Category Archives: United Arab Emirates

Dubai: not only glitz’n’glam

Dubai is not my thing (click here for my previous post).
But I am here now so I might as well try and see what’s out there beyond the overwhelming glitz’n’glam, I thought.

In Dubai town
In Dubai town

“Madam, you cannot walk to the Heritage Village from here. You must catch a taxi”. This is what the hotel receptionist told me in the morning. We’ll see, I thought. My well-known aversion for taxis had already kicked in. I always walk everywhere or catch public transport. I can be found on taxis only when no other options are available.

So I started walking around Deira, the old part of town, starting from a main road then turning into any interesting side streets I spotted. There were not many people around and I was the only white woman walking on her own. Did it bother me? Slightly, but not enough to stop me wandering. But I used care :-).

And soon there was the fish market. It was a large fish and groceries market, quite lively and busy.

The fish market building in Bur Deira
The fish market building in Bur Deira
At the Dubai fish market
At the Dubai fish market

After leaving the market, the sign for the “Underpass for Bur Dubai” appeared in front of me. Bur Dubai is on the western side of the Dubai creek, opposite Bur Deira, which is where I was.
I followed the sign and entered the underpass, a pedestrian underwater crossing that connects the two sides of the creek.
And at the other end I found what I was looking for: no more glitz’n’glam, but renovated historic buildings and museums, a step back in time into some of Dubai’s culture and heritage!

The area is called Al Shindagha and features a Heritage Village and a Diving Village, which are built to familiarise tourists with the region’s traditional arts, customs and architecture. In addition there are several museums (Camel Museum, Horse Museum, Traditional Architecture Museum, etc) and some historic buildings. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House is a beautiful traditional building and former residential quarters of Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, former ruler of Dubai.

Along the Al Shindagha waterfront
Along the Al Shindagha waterfront

The whole area was very quiet when I visited, and therefore more enjoyable. Walking around the sand-coloured buildings and in the narrow streets was a pleasure (apart from the 40C degrees temperature..). One security guard offered to guide me around a couple of buildings and museums, giving me interesting information about history and local customs.

The Dubai Museum, located in the Al Fahidi Fort (built in 1787 and the oldest building in Dubai), was another highlight of the morning. It has very interesting displays of traditional ways of life in the UAE, and kept me occupied for quite a while.

The Dubai Museum (in Al Fahidi Fort)
The Dubai Museum (in Al Fahidi Fort)

I didn’t take a boat ride across the creek, on one of the traditional wooden boats (abras) that cross the river. I was planning to go back at sunset and do it then, but plans changed.

Trying to blend in
Trying to blend in….

I may never go back to Dubai – after all I have seen all I wanted to see – but I am glad that I have found something more than just glitzy and glamorous buildings.

For more Dubai photos click here.

Dubai: first impressions

I have never been too interested in Dubai. No appeal. All those really tall skyscrapers and super-modern flashy buildings don’t cut it for me.

So why did I decide to spend three days in Dubai on my way back to Europe? Well: with Emirates being my airline of choice in the last few years, I had seen the Dubai airport many times already and thought it was time to step out and see the city. And tick off another country for my travel map ;-).

I arrived in Dubai in the very early hours of the morning, after a 7-hour flight from Saigon and missing Vietnam already. Walking in the empty streets of Deira (the old part of Dubai) to reach my hotel from the metro station was awkward. It was 6am and there was hardly anyone. The few men I saw stared at me like I was an oddity.

Dubai didn’t stand a chance at that point. The fact that my hotel receptionist recommended the Dubai Mall for my first trip out into the city didn’t really help either. Waitrose, Marks&Spencers, Monsoon,  Holland&Barrett: am I back in London already?!?! Nonono, this is not what I am interested in, I can have it all back home.

UAEPhotogallery_001On the plus side though, the metro system in Dubai impressed me and within an hour I was already familiar with procedures and station names and able to move around confidently. Get a ‘nol’ card, top it up, then touch in and out at the various stations. With only two lines, Green and Red, it was quite easy to navigate.

In the following days I discovered that Dubai had something for me too. Keep following me if you want to know what it was :-)