We decided to begin our Dubai explorations with a visit to the oldest part of the city. Driving in our little rented car from our gorgeous hotel, the Pullman (located in the jaw-dropping Mall of the Emirates), we braved the busy highways that would lead us to our destination. Parking our car in the lot of a large supermarket in the general vicinity, we set off by foot to better absorb this historic district.
We arrived at the shores of the Dubai Creek, which separates Deira (the centre) from Bur Dubai (the old town). To get from one side to the other, we hopped on a wooden boat known as an abra, for the low low price of 1 dirham (about $0.27 USD). What followed was a breezy, leisurely, and visually stimulating ride.
Feeling relaxed and refreshed after our boat ride, we landed at Bur Dubai ready to delve into the souks. I, for one, love souks and markets in general: the smells, the colours, and the interactions with the vendors make me feel light and gay. While I often do not buy anything, I love to haggle, peruse, and bargain. As Liebling broke out the maps and plotted out our route, I wandered and stumbled upon these furry critters:
Route sorted, we briefly made our way through the fragrant spice souk. I was shocked by the cleanliness, relative unclutter, and order of the stalls selling condiments and seasonings.
We made our way through an area selling housewares and brick-a-brack as we searched for the souk selling jewelry. Again, I was surprised by the cleanliness and order that reigned in this marketplace, so unlike other markets I have been to in the world. The Chicastenango market in Guatemala and the Grand Bazaar in Turkey were both hustle bustle, crazy, and frenetic.
We at last found ourselves at what we had been anxiously anticipating: the gold souk. Dubai is not known as a hotbed of wealth and excess for nothing. What we stumbled upon was astounding:
I didn’t dare check the prices- it was obvious that the procurement of such ostentatious displays of wealth were way beyond my reach. After our bit of gawking, we exited the gold souk and strolled along the streets of what was the historic centre of this ever-changing city.
What we found was strikingly normal. We were far from the skyscrapers, precious jewels, and fancy cars. The locals went about their daily business and gave us nary a glance.
After a bit more exploring, we regained the port, where we were met by a variety of men loading and unloading large wooden crates of goods presumably shipped from lands far away. We eyed them with fatigue- they grunted under the weight of the boxes and sighed from exertion. As we curiously eyed them, two gentlemen taking a rest from their work beckoned to us; a wordless request for us to take their picture.
Back onto the boat we went, retracing our journey and going back from whence we came. Once back on the Deira side, we sauntered down the boardwalk. I courageously volunteered myself to take this picture with the gaggle of gulls gathered on the waterfront.
To be honest, this was not the Dubai I expected. But this is the Dubai I really loved.
Are you a fan of markets like me? Do you like walking around the historic centre of a city, or do you much prefer the newer parts of town?
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