Every weekend, thousands of Dubai’s glittering, glamorous party-lovers flock to the city’s nightclubs.
Some go to relax or even to find romance amid the haze of cigarette smoke, chatter and rushed introductions around the dance floor. Others, meanwhile, go to spend - and spend big.
“I have stayed in USA, Belgium and France, and they [nightclubs] are nowhere as near expensive as Dubai,” said Najib, a Palestinian expatriate.
Anete, an Indian student in Dubai studying his master’s degree, doesn’t go to clubs due to the high costs – and what he feels is institutional gender bias.
“I would say it’s easy for girls… they get free stuff,” said Anete, referring to the common practice of clubs serving women free drinks and strict door policies that often bar men.
In a city where men outnumber women by three to one, feminine charms can prove cost-efficient.
“Some desperate guy will always invite a girl to his table,” said Khaoula, an Algerian-Canadian expatriate who is a regular party-goer. “I’ve never had to pay for my own drink or pay to get into a club.”
For some in the city, which is a wealthy trade hub and safe haven from regional unrest, running up huge tabs isn’t unusual.
In 2012, a photo showing a bill for $105,629 at Cavalli Club, an upmarket venue at one of the city’s two Fairmont Hotels, made its way onto the Internet.
The massive spend, enough to buy a BMW 7-seres limo, was far from uncommon, the club’s management claimed at the time.
Cavalli’s prices – and bills – are by no means unusual. A pina colada cocktail at Dubai’s Mahiki nightclub will set you back $26. And then there’s table bookings. For the privilege of better service and a place to rest legs tired from dancing can cost $800 to $2,200.
Depending on the time of year and whether a famous DJ is in town, a table at the high-end Crystal nightclub can cost up to $13,600, its manager said.
Some clubs say that running a nightclub in the city is simply an expensive business. Paying night-shift staff, high rents, taxes, liquor costs and flying in star DJs all adds to the bill.
“The costs that clubs have to sustain in Dubai are very high,” said Arianna Gandola, a spokeswoman for Movida, a high-end club near Sheikh Zayed road.
The lowest price of a table at Movida is around $800.
Prices at Mahiki, a Dubai branch of the famed Polynesian-themed London club where shots are sometimes served on a surfboard, are higher than its UK parent.
The cost of a table at Dubai’s Mahiki is around $800. In the London branch, table prices start at around $700 - plus a $21 per head entrance fee.
“We are little bit more expensive,” said spokeswoman Seher Farooq. “But then, in line with the rest of Dubai, we’re exactly the same.”