10 Things All Tourists Experience in the UAE

Looking down at downtown Dubai from the Burj Khalifa
Looking down at downtown Dubai from the Burj Khalifa | © Maher Najm / Flickr
Jessica Harn

As the UAE continues to grow as one of the most popular places for a luxurious holiday or travel-packed adventure, many people experience both the best and worst of this dynamic country. Whether it’s getting lost in the biggest mall in the world or surviving the heat of the desert, here are some of the top things all tourists experience while in the UAE.

Feeling the thrill of seeing the Burj Khalifa for the first time

The Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world, is definitely a sight to see with its towering point stretching into the sky as far as the eye can see. Every tourist remembers the thrill of seeing this enormous iconic building for the first time and we’ve all taken more than enough pictures in front of it.

The Burj Khalifa and downtown Dubai

Getting slightly lost (if not completely disorientated) inside Dubai Mall

Right next to the Burj Khalifa is the Dubai Mall, which happens to be the biggest mall in the world. Even the biggest shopaholics among us have felt that sense of dread when you realize for the first time, just how truly enormous this mall is (and how quick you have to be to grab a spot on the benches to take a break).

Getting used to the smell of the traditional incense, oud

Emirati oud may seem a bit pungent at first — many tourists recoil at the strong streams of incense that waft inside every single mall in the UAE at first. After a while though, the musky and deep smells of this luxurious perfume gets to us and most of us end up buying a little to take home!

Indulging in the delicious mix of Middle Eastern food the UAE has to offer

In addition to local Emirati food, the UAE boasts some of the best variety of Middle Eastern food, all in one place! Here is where you can enjoy succulent shawarma wraps, plates of authentic Egyptian food and saffron-infused Iranian food, among so many others.

Local Emirati sweets, called luqaimat

But also realizing that the Indian food in the UAE is easily one of the best

Indians make up the highest percentage of expats in the UAE, so it’s no wonder that you’ll always find a good Indian restaurant to visit. Tourists quickly realize, too, that the Indian food in the UAE might just be the best thing to stumble across while in the country.

Getting addicted to karak

Karak, a milky and slightly spicy tea, is the national drink of the UAE. No meal is complete without a quick stop to the local tea stand on the side of the road to bask in the delicious aromas and tastes of karak.

Getting ripped off and overpaying in traditional souks

While the UAE is known for its malls, theme parks and other luxurious sites, there are still many traditional souks that all tourists should venture out to. We’ve all been there, though, when we get ripped off and pay extra while trying to bargain for souvenirs (there’s no getting around it, getting ripped off is a tourist rite-of-passage).

At the Spice Souk in Dubai

Surviving the inhumane heat of the UAE and living to tell the tale

The UAE is extremely inhumanely hot, with it sometimes climbing up to 50 degrees Celsius with 98 percent humidity in summer. For most tourists, this will be one of the hottest countries to visit and surviving the heat of the UAE is definitely something to boast about.

Basking in the beauty of the desert

The UAE, once you get outside of its cities, is truly a beautiful desert landscape. From the dazzling red sands of the Empty Quarter in the south to the rocky deserts of the north, the beauty of the UAE desert is one of the most memorable parts of the country.

Realizing how diverse and dynamic the UAE really is

Finally, the one thing most tourists realize after visiting the UAE is just how diverse this country really is. From sparkling futuristic skyscrapers to traditional souks, from local food stalls to luxurious international restaurants, the UAE’s culture and people will be something that will stay in your memory forever.

The old and the new blend together so effortlessly in the UAE

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