13 November 2018Last updated


What happened in the UAE in 2015

From the reinvention of brunch to the rise of online grocery shopping, chauffeur-service apps and the fact that Dubai seems to be getting as busy as it was pre-2008 again, there’s been a whole lot to keep our chins wagging this year...

By Catherine Harper
2 Dec 2015 | 12:00 pm
  • These guys drive us around town in a leather-seated Lexus with mini water bottles in the back, and even get out to open the door for us.


No more cab woes

Gone are the days of waiting for a cab for hours, not sure if one will even drive past; the rise of chauffeur services such as Careem and Uber put paid to many a transport woe around town. With handy apps that mean there’s no calling to book – and options to pay automatically by card, so you don’t even have to worry about having any cash – these knights in shiny saloons have revolutionised our transport system. And when we’re picked up right outside our front door, it’s not in any old, battered car. No, these guys drive us around town in a leather-seated Lexus with mini water bottles in the back, and even get out to open the door for us. And for those of us who prefer to take our own car, the helpful chaps at Saferdriver, Buddys Dubai and DialADriver meet us at our choice of venue, hop in the driver’s seat and bring us safely home. Winner! We’ve also all been using new app Waze, which lets us input a destination and gives an easy-to-follow map or polite voice instructions. No clue how it manages to keep track of all the changes in the road network, but it gets us there every time.


Markets gone mad!

Malls are so last year – markets are the new havens of retail therapy in the UAE. “Each week you’ll find new talent, new products, a variety of local businesses and a range of fun and exciting activities,” says Becky Balderstone, founder of the hugely popular Ripe markets. “They’re a showcase of some of the best SMEs in town, with a variety of quality foodies, artisans, designers, jewellers, entertainers and musicians in the UAE. And besides, markets allow visitors to meet the people behind the brand and ask questions to understand the story behind their company, which is something you can’t usually do in a retail environment.”

It’s not only regular markets that have caught our attention. We’ve also loved the growing popularity of flash retailing, with pop-up markets and food trucks appearing all over town offering us unique, hard-to-find brands and products and new foods.

We’ve even been able to recycle unwanted bits and pieces from our wardrobes with some of these pop-ups; My Ex Wardrobe has regular events all around town, while Fashion Swap Shop allows us to restock our wardrobes by way of a trading rail at its monthly events. And, of course, social media – Facebook pages such as Pre-Loved Dubai, Dubai Nearly New/New Ladies Clothing and Accessories and Buy It, Sell It, Swap It Dubai – enables us to offload pretty much anything we don’t want and spend the cash on other stuff.


Brunch, but not as you know it

This year saw a shift in our brunching habits and the famous Dubai institution is no longer just a mass free-for-all at the buffet table on a Friday lunchtime, washed down with free-flowing drinks. No, it’s grown up; these days, if we’re brunching at midday we’re all about sophistication with table service and à la carte. And, what’s more, some of us are even abstaining during the day and holding out for later on. There’s been a raft of all-in late afternoon and evening dining and drinks packages on offer, from cheap and cheerful to haute cuisine, meaning we have the whole day free to enjoy before we begin the indulgence.


The traffic is back

Sure, our transport options have improved, but is it just us or is the traffic getting worse again? It’s taking us ages to get anywhere, like it did in the years prior to the global economic slowdown, and we seem to be spending an awful lot of time stationary, staring at the car in front. And don’t even get us started on the construction! AQ towers is close to the development of the new canal and, boy, do we know it. Getting to work is a challenge in itself; every day brings new road closures and if we didn’t have Waze, we’d be stumped. We’re most definitely excited to see what it’ll all be like when it’s finished but in the meantime, it’s causing headaches...


Entertainer app

Everyone loves a bargain and we’re no different. While some of the braver members of the team downloaded the Entertainer app last year, this year – with retailers far more familiar with it and the app itself being much easier to use – it’s been a lifesaver. No more lugging a big heavy book around town, or getting to a mall and realising you’ve ripped out the wrong branch; these days we simply pop in our PIN and BOGOF. And we can even ping vouchers to our friends. Appy days indeed.


A little taste of home

We’ve been lucky girls on the brands front this year. Friends and family back in the UK probably heard the cheer from the Brits when local store Choithrams announced they were to start stocking Tesco products, while a similar – but more ladylike – hurrah went up with the opening of cult floral brand Cath Kidston, along with the painfully hip and trendy brand All Saints. Just sneaking in at the tail end of the year was Old Navy, a favourite with our American friends, while the Canadians got one in there with the arrival of popular yogawear store Lululemon. And finally, yet another Brit brand was possibly the biggest food news of the year. Marks & Spencer’s new fresh food outlet in the new extension at Mall Of The Emirates has been packed since it opened, or so we hear. And we hear they’re out of their all-butter shortbread on a regular basis.

If you’re not on Insta you’re nobody...

Social media’s hardly new, but we’re pretty sure it’s changing the way we do things more than ever. From posting pics of every meal on Instagram to checking in everywhere we go on Facebook, it seems we can’t so much as hiccup without it appearing online somewhere. Bloggers are competing with PRs and publications for column inches – and in some cases, they appear to be winning – and we’d even go so far as to say they’re among the biggest influencers around now, especially in the F&B and events arenas. Scary stuff; are we going to be out of a job?

StyleDrifter If we need to know what to wear and where to wear it, Teresa Karpinska’s our gal.

TuesdaysChild All things parenting? Heidi Raeside has it nailed.

Kat Lebrasse keeps us on the right track with everything from style glam to hair and beauty.


Social media: what not to do

As we’ve learnt this year with the deportation of an Australian expat, a faux pas on Facebook can land you in hot water...

1 No photos Unless you’ve got the subject’s explicit permission. Don’t post images of badly parked cars, people cutting the queue in the supermarket or someone who’s sold you dodgy stuff on Dubizzle. And don’t post any identifying information, either.

2 Keep it clean No swearing. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your mother, don’t say it on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or Instagram.

3 Remember where you are Criticism of the UAE, its rulers and governance simply won’t be tolerated. Nor will anything deemed insulting to Islam, or anything contrary to the social, religious and cultural values of the UAE.

4 Leave names out Hacked off with the service you got in a store? No naming and shaming, please. At least not on any social media forum, that is.

5 Be respectful Don’t insult someone or say anything that could be construed as defamatory, even if it’s true and you have evidence.


The rise of online grocery shopping

While we’ve long been able to call the little grocery store down the road to deliver us an emergency litre of milk, larger-scale supermarket food delivery services on a par with elsewhere around the world have been lacking in Dubai. Not any more; what started with just Geant and a small selection of groceries has now become a roaring trade with plenty of options.,,, and all offer home delivery services, with ranges varying in size, making our lives so much easier. And we can even get hold of fresh meat direct from a butcher – Martin’s Meats and Springbok Butchers both offer this service – along with a host of organic and locally grown produce from providers such as Greenheart and Ripe. Now we have no excuse not to have a fresh, made-from-scratch dinner on the table every night!

Five celeb stories that got us talking


1 Bruce Jenner: bringing gender issues to the fore

In a year that’s been obsessed with gender issues – from the feminist revival to gender-neutral parenting – Bruce Jenner’s gender reassignment and decision to live life as Caitlyn was the pinnacle. Her announcement in March was followed by the rest of the Kardashians coming out in support and a host of celeb tweets about her bravery.


2 Donald Trump: the US’s new president?

Big news in June was the legendary Donald Trump announcing he was to run for president of the US (but whether he plans to make a comb-over the national hairstyle remains to be seen).


3 Bobbi Kristina Brown: a sad echo of her mother

July was a month of scandal and sadness; Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown passed away following six months in hospital after she was found in a bathtub – eerily reminiscent of her mother’s tragic death a few years ago.


4 Ashley Madison: scandal, social media and online security

To say we were disappointed would be a major understatement. August saw scenes of mad panic among philandering wives and husbands, as online extra-marital affair site Ashley Madison fell victim to hackers resulting in its database of user email addresses being made public. Well, we’re not ones to judge, but if you hadn’t joined...


5 Bill Cosby: assault allegations

In one of the year’s more disturbing stories, evidence surfaced that everyone’s favourite father figure Bill Cosby, of The Cosby Show fame, had drugged young women in order to take advantage of them sexually in his early career.

Celebrity couples



Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux Team Aniston at AQ Towers were over the moon with this one!


George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin Cue worldwide heartbreak: the eternal bachelor is no more.


Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden Everyone’s favourite girl crush and her man – cutesville.


Pierre Casiraghi and Beatrice Borromeo Private islands, couture dresses... we can but dream.


Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis Goofy but handsome gets hitched to cute but still sexy. Simply adorable.


Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale After 13 years, our hearts broke when our fave rock-star pair split.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner Really, Ben – with the nanny? True or not, we’re gutted.

Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez Halle hasn’t had much luck in the love department, has she?

Britney Spears and Charlie Ebersol Pity, but we can’t say we were particularly surprised.

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Apparently their busy careers kept them apart – what a shame.



Celeb baby of the year was, without a doubt, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. The second child of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton arrived amid yet another media frenzy, with the world desperate to catch a glimpse of Prince George’s little sister (and what a beautiful little sister she is). Sultry songstress Shakira became a mum with the arrival of a son, Sasha, while Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel welcomed baby Silas, Carey Mulligan and rocker husband Marcus Mumford gave birth to a daughter, Evelyn, and Jennifer Love Hewitt safely delivered baby Atticus with husband Brian Hallisay.

By Catherine Harper

By Catherine Harper