Dubai Is A Wall Street Boomtown — Here's What It's Like To Live There

palm atlantis dubai

Photo: flickr/nicocrisafulli

Bankers in Dubai live and work in one of the most unique cities on earth.  The immense oil wealth found in the Middle East has spurred new waves of construction, requiring advisory from top investment bankers.  Many of the investment bankers who oversee the Middle East’s development call Dubai home.  

They also call it a “Disneyland for adults.”

So if you’re tired of hearing about doom and gloom, you can go to Dubai where the sun is still shining and world records are still being set in this desert oasis.

One of the largest industries in Dubai is banking and trade.

Bankers in Dubai are primarily responsible for clients and deals in MENA (the Middle East and North Africa), which consists of approximately 20 countries.

Dubai's bankers mainly deal with relationships and management, while larger and more powerful teams from London deal with the technical details for the larger deals.


The city is fresh and new, and almost all of Dubai's buildings were built in the last 30 years.

About three decades ago, almost all of modern Dubai was a desert. And, very few foreigners called it home.

Today, the government has built a tax-free modern city filled with tourism and trade. The Dubai locals now make up only about 5% of the population.

Dubai's great fortune is due to the discovery of oil.

Currently, the UAE is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world.

Source: The Independent, Reuters

The abundance of oil money seeking foreign investment makes for strong investment banking deal flow.

Banks see most of their deal flow coming from sovereign wealth funds, holdings companies and financial sponsors.

The primary exit opportunities for bankers in Dubai are to move to sovereign wealth funds or private equity firms like KKR and The Carlyle Group.


In terms of hours, your day would look the same as it would in NYC or London.

Many bankers at large international firms work hours similar to those working in New York And London.

However, the scorching hot month of August is particularly slow, offering bankers a time to relax.


And don't worry, bankers don't really need to speak Arabic.

Almost all of the people working in Dubai's finance industry speak fluent English. Only those working directly with clients who don't speak English must be familiar with Arabic.


Bankers love the fact that there are essentially no taxes.

Banking salaries are about the same as in New York or London, but there are essentially no taxes, so bankers bring a lot more of their pay check home.

Many expat bankers also receive housing subsidies from their employers. Some banking allowances are around $30,000/year.

The average income per person in Dubai is around $120,000/year.


At the same time, the cost of living has falling dramatically.

The cost of living in Dubai has fallen a great deal since the global economy began to take a turn for the worst.

A report by the Kuwait-based Global Investment House stated in mid 2011 that rental prices had fallen by 56% since prices peaked out in 2008.

Consumer prices have continued to drop in 2012.

Nearly everyone has a maid, a nanny and a driver.

A quote from an expat living in Dubai from The Independent:

'Here, you go out every night. You'd never do that back home. You see people all the time. It's great. You have lots of free time. You have maids and staff so you don't have to do all that stuff.

To relax, people hang out in the massive air conditioned malls.

One of the most famous malls in Dubai is the Mall of the Emirates. There are plenty of top stores like Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton.

Other top luxury malls include the BurJuman and The Dubai Mall.

Source: Louis Vuitton

Attached to the Mall of the Emirates, is famous Ski Dubai.

Yes, skiing in the desert. There are even penguins, too.

The longest of the five ski runs is about 400 meters.


You'll have to go outside to see The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

The Burj Khalifa, completed in 2010, is the tallest building in the world at 2,723 feet tall.

The building contains 900 apartments and 304 hotel rooms, with 58 elevators reaching 160 floors.

10 months after the building's opening, only 8% of its apartments were occupied.

Dubai has more buildings over 700 feet tall than New York.

Source: Sky Scraper centre

The Burj Al Arab is also impressive, it's a hotel built on an artificial island in the ocean.

The Burj Al Arab is one of Dubai's most famous buildings. It is the 8th tallest building in Dubai and was completed in 1999.

The building was designed to look like the sail of a ship and stands 60 stories tall on a man made island.

Andre Agassi and Roger Federer played tennis on the building's rooftop helipad.

Source: Sky Scraper centre

There's more coming too. Three palm islands are planned for off of the coast of Dubai and they're going to feature awesome attractions like casinos.

There are three Palm Islands planned for off of the coast of Dubai. The first and smallest of the tree palm islands is The Palm Jumeirah. Palm Jumeirah features the Atlantis, The Palm and over 48 miles of new beach front.

The second island is the Palm Jebel Ali, which is currently in the late phases of construction. On the island, there will be theme parks including Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove and Sea World.

Palm Deira, the final palm island, has been placed on hold and down sized since real estate prices in Dubai fell during the global credit crisis.


A few hours south in Abu Dhabi, is the world famous Yas Marina Circuit.

Less than two hours by car south, in Abu Dhabi, is the Yas Marina Circuit. This is where the 2012 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be held in early November.

The Yas Marina Circuit was completed in 2009 and holds approximately 50,000 guests. The project cost over $1.3 billion.

Source: The Yas Marina Circuit

Right next to the Yas Marina Circuit, is Ferrari World. It's the largest indoor theme park in the world.

The park features more than 20 Ferrari themed rides and attractions.

One of the roller coasters, Formula Rossa, is the fastest roller coaster in the world, reaching speeds near 150mph.

Source: Ferrari World

Some visitors call Dubai an adult Disneyland, where Micky Mouse is played by Sheikh Mohammad.

Source: The Independent

Dubai is definitely the place to have a car too, in case you're missing that in NYC and London.

You'll see luxury cars a lot, and any cars can be purchased for nearly the same in the US.

One big difference: A gallon of gas currently costs less than $2 in Dubai.

But, the heat during the summer months can be unbearable.

During the summer months, the average high temperature is around 103 degrees, with a low around 85 degrees.

During the winter months, average high temperatures are in the mid 70s, with lows around 60 degrees.


To escape the heat, direct flights are available to almost every major city in the world.

There are flights to everywhere across the globe.

  • 7 hours to London
  • 8 hours to Hong Kong
  • 13 hours to New York
  • 14 hours to Sydney
  • 16 hours to Los Angeles


If you can't leave town, head to one of several fabulous beach resorts and hotels.

Dubai has some fabulous beaches that are soaked in sun all day long, they're similar to those found in the Caribbean.

Some of the best beach resorts include the Quay Club, The Pavilion Marina & Sports Club and the Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Club.

Source: Time Out Dubai

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