Dubai (and, to a lesser extent, Sharjah) was like a mixture of LA and Singapore.
Take the haze; sprawl; traffic; American fast food reataurants and wide, palm lined boulevards of LA. Add Singapore’s plethora of fancy shopping malls; its official encouragment of the growth of a “modern” city; and a pinch of it’s subtle authoritarianism. Then season with a bit of middle eastern culture and Arabic writing. This ought to give you a bit of an idea of what our UAE experience was like.
Atrium in the Burj al Arab