It was hard to get a handle on Dubai in 3 days. It's a very traditional, conservative, Muslim place and yet, it's also cosmopolitan, multicultural and thriving on Western-style consumerism. Geographically-speaking, it was hard to get around because of how massive and spread out the city is. We would look on the map and think it feasible to walk somewhere, but it was usually twice as far as expected. Even though we were in a huge city, we felt like characters slogging through a desert searching for an oasis. Part of that slog was the heat, which felt pretty good after a chilly week in Turkey. Despite temps in the 90's, it was Dubai's coolest season.
The area we stayed in, which is probably representative of most of Dubai, was one of the most diverse places I've ever been. There was every different kind of language and ethnicity present. Most of Dubai's residents are South Asian, Southeast Asian, or from other Arab countries. A very, very small percentage of Dubai is native Emirati. Despite hosting generations of immigrants, the Emratis protect their citizenship very closely making it very hard to become a citizen, even for children born in Dubai. Much of the reason for the diversity has to do with labor needs to build up such an impressive city in such a short time and it cannot go unsaid that Dubai is known to have a terrible human rights and environmental record as a result. To me, this is Dubai's present: A huge international city, with an infamous reputation that doesn't represent the multicultural feel of it at all.