Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dubai on a budget

Money doesn’t get a lot of respect in Dubai in general. Things are unreasonably expensive here but most people have enough not to make a big deal out of it. Ferrari’s and Hummers are a common sight on the crammed highways and if you judge by the occasional till queues you’d think designer shops are supermarkets.

Most companies pay their staff a decent salary so it isn’t hard to get by for the average employee. However, running into problems with money makes Dubai almost unliveable for some.

Since minor health problems have prevented me from working fulltime during the last few months I have been on a pretty tight budget recently. Much of my time was spent catching up on my DVD education and reading books that have been left untouched on my bookshelf.

Yet in the end we all need to get out, mingle and find some action. What I have discovered (with a little help from the new man in my life) is that there are more than a few simple things to enjoy in this bling world.

For instance, the cost of food varies hugely in Dubai. Of course, it is a desert and most things have to be imported so it becomes very expensive. Yet there are also certain products that come from lush neighbouring countries so it’s always worth comparing prices. For instance, melons from Oman, strawberries from Egypt and bananas from Pakistan are pretty cheap compared to fruits imported from the US, Australia and even Europe.

Interestingly enough the Gulf News recently reported that there’s a new trend taking the world by storm called locavorism. Fuelled by the recession, people now have a new found passion for local food; the more local the better, cheaper and healthier for you.

Same goes for restaurants in Dubai. Italian food costs a lot more than Lebanese or Indian and it’s worth looking out for small little cafes with delicious fare rather than going for places with fancy interiors and less fanciful food.

Street cafes worth a visit are Zeyara Cafeteria in Abu Hail area where they make delicious home style burgers and the best fresh fruit juice in town. My favourite is a prawn sandwich with a spicy mayonnaise for around AED 4 ($1). Even Dubai’s rich and famous pass by here to pick up karak (cardamom) tea for around AED 1 ($0.2) per cup – not because it’s that cheap but because it’s that good.

In the same area there is a street café called Fatayer Alla Attayer which makes Lebanese pastries. It's the perfect place to visit on the way to Al Mamzar beach to pick up snacks for a picnic while enjoying the lovely Dubai winter weather.

Other than that the current Dubai Shopping Festival is offering incredible discounts. I bought trousers for just about AED 30 ($8) from City Centre a few days ago and then went to see a ‘buy one get one free’ movie at the cinema there.

Yet, if all else fails and city life becomes just a little too expensive, there's nothing better than heading off into the desert and camping out under the stars after watching the big red sunset. Bonding over a campfire is priceless indeed.


Mark JS Esslemont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark JS Esslemont said...

Very Interesting blog. I've travelled to several of the places you write about. Brings back memories. Keep writing.

SA Expats said...

What? Are we on a budget? Lol!

Buying local food is good for the environment anyway. Less transportation.

Mona Lize said...

Haha! Yeah I guess an SA Expat on a budget in Dubai may as well live in Cape Town. Luckily this is only temporary and it helps me to discover the simple things in this not-so-simple city.

Anonymous said...

I miss you chickpea! Come home and visit sometime soon, okay?! You'll always have a room at Chateau van den Berg-Knoetze. (I'll even let you steal my toiletries and leave choccies on your pillow!)

Love you lots and lots,



Mona Lize said...

I'll visit Chateau van den Berg-Knoetze as soon as I can - but only for the free toiletries and choccies! Just joking. Love you and miss you too.