also had to pay $100 in legal costs.

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When someone asks what your religion is, do not by any means say you are not religious – an atheist to them is something less than human.

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“Walking from he beach to the hotel, a policeman told us that it is forbidden to walk the streets in a swimsuit (even at the row of stalls on the beachfront promenade) so I recommend bringing a lot of beach clothes or shawls.” (2018)


Dubai - warning in a luxurious hotel - a.k. photo

Attractions

Burj Khalifa

,, The buildings, the malls, the hotels, the bollox People go to Dubai as much for the stunning architecture as for anything else and of course the shopping. Perhaps the most famous building is the Burj Khalifa it is a skyscraper “with a total height of 829.8 m (2,722 ft, just over half a mile) and a roof height (excluding antenna but including a 244 m spire[2]) of 828 m (2,717 ft), the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest structure and building in the world since 2009.” (WIKI) I had a trip up to level 125 which cost me about 30 pounds sterling. I have to say it was worth it even better than the CN Tower in Toronto. (Alan Durant,2021)

Burj Al Arab

,, I  wanted to go up the Burj Al Arab, you know the one that looks like a boat sail, but you can’t even get near it. I suppose they don’t want peasant fingerprints spoiling it or eruptions of rage when confronted with a hedge fund manager. The only way in is if you make a restaurant reservation or book a room this would virtually necessitate the selling of a kidney. I paid about 115 pounds for two nights for two in somewhat less glamorous accommodating. Compare that to the 1500 pounds it would have cost me in the BAA. (Alan Durant, 2021)

Palm Jumeirah

,, There are artificial islands like the Palm Jumeirah created using land reclamation. “It is one of three planned islands which extend into the Persian Gulf. “The Palm Jumeirah is the smallest and the original of three Palm Islands, and it is located on the Jumeirah coastal area of Dubai.” (WIKI) It is pretty fantastic though some of them are by no means finished and even give the impression that they might give up the fight and rejoin the ocean. The whole place definitely outdoes places like Las Vegas and you tend to get a crick in the neck from wandering around looking up.(Alan Durant, 2021)

Al Mamzar Beach Park

Dubai - Al Mamzar Beach Park on a weekend - r.g. photo

Dubai - Al Mamzar Beach Park on a weekend - r.g. photo

Dubai - Al Mamzar Beach - r.g. photo

Dubai - Al Mamzar Beach - r.g. photo

Dubai - Al Mamzar Beach Park on a weekend - r.g. photo

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