Flying solo at Dubai Kite Festival

Dubai Kite Festival 2016

Dubai Kite Festival and my first Ladies Night

Sometimes, expat life can be incredibly lonely. But then maybe that’s just part of growing up – and nothing to do with where you are in the world. Now that I’ve left uni, I’ve realised that adulting is basically just being on your own a lot, worrying about how you’ll get the laundry to dry, and competing with other people in this ridiculous game I like to call Who Can Be The Tiredest.

I felt like I was doing alright at moving abroad. Nothing terrible had happened, I hadn’t got lost in the desert or died of dehydration and stupidity yet, and I’d kind of just been cracking on with things. Then my laptop broke and I grudgingly handed it over to the ‘Geniuses’ at the Apple Store. A week, they said.

I wanted to cry. My laptop was my lifeline, my transporter, my guide in this alien country. How was I going to blog and stay in touch with the people I’ve left in the UK? HOW WAS I GOING TO WATCH NETFLIX?

I’ve often paused to try to imagine expat life in the days before Skype, Snapchat and instant messaging and I honestly don’t know if I could have handled it. Clearly, it would be a much more immersive experience – but in the two months I’ve lived in Dubai, the ability to be able to speak to someone at home when things get trying or Google my way through the country has been a huge comfort.

Obviously, I’m trying to make the most of this crazy Middle Eastern experience. I do venture outside frequently, I’m planning to visit a new place at least once a month, sample ALL of the brunches, the beaches, the Ladies Nights and so on. I want the real Dubai experience, but the fact is: it’s not like I can go out bar crawling every night.

Partly because my bank balance wouldn’t allow it, and partly because I wake up at 5.30am – I can’t just swan about Dubai Marina’s many bars on school nights like some sort of posh kid with nowhere to be the next day.

Anyway, I realised that with no laptop and a strange living situation (might explain that in another post), I had no choice but to slap on some makeup and venture outside.

Expat Ladies’ Night

I went out drinking with strangers. We found each other in one of those ‘British expats in Dubai’ groups on Facebook. I’ll admit that I’ve always found advertising your availability as a person with no friends on the internet really cringe. Like, HI GUYS. I’m sure everyone already has friends they’d rather hang out with instead of me.

However, Dubai life is unique in that newcomers are lucky because the overwhelming majority of Dubai’s population are expats, so we’ve all come here in the same boat. Not literally, obviously. But you get what I mean.

It’s a bit like being back at uni. Getting all dressed up and toddling off to a club or bar that feels so brand new, with a bunch of people you don’t know at all. People who are from different places and have different stories to yours, but have somehow ended up in the same expat haze and the same country as you.

Luckily, the three girls I met for drinks at Asia Asia in Pier 7 on the Marina were lovely. We started with a few cocktails, and because it was Ladies Night and drinks were free (like, 100% free), we moved upstairs to another bar. Here, the bartender neglected to take our limited drinks vouchers from us, so we took advantage.

Maybe a bit too much. I don’t know what time I rocked in at, but I do know I was googling ‘KFC Delivery’ as I fell asleep. That’s a real thing in Dubai, by the way. Fried chicken on demand – dangerous.

I also know that work the next day was not one bit fun.

The only comfort was that I didn’t spend a Dirham.

That was Tuesday night, and I spent the rest of the week recovering. Don’t worry, I got my KFC delivery – on Wednesday evening after work, when I crawled to my room and didn’t come out until I felt human again.

Before I knew it, Thursday rolled around. The weekend stretched before me. Two whole days, devoid of friends, people to see, and places to go. Except there totally were places to go – I live in Dubai, remember?

I forced myself out.

Dubai Beach Festival, Kite Beach

I never really envisioned myself spending my weekend at a festival for kite flying enthusiasts but Dubai does funny things to a girl.

Dubai kite festival beach

The Dubai International Kite Festival, fittingly, takes place on Kite Beach in Jumeirah over three days in March. I used it as an excuse to visit this part of Dubai because to be honest, I tend to stick around the Marina at weekends. It’s all very confusing because although I live in Jumeirah Beach Residence, that’s not actually in Jumeirah – which starts at the Burj Al Arab.

Dubai kite festival on sand

Kite Beach is behind Sunset Mall on Jumeirah Road and it feels a whole lot less commercial than JBR Beach. It was nice to see some actual tufts of grass – Dubai is seriously lacking in greenery.

UAE Flag kites

cartoon kites

oriental kite

colourful kites

fish kites in dubai

colourful crazy kites

An enormous array of kites decorated the azure blue sky like lurid party balloons. Hoards of beachgoers and spectators had come to take it all in. There were cartoon character kites, oriental dragon kites and kites in the UAE’s token red, green, black and white.

There was a real carnival atmosphere – right down to the humongous hot dog I had for lunch.

hot dog on kite beach dubai

This is a Japanese themed hot dog.
japanese hot dog

This is the second year such an event has taken place in Dubai. The sand, sea and sky were the backdrop for lots of activities over the course of the festival, like a Sports Kite Flying Championship, Synchronized Kite Flying, Kite Surfing, Kite Buggying, Kite Boarding and Night Kite Flying.

83 expert Kite Enthusiasts came from 25 countries all over the world just to fly their kites here and a Guinness World Record of 15,000 people flying Kites simultaneously at 15 different locations (schools) across Dubai was attempted during the festival. Not sure how they got on, sorry.

girl on kite beach dubai

blue dress walking on dubai beach

I had no idea kite flying was such a big thing.

blue dress kite beach

Kite Beach is the place to go for Dubai’s water sports enthusiasts, and I spent the day watching people kite surf on the waves when my neck got tired of craning up to look at the kites.

kite beach bikini

All in all, a memorable weekend. I’m glad I pushed myself to just go out and do things, either alone or with fellow lost souls. I do generally like my own company, but there have been times since I moved here where I’ve been like, hmm – when did I last converse with someone who wasn’t a barista or my security guard?

Do you have any tips for enjoying your own company abroad? I’m still very proud that I moved to Dubai alone even though I’m a big baby, and I recently shared my tips for others who want to travel but feel too scared.

Let me know your experiences with solo adventures abroad in the comments!

Peace out, and don’t forget to join me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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14 Comments

  1. March 25, 2016 / 9:47 am

    I loved reading this post! It reminded me of how I felt when I moved to Namibia in my twenties and in the beginning, it was hard. I think everything started to change once I said ‘yes’ to things more often. Like you, i would just try everything new i hadn’t tried before. How about group exercise or the gym, yoga etc. it’s also a great way to meet people. I would go on more expat meetings until you build up a friendship group that you regularly want to hang out with. And then before you know it….you feel like you have built up a new life dor yourself! Good Luck Dannielle!

  2. March 25, 2016 / 3:11 pm

    Some of those kites are beautiful and this sounds like a really unique event! I haven’t flown a kite since I was a kid, but now you’ve got me wanting to do it. Haha! Glad you had a fun time!

  3. ourfamilytraveladventures
    March 25, 2016 / 4:41 pm

    Wow! The kite festival looks amazing! I travel with 3 kids but hope to try traveling solo one day!

  4. Life, Other Than
    March 25, 2016 / 6:13 pm

    I lived in Bahrain for a year back in 1998-99. It was a pretty liberal country for the Gulf area, and at the time, Dubai was pretty similar. It sounds like Dubai has become significantly more westernized – especially if you can go “bar hopping” there. In order to get a bottle of booze in Bahrain, I had to take a taxi into Manama and have them drop me next door to the liquor store at the dry cleaners. I’d then need to walk into and out of the dry cleaners on my way back to the taxi so that it wouldn’t appear that I was coming from the liquor store – even though it was clear that I just left the liquor store. Taxi drivers would refuse to pick up people who had just left the liquor store…it was all about appearances.

    Great piece! Thanks for sharing. That kite festival looks fun!

  5. March 26, 2016 / 8:29 am

    Not just expat life, but I often wonder how people just traveled in general before technology! Like you said, I’m sure it was a much more immersive style!!
    The kite festival looks great! Those unique things you stumble upon are some of the best experiences you have while abroad!

  6. March 26, 2016 / 8:42 am

    oh wow I love that Dubai has a kite festival! Some of those kites look amazing! Would it be too British of me to say that this post has put Mary Poppins “Let’s go fly a kite” song in my head 😛

  7. March 26, 2016 / 8:44 am

    what an amazing adventure you’re having. It’s hard starting all over in a new country. I’ve never done the move alone, but as a kid we moved from country to country meaning leaving friends behind and having to start in new schools and meet new friends. It’s a long process but so worthwhile by the time you realise you aren’t worrying anymore and just having fun 🙂
    My sister lives in Dubai and works as a teacher so she’s just had to redo the finding new friends thing as well. I’m hoping to go visit at some point soon.

  8. March 26, 2016 / 9:31 am

    How unusual is that kite festival. It adds a unique aspect to a day at the beach and some of them are really fancy. I’m guessing as you managed to post this your laptop survived, thank goodness 🙂

  9. March 26, 2016 / 12:24 pm

    When I was traveling Colombia, my laptop broke for a month and I actually was relieved that it happened. Blogging required a lot of computer hours and if it didn’t die on me, I wouldn’t be able to go out and participate in the world. Today, I know I can step back even if my computer did not break. Glad you transformed the misfortune by heading out! Our lives as bloggers can be really really demanding!

  10. Nisha
    March 26, 2016 / 7:21 pm

    What a lovely article!

    I am glad that you pushed yourself and in return you got a huge reward. 🙂

    Loved the pics of Kite Festival. Very similar to our own Kite Festival in Gujarat. 🙂

  11. Melody Pittman
    March 27, 2016 / 6:07 am

    Wow, what a huge event! I’ve never even heard of this before. Your pictures are stunning. Still laughing over googling KFC and falling asleep. I guess they are truly everywhere.

  12. March 27, 2016 / 12:30 pm

    I didn’t know kite flying was such a big thing as well. The hot dog looks amazing, wouldn’t mind having one of those while watching colourful kites flying in the distance. Night kite flying sounds really interesting, I never knew there were different ‘kinds’ of flying!

  13. March 27, 2016 / 8:45 pm

    Classic nothing like a bit of greasy chicken after a session. And home delivery what a win. All the kites look magnificent ion the beach

  14. March 28, 2016 / 1:35 am

    I had no idea kite flying was such a big thing either! But the Dubai International Kite Festival actually sounds like a lot of fun! It’s funny how things like a laptop breaking can seem catastrophic at the time, though may actually be a blessing in disguise sometimes – pushing us to get out and meet people and experience something new 🙂

    I try to remember that lesson everytime something like this happens to me too! Glad to hear you had a memorable weekend.