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Gay Dubai Part Two

Gay Dubai Part Two

Built almost overnight in an Arab Emirates desert, Dubai's towering luxury tourism industry is in a class by itself, much like its mix of socially conservative Islamic traditions with a budding LGBT scene.

Gay Life Dubai remains culturally conservative, and tourists are expected to conform. Gay and straight tourists alike are well served by respecting the local customs by keeping displays of affection discrete.

This strict moral code, however, has not prevented a vibrant gay scene from growing underground. Restrictions on Alcohol consumption mean that all bars and nightclubs are located in hotels, and while none of these are officially gay, the gays have colonized two of them: Submarine (Dhow Palace Hotel; +971-4-359-9992) on Thursday nights, and Neos (+971-4-427-0515) on Fridays. (The weekend here is Friday and Saturday, Sunday is a workday.) This is bound to change -- publicizing it here could even hasten their demise -- and the door policies are uneven. Men arriving solo or in all-male groups often pay more than if they arrive with women, and are sometimes denied entry, particularly after 11:30pm. These bars offer little more than expensive cocktails, but amidst the smoky haze, you'll find a true melting pot of gays from all over the world, eager to socialize and cruise.

The best way to get current information is to log on to, where you'll find the only large population of online Dubai gays, and ask the locals where and how to go. In order to access any gay site from Dubai, you'll need to download Hotspot Shield to your computer before you arrive. This free software creates a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that allows you to bypass the United Arab Emirates' internet sensor, which blocks many sites, including all dating and gay sites.

What to Do
It would be easy to dismiss Dubai as a city of shopping malls -- and if your interests lie in shopping, they do not disappoint. The Mall of the Emirates (+971-4-409-9000) and The Dubai Mall (+971-4-437-3200) offer an unparallel range of stores, along with numerous other attractions: the afore-mentioned ski slope, an Olympic-sized ice skating rink, and an enormous walk-through aquarium.

But shopping isn't the only attraction here. The Dubai Museum (+971-4-353-1862; closed Sunday), housed in a historic fort, and Sheik Saeed's house (+971-4-393-7139; closed Sunday), the official residence of the ruler of Dubai from 1912-1958 both offer glimpses into Dubai's history.

The Bastakiya with its narrow lanes and tall wind towers is the largest concentration of traditional courtyard houses in Dubai, and home to a few art galleries and a weekly Saturday market. The delights of the desert are easily accessible. Camel races, Desert Safaris and sand dune off-roading are all popular excursions. These can all be arranged through Arabian Adventures, which also runs a recommended afternoon walking tour of Old Dubai on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. It's a great value at $45, including transfers from your hotel, and offers some great insight into the history of Dubai, and a glimpse of the contrasts that continue to shape this modern metropolis.

Beyond Dubai
Dubai is an easy starting point for a number of other Arabian adventures, too.

The Sultanate of Oman is a popular road trip. Muscat, its capital, is a 5-hour drive along the coast or through the mountains. Oman offers a less-developed, more historical immersion in Arabian culture, along with breathtaking scenery and excellent scuba diving.

Sir Bani Yas Island, a 3.5 hour drive from Dubai was once a private Royal reserve. It offers a unique glimpse into an entirely different kind of development: a man-made nature reserve that is now home to the world's second-largest population of African Oryx, and a brand new Anantara resort, Desert Islands (+ 971-0-2801-5400; $350+), which offers an affordable, luxurious island retreat. Set amidst dramatic mountain scenery and the Arabian gulf coastline, you can feed Giraffes in the morning, go mountain biking in the afternoon, and have a Thai massage before dinner.

Part One | Part Two

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