A TALE OF TWO CITIES: MONTREAL & DUBAI
By Omar Bughio
This is a tale of two cities: Montreal and Dubai. Naturally, you may ask, “Bro, why Dubai?” To that I say, why not? Well, in all seriousness, Dubai was where I last lived before moving to Montreal about 3 years ago.
While growing up in Abu Dhabi, my family and I would visit Dubai on an almost monthly basis. During the mid-2000s, it quite literally felt as though a new skyscraper would shoot into the sky every month – it was wild. Dubai is quite a unique city, much like Montreal, and I thought it would be interesting to draw a brief comparison between them by sharing my experience in both.
YOU SAY GOODBYE, I SAY HELLO
Something which I now take for granted in Montreal used to sound like music to my ears when I first moved here. That music was the sound of a shopkeeper or random stranger telling me to "have a great day". Now, some of you may find it strange, but telling people to have a nice day isn’t as common in the Middle East. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it brings me to my first point: the difference in culture.
What’s great about the UAE is the level of exposure you get to people of different cultures and backgrounds. There’s a decent balance between Eastern and Western culture, which allows people to grow up with a remarkable level of multiculturalism. I believe Montreal is somewhat similar in that respect, where many of my local friends have a mix of French and North American culture.
However, there are still some key differences in how people interact. In Dubai, for instance, it’s not as common to start a conversation with strangers - people there can be more reserved in that sense. On the other hand, in Montreal, I’ve experienced multiple occasions during which random people have jumped into conversations I’m having with a friend. I think that level of openness is great and can lead to interesting conversations.
HOT & COLD
Now, a more obvious difference is the stark contrast in weather conditions between the two cities. On the one hand, ‘Winter’ in Dubai consists of sunny skies, and temperatures between 16°C to 24°C. On the other hand, Winter in Montreal is what it is.
What’s interesting, though, is that because of the extreme temperatures on both ends, there are many parallels between how people live. People here often ask about how I’ve adjusted to the climate, and I tend to draw a comparison between Summer in Dubai and Winter in Montreal. For instance, after leaving your place, you walk a few steps until you enter some form of transportation. Then, you reach your destination and stay indoors for as long as possible. Evidently, this simplification spares several details such as the piles of snow and slush that you traverse through in Montreal, or the sticky humidity and extreme heat that you must bear in Dubai. On the plus side, both cities offer unique activities based on their unique climate.
Rolls-Royces, skyscrapers, Louis Vuitton backpacks, palm tree-shaped islands – these are all commonplace in Dubai. This section highlights more of the material differences between the two cities.
In terms of infrastructure, the Downtown Dubai area we know now was practically all built within the past two decades. Roads, for instance, are world-class in Dubai – it’s almost like driving on a racetrack. Unless you were to go somewhere out in the boonies, you would not see a single bump, ditch, or crack in the road. Montreal, on the other hand, is pothole central.
However, Downtown Montreal also has many buildings which were built in the early 1900s (shoutout to Chelsea House). In fact, Montreal has several buildings which date back to the 17th century. Without diving into gentrification and politics, I think the historic touch adds character to this city.
0 to 100
I believe cars must be one of the talking points in this discussion - this is due to two reasons: I really like cars and Dubai is packed with unbelievable ones. In fact, the Dubai Police even has a fleet of exotic cars which include a Bugatti Veyron and a Mercedes-AMG Brabus G63 (gibberish to some of you). Check out the image below from this one time in 2019 where I ended up at a Ferrari car meetup by accident.
Dubai is essentially like a movie set sandwiched between a sea and a desert. Now, this article is not a battle between the cities… but if it were, Montreal would have to take the win in this section. I’ve been to cities around the world, ranging from Beijing to Venice, and I truly believe Montreal must be one of the most naturally beautiful cities in the world. Mountains, hills, trees, parks, forests, lakes, rivers – Montreal offers them all.
In conclusion, I’ve only scratched the surface of what both cities have to offer. So as the world starts opening up again, I invite everyone to visit and spend time in both cities if and when they get the chance. And when that time comes, I’ll be happy to share the perfect itinerary with you.