Sunday, June 03, 2012


When we planned the time we would spend in Dubai, we asked friends who had been there before and got answers ranging from “you can do it in a 1 day tour”, to “a week wouldn’t do it justice”. So we settled on 3 days and booked the Holiday Inn in the Bur Dubai district, mainly because it was located a very short walk from one of the main metro stations. Our ship docked at the port area right near Dubai Creek. They call it that but it is really more like a river. When we walked out of the ship, it was like walking into a furnace because it was about 115 degrees outside. It is also the time of the year when there is humidity, which didn’t help. We had to claim our baggage and then stand in a long line in the hot sun in order to get a taxi. If you choose the taxi company which has cream colored cars with various colored roofs, these are the cheapest. And taxis are fairly cheap there. It cost the 4 of us with all our bags about $20 to get to the Holiday Inn. The Holiday Inn was very nice, with a lovely lobby
and nice big rooms
After a short rest, we took a short taxi ride to the Dubai Museum, which is in the old Al Fahidi Fort.
It includes local antiquities as well as artifacts from African and Asian countries that traded with Dubai. It also includes several dioramas showing life in the emirate before the advent of oil. It cost about a dollar to get in and was very interesting. Before Dubai became the high-rise, modern city of today, it was a simple desert country, settled in 1833 by the Al Maktoum family who herded sheep and goats, raised dates, and engaged in fishing and pearling. Nomadic Bedouins lived in this area too but their lifestyle ended in the 1960’s. The Al Maktoum family still rules the Emirate today, but of course, they are a lot richer now. Here are a couple of the museum displays:
And here is the display which shows the veil being worn by many of the women here:
Then we braved the heat and walked about ½ mile to the bank of the Creek, where we caught a small boat called an abra in order to get to the other side.
The abra cost 30 cents each (1 dirham) and took only about 5 minutes. Here is the view up the Creek:
Here are some of the other boats along the banks:
The other side is the oldest part of Dubai and is called Deira. Here we walked to the spice souk. Souk is the name for market, and they are open air with stalls and small shops. There are colorful displays of all the goods
It was still very hot, so there weren’t many people around. Also, most shops are closed during the hot afternoons and reopen about 4PM. We should have visited this area in the evening, when it was cooler and there was more activity. Next we visited the Gold Souk, because it was near that area. Wow, there is shop after shop just filled with jewelry and lots of it was made from gold.
If we stopped to look at anything in the windows, someone came out immediately to urge us to enter the shop and look. Elaine was frustrated that there were no prices on anything, but that is because they haggle over prices with you – it is part of the “game”. There were side streets with stalls that sold other goods as well, such as shoes,
scarves, tee shirts, or other tourist items. Here is one of the more whimsical displays:
Often we saw porters pulling carts of goods
And here is a picture of porters waiting around for their next job
One thing we learned is that the people who are actually members of the tribes which settled in the United Arab Emirates make up a very small percentage of the population that lives there now. Most are foreign workers who come in and get a work permit and an identity card and thus can live and work in Dubai for 10 months a year, and then they go home for 2 months. They cannot bring their families. So most of the people we came in contact with were foreign workers. Additionally, Dubai is a very safe place to travel because everyone is employed (or one of the wealthy citizens) and no one wants to lose their jobs and be sent back home which would happen if they committed crimes. Also, for stealing, they cut off your hand! We poked around the souks for a while, and marveled over some of the things for sale in the stalls and shops, such as really fancy dresses
which I suppose they wear under their black burkas
Then we took a taxi to the Aroos Damascus restaurant, in Deira, where we had a delightful reunion and wonderful dinner with 6 cruise friends.
Egbert and Chris, from Germany, were on the ship with us and they had been to this place before with their son, who worked in Dubai for 6 months. Elaine and I knew we loved Syrian food from our trip there in 2006. David & Diane were with us, of course, and Daryl & Patrick McGrath came too. Egbert ordered several mezes (appetizers), and some grilled chicken kabobs and a meat platter. Everything was delicious! Chris & Egbert went down to the Creek to watch the dhows (small boats) before they had to go to the airport for their late night flight. The next day David & Diane, Elaine and I bought a day pass for the Metro and went to the Dubai Mall. The Metro is the cleanest, most modern, and efficient we have ever experienced anywhere.
The terminals are totally air-conditioned because the track area is not open, but enclosed by glass. Down in the metro area there are money exchanges and food stores too. Even bus stops out on the streets are enclosed and air-conditioned. The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world and has many other attractions other than just stores; although, the stores are really nice. Here we are in a really large and well decorated candy store:
The aquarium in the Dubai Mall requires a separate admission but is so big that there is a plexiglass tunnel you can walk through:
There is a waterfall with sculptures of divers scattered across it:
The ice skating rink is very big, and they have lots of activities there such as hockey and broomball, as well as curling.
There are several food courts, and a whole different area where there are medium to up-scale restaurants. We went to the Wafi Gourmet Lebanese restaurant because it had been recommended by a very nice couple we met on the ship who live part of the year in Dubai. There were fabulous displays of items for sale, such as olives,
and many glass-enclosed cases with platters of delicious looking food
Later, we returned and had lunch at this place and it was a treat. Outside, behind the mall, there is a huge man-made lake with fountains which are used for a sound and light show each evening:
It was designed and built by the same people who did the Bellagio in Las Vegas. We went back in the evening and watched the show:
The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, is also located at this mall.
Patrick and Daryl joined us here but only Patrick went up to the top with us. Diane shares Daryl’s fear of heights but she became brave and went up with us anyway. It cost 105 dirhams each, or about $30, but was a once in a lifetime experience. If you plan to go, make a reservation on the internet because it costs a lot more to just show up. The elevator goes so fast that it only took 58 seconds to get to the top, and we could barely feel that we were moving, except for our ears popping from the pressure change. There is a viewing platform all around the whole building at the top but it is enclosed. Here are a few of the pictures we took:
The air in Dubai gets so hazy, especially as the day progresses, that it was difficult to see the whole city, but we could clearly see everything below. Next we took the Metro, and also a taxi, to get out to the Atlantis Hotel where Patrick and Daryl were staying. From the outside, it looks like the Atlantis in the Bahamas:
This hotel is located out at the end of what is called, The Palm. When Dubai decided they did not have enough shoreline, and they were trying to build up their tourist attractiveness because they are going to run out of oil in 2016, they decided to build a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree. It extends out several kilometers from one of their beaches. First they had to build a semi-circular barrier island to protect the palm tree which would be built on the inside. Here is the view towards the palm from the Atlantis:
Each of the fronds of the palm tree would have villas, condo and apartment buildings on them with waterfront area, and hotels would be built on the barrier island. The amazing thing is that all of this was built out of sand. The hotels are all very expensive – Daryl & Pat’s room cost $900/night! And the houses and villas all cost upwards of a million dollars and were sold out before they were even completed. People not staying at the Atlantis can get into the shops and restaurant area,
and also the aquarium, called the Lost Chambers. Pat & Daryl arranged for us to have complimentary tickets to the aquarium
and also visit the lobby, where there was a big, impressive glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly:
We have seen his work before in the Tacoma Glass Museum, the Bellagio, and the Nassau Atlantis, and it is all amazingly intricate and colorful. Then Daryl & Pat treated all of us to drinks and snacks in the hotel bar:
Dubai is a Muslim country but liquor is available in western hotels and bars. We sadly said “goodbye” to Daryl & Pat, as they were flying out early the next day. Our third day in Dubai, we decided to get another day pass on the Metro and explore more of the malls. Day passes are really cheap, at 16 Durhims, which is less than $5. Almost all the way to the end of the metro line was the Ibn Battuda Mall which has various theme areas, such as an Egyptian wing, a Persian wing, an Asian wing, etc. Here is the Egyptian area:
There was an elephant sculpture in the India area:
And this grand salon was in the Persian area:
But what we most enjoyed was the food court. There were lots of food stalls from all over the world where you could get ethnic food, so it was difficult to choose. It was tempting to try something exotic such as Iranian food, but we selected some Lebanese food from this stall:
Then we took the Metro to the Mall of the Emirates, another very large and fancy mall where there were more food courts and elegant stores, but also a ski area! Here are a few pictures:
Of course, as we were exploring Dubai, we were noticing what the people looked like and were wearing. There were lots of people dressed in Western clothes, like ourselves, but also about half were attired in Muslim garb:
There were also many buildings such as this:
And, from the Metro, we also were able to take a picture of this famous building, the Burj Al Arab, which is the world’s only 7 star hotel:
And there was no shortage of unusual architectural designs:
Our last evening in Dubai, we went back down to the Creek area to see some of the dhows. There were lots of big wooden cargo boats being unloaded along the bank, with the dhows all lit up and parked along the other side:
Early the next day, we took the hotel shuttle to the airport. Good thing we weren’t planning to take the Metro, because Friday is the Muslim holy day and the Metro doesn’t even run until 1PM. The airport was another marvel of cleanliness and spaciousness and efficiency. We flew Emerites Airlines back to the USA and it was the best airplane and service we have experienced on any flight. Good food served often, and anything we wanted to drink (even alcoholic) at any time, and flight attendants circulating often with juice and water; good leg room; very complete entertainment system with hundreds of movies and videos to watch on your own monitor; and Elaine and I had a row of 4 seats all to ourselves. We enjoyed Dubai and will look forward to 3 more days of exploring if we ever find ourselves there again. Feel free to contact us for more information.


Laura said...

What a trip.....
Miss you, Laura

Betty Prange, Nomad, from somewhere on the road said...

Wow. I was excited before, but now I am ready to grab my bag. Not long, leave June 30. Don't look forward to the heat. Definitely will do the souk in the evening. Forwarding your blog link to my two cousins so they can see it, prior to our arrival. Betty

shoaib hassan said...

wow its amazing.
I m from