Feminist Passport: Your travel guide to Dubai
You want to see the world, but sometimes the world is an unfriendly place. That’s why HelloGiggles is bringing you Feminist Passport, a guide to all of the most inclusive hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and sights to visit on your next big adventure. Because travel should be for everyone.
It’s hard to believe that not too long ago, the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates was completely covered in sand. Now, it’s lined with high-rise apartments, the world’s most popular chain restaurants, artificial islands, and so much more, and the government has no plans to slow down development.
I booked a vacation in Dubai for the first time two years ago, and returned just last month on a press trip. In that short time span, several new hotels, museums, and places to eat have opened up. The most exciting part is that women are at the heart of all the action and have become influential leaders in business.
As is true in the rest of the world, it has taken a lot for women to be taken seriously in the UAE. While there are many who still believe a woman’s place is in the home, more and more people in power are starting to recognize the value of women to the Emirati economy and supporting their educational and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Unfortunately, these gender-based developments haven’t translated to the LGBTQ community. Homosexuality continues to be punishable by law in the country, and LGBTQ travelers are advised to take precautions. Recently, there have been breaths of inclusivity in the Emirate state, like the time popular pop group Little Mix performed alongside a rainbow flag in Dubai, but the UAE is not exactly a queer travel paradise.
If you’re interested in visiting the Middle East and checking out Dubai, familiarize yourself with the progressive establishments below and live it up in one of the most luxurious destinations in the world.
Stay at the Hilton and support women around the world.
As Emirati women rise in the business world, Dubai’s hospitality industry is making sure women everywhere have the support they need for advancement. The DoubleTree by Hilton – Business Bay hotel recently partnered with the organization Evolvin’ Women to train and give women in developing countries the skills they need to be successful in the hotel business. Together, they placed their recruits at the property in Dubai for a year where they’ll learn and perfect essential skills for their roles in their home countries. Staying at this hotel will help support this program financially and lift up women the world over.
Explore Dubai with the city’s most empowering female tour guide.
Get the ultimate female perspective with highly rated tour guide Nada Badran. She may have been born in Jordan, but after living in Dubai for more than 20 years, she’s basically a native of the Emirates. Badran has a knack for taking her guests beyond the standard tourist attractions (camel included) and giving people a deeper look into the city, all while curating a female-forward itinerary. For instance, she always makes it a point to stop by the overlooked Dubai Women’s Museum to showcase how far women have come in the area.
“Female travelers often say they booked one of my tours because they’re more comfortable with a female guide,” she told Emirates Woman magazine. “I always want to leave the traveler feeling like they’ve become more informed or more educated about the city.”
Go shopping at Dubai Design District.
Skip the overwhelming crowds at Dubai’s many, many malls and hit up Dubai Design District (d3) instead. The space is already a haven for female entrepreneurs, and d3 is always looking for emerging women designers and artists to showcase. I’m obsessed with All Things Mochi, which features colorful clothing from artisans around the world brought together by designer Ayah Tabari. You’ll also want to check out one of the first high-end vintage stores in Dubai, Bambah, founded by Maha Abdul Rasheed. Fashionistas can find plenty of luxe, ready-to-wear pieces that will surely turn heads.
Ride along with ChariCycles.
Two Dubai-based sisters, Rania and Zaina Kanaan, are changing the city one bike at a time with their company ChariCycles. They take “waste” bicycles, often shipped as trash from Japan, and transform them into new, sellable products. Then, for every five bikes the women sell, they donate one to children in refugee camps in the Middle East.
In the last year, the Kanaans told Friday magazine, they’ve noticed the government investing in more cycling lanes around Dubai, giving people a sustainable option to get around town. It’s a much-needed contrast to Dubai’s obsession with a bigger and more luxe skyline. So while you’re in town, stop by to rent a bike and see Dubai in a new way. When you bring it back, buy yourself a tote to remember the experience forever.
Brunch at Nikki Beach.
One thing you need to know about Dubai is that brunch is a really big deal. People wear their fanciest attire, which in the Emirates could mean an array of the most expensive designer brands, and all the hotel restaurants offer buffet menus that boast an extravagant spread of lobster, steak, crab legs, and sushi, along with extraordinary dishes from all over the world. Plus, there are always all-you-can drink alcohol options available. With Dubai’s strict laws against public intoxication or consumption of alcohol, hotels are the only places where foreigners can legally purchase drinks.
A local favorite that’s also beloved around the world is Nikki Beach. Founder Jack Penrod opened the hotel chain to celebrate the life of his daughter, Nicole, who died in a tragic car accident, and from Dubai to Ibiza, there’s a portrait of her at every location. It’s an inspiring story worth honoring. And from publicity down to the music curators who choose the poolside DJs, the brand also has a strong team of women in charge of continuing the family legacy.
You’ll be living your best life in no time.
Check out a workshop at Kave.
A collective of artists and creators, Kave is a multi-purpose space in Dubai that offers a variety of workshops, such as ecstatic dance and a women-centric moon meditation, and is home to a sustainable cafe and fair trade shop. It supports local artists and is a generally welcoming space—you can rent ChariCycle bikes there, too!