Welcome to My Place . . . Dubai

Lisa O’Donohue recommends a desert camping trip, hot falafels, a dancing fountain and historic markets in her adopted city

After moving to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in December 2015, Lisa O'Donohue immersed herself in the Dubai-Irish community. Although she is now a member of the Dubai Celts GAA Club, she never played Gaelic football until she moved to the desert, 8,000km away from her hometown of Galway. The 25-year-old, who works in marketing, recently represented Dubai in the Rose of Tralee.

Where is the first place you bring people when they’re visiting?

Anyone who visits me will be ushered to Old Dubai within the first few days of their trip. It is a rich cultural oasis in a city that is more often known for its glamorous, cosmopolitan way of life. Winding streets filled with the aromas of fresh spices, traditional abras to carry you across the creek, and bustling market stalls each promising a better bargain than the last. This part of Dubai is immersed in traditional Arabic charm.

The top three things to do in Dubai that don’t cost money are . . .


Although Dubai can be an expensive place to visit, there are plenty of things to do and see here that won’t make your eyes pop and your purse flop. I found it difficult to narrow it down to just three.

1. Wander around Al Bastakiya’s enchanting streets that date back to the 1800s

2. Watch the world-famous dancing fountain show that takes place in front of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa

3. Embrace the local landscape and go camping in the desert

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Dubai?

Living in a city where there are more expats than locals, we are exposed to so many cultures and their traditional foods. Fresh falafel and Arabic bread baked on the walls of hot stone ovens are foods that you indulge in when experiencing a desert safari (or if you want a flavour of India and Pakistan, the unassuming Ravi’s is your place to go).

Where is the best place to get a sense of Dubai’s place in history?

The Dubai Museum is located in Al Fahidi Fort, an old defence fort that was renovated to showcase Dubai’s history. Transitioning from a small fishing village into one of the world’s largest cities, the history of the Emirate of Dubai is a fascinating one.

What should visitors save room for in their suitcase after a visit to Dubai?

There are beautiful little gold or silver necklaces on which your name, or a word of your choice, is displayed in Arabic. I still haven’t bought one yet, but it’s definitely on my list before I eventually move home to Ireland.

If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live, please email your answers to the five questions above to abroad@irishtimes.com, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We’d love to hear from you.