Dubai – Part Two

Dubai – Part Two


We were glad we chose to stay in the Deira area, which is the older part of the city. It’s right opposite the City Centre shopping mall, and walking distance from the Carrefour food store, which has a wide selection of yummy Middle Eastern and Asian foods. We hardly ate out, and ate well for very little money. Alcohol was not readily available, and when it was, it was so expensive that we chose not to drink for the 3 days in Dubai.

Concrete skyline

There are a few Souks (markets) and we got to see the old market. It is quaint and deserves to be seen to get a feel for how the old style architecture would have been. Dubai for the most part is a modern and almost new city. As far as the eye can see hundreds of developments are going on. They were even pulling down old buildings to put up new ones. We saw the famous Palms and The World, where they are dredging and building islands with beaches in the shape of a palm tree and the shape of the world.


Our city guide made so many references to buildings being bigger or better or more expensive as we drove past them, I lost track, but one that stood out was the Burj Dubai Hotel. It is reputed to be the biggest and most expensive hotel in Dubai. It is right next to Dubai’s Jamirah Beach, which has warm water, as you would imagine, but also calm sea and a sandy white beach. One has to remind oneself all the time that Dubai is built in a desert. Beautiful palm trees, lush lawns and brightly coloured flowerbeds dot the city.

Our friendly guide from the day dropped us off for the dhow trip along Dubai Creek. The creek is really just a big river running up into the city not unlike the Thames into London. It has marinas with luxury yachts and beautiful old style wooden dhows. A dhow trip includes a meal but not alcohol, which, as said earlier, is very expensive. The evening was warm and pleasant but, as I don’t eat meat, I always worry whether I will have enough food at these buffet meals. However, there was plenty delicious vegetarian food. I really enjoyed the humus, pita and pickles mezze type foods. We were given lots of water in lieu of alcohol. The dhow trip was enjoyable although I could have done without the copycat hits they belted out on the PA. We saw the city lights, the mini ferries zipping across the creek and a glimpse of the harbour.

Sand dune surfing

We were taken back to our hotel and slept soundly. The next afternoon we were anxious as the tour operator was late to collect us for the dune tour. Our hotel phoned the company and the driver for us. Turned out we had another party joining us who had gotten stuck in traffic. Finally we all climbed into a great big 4 x 4 and headed off for the desert. A mix of raucous hip-hop and sweet Arabic music was playing in the car to get us all in the mood. I suspect our Egyptian tour guide and the other party with us had no idea of the lyrical content of the music we were listening to, as it was XXX rated.

We stopped at a petrol station for the tyres to be deflated and were herded into the curio shops. The usual cold drinks, sweets, fridge magnets, toy camels and tat were on sale. A plethora of highly enthusiastic sales people showed us all sorts of awful things we could buy. We escaped to the warmth outside and shortly we all piled back into the 4 x 4 and our driver drove off into the soft red sand. There were plenty of other 4 x 4’s gathered there. They seem to wait until there is a big enough party and get going together.

Cheesy desert photo

Our tour guide, who till now had been quiet, asked us to fasten our seat belts and assured us we would be safe. He then, raced the car straight up a steep dune, swung around and let it slide down the slopes. The only way I could describe this experience would be like surfing a wave on a surfboard, except we were surfing dunes in a car. How the cars do not fall over I will never know. Quite obviously not any old driver can do this. Once we realised we would be safe we enjoyed it. We stopped a few times to watch some biker demos, a sunset and then we went to a desert camp for a meal and a display of traditional and belly dancing. Again the food was good and plentiful. We avoided the alcohol but there were lots of soft drinks.

Local dancing and entertainment

Three days is enough to get a feel for Dubai. There are other tours offering rock climbing, quad biking or trips to the other UAE states such as Abu Dabi. There are Arabic countries that are not conducive to female travellers and seem repressed to western societies, however Dubai allows you to experience Middle Eastern culture in a safe modern environment. My only disappointment was that the only Emiratees we had contact with or saw was at airport customs or shopping in the malls.

Click here to go to Dubai Part 1.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.



Travel in Dubai in 2009

The Creek, Dubia

We didn’t initially think of going to Dubai. However, since Emirates Air appear to be one of the better and more affordable airlines for economy class flights, we decided to throw in a three day stop-over in Dubai en route to London. It must be oil money offsetting the price, as the saving was substantial.

Also helping us to make our choice was a chance to spend time with family who live there.

Mosque, Dubai

Our flight didn’t disappoint. Emirates Air on-board entertainment has a selection of nearly everything from current and classic movies to Best-of TV shows past and present. The music selection was massive ranging from country music, the latest chart offerings through to solid rock numbers.

The seating space seems roomier than other airlines, which helps on a long haul flight. Not that Dubai is too far from Cape Town; our flight was 8 and ½ hours. They gave out warm cloths to freshen up before we left and a copy of the menu with 4-course meals. I had the vegan meal and my other half had a low calorie, low cholesterol meal. We also had some lovely French wine with our meal. We didn’t sleep much as the flight wasn’t long enough. I watched Slumdog Millionaire and my other half watched re-runs of Fools and Horses.

Fake ski resort, Dubai

We arrived in Dubai Airport at 05.00 am. We had booked into Ibis Hotel in Deira and we were told a shuttle bus ran from the airport to the hotel. Our bus driver arrived after about ½ hour and took us to the hotel. We were very early but they agreed to check us in at 10.00 am so we had a snack in the reception area while we waited.

We paged through tour brochures and probably picked the same tours as everyone else. They all had variations on the much the same thing. As we made our choice of tours we sat watching people with mounds of bags check into the hotel. It never ceases to amaze us how much luggage people travel with. We always stick to the limit for fear of penalties, yet we saw people staggering under their luggage. How do they get away with it?

Beach, Dubai

Once checked in, we freshened up and had a short sleep. I had been to Dubai before in June and the heat and humidity was particularly uncomfortable. I was pleased that in the last few days of April it was warm but not unbearable. Next, our tour guide for the Dubai City Tour collected us. We soon realised that all tour guides in Dubai are always foreigners.

In fact the only jobs the Emiratees seem to hold are in government, banks or shareholders in business. What was even more surprising is the Emiratees only make up only 20% of the total population of Dubai. The rest are workers and “ex pats”.  Asians from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and those regions make up 50% of Dubai’s people and the final 30% of the population are Europeans, Australians, and South Africans etc.

Foreigners come across for work and money opportunities. They pay tax, for water, for education, and the usual things one would expect. Most people working in Dubai earn good money but the cost of living is high. Conversely the Emiratees don’t pay tax and get state grants for just about everything. Truth is they don’t have to work and one can’t help but wonder if any do as they fill the millions of shopping malls all hours of the day and night.

Outside a souk, Dubai

Dubai likes to think of itself as a shopping destination. And if shopping is your thing, you’re in the right place. There are many shopping malls with the same shops. The usual big names like Gap, H&M, Next, Benetton and even the South African store Woolworth was there but with signage in Arabic. The high-end shopping malls have designer stores with luxury goods. There is even a shopping mall with a ski resort in the middle. We watched people going up ski lifts in real snow through the glass windows.

All the shopping malls we went to were spotlessly clean and air-conditioned with plenty of coffee shops. The sight of the Emiratee people sipping coffee in their traditional clothing is a common one. The men wear a white dishdasha robe with a checked or white headdress. The woman cover up in a black abaya with a black headdress and sometimes even a black facemask or a burka.

Click here to go to Dubai Part 2.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

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