A hot stopover
Trip Start Sep 12, 2006
100Trip End Sep 08, 2008
Show trip route
Where I stayed
My flight arrived soon after midnight, and after an hour long wait to pass through customs I jumped in a cab and made my way to my hotel. It wasn't cheap, but it was the cheapest I could find in the city, and it was also probably the nicest I'd stayed in during my two years abroad.
I rose after a few hours sleep determined to have a look around before it got too hot. My hotel was in the Mankhool district of Bur Dubai, and from here it was a short walk to the Dubai Creek. By 9am it was already more than 30 degrees, and after taking a couple of photos of some abras (water taxis) on the creek I sought out some shade in 'Hindi Lane', a tiny alley where vendors sold religious paraphernalia and temple offerings. I had arrived during Ramadan which meant the markets were remarkably quiet, so after having a short poke around I continued on past the Grand Mosque to the labyrinthine lanes of the Bastakiya Quarter. This densely concentrated neighbourhood of tranquil, tangled lanes and wind towered residences was once home to wealthy Persian traders, and was an interesting place to explore.
With the temperature rising, I began making my way back to the hotel for a couple of hours downtime before I joined a half day city tour. Along the way I decided to jump in a cap and head out to the construction site of the Burj Dubai, currently the tallest man made structure on the planet. My taxi dropped me off outside a nice hotel amidst hundreds of Asian workers, and I felt completely out of place. These construction workers were the only people on the street in the morning heat, and I must have looked absolutely ridiculous wandering around looking for a good spot to take a shot of the Burj. Fortunately I found one away from the staring eyes, and tried to take in the immense size of the tower, which wasn't easy!
I took a more expensive cab back to my hotel, passing down Sheikh Zayed Road past a number of attention grabbing skyscrapers. The length of the strip seemed to be one large architecture competition, with each tower ripping off the last. It really was unlike anything I had ever seen. I managed to get a couple of good shots before getting back to the hotel for a couple of hours rest in some much needed air-conditioning.
I figured the best way to see the city would be to join a half day tour, and that's exactly what I did that afternoon. A minibus picked me up soon after lunch, and we spent the next couple of hours driving around the city taking in some of the most famous sights, including the iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel, a museum of Islamic Art and Jumeirah Mosque, a splendid example of modern Islamic architecture, completed in 1978.
Our bus then continued on to the waterfront where I had been earlier in the day, where we were dropped off and allowed an hour to explore the Dubai Museum. Housed in the oldest building in the area, the majestic Al-Fahidi Fort, its manageable size and entertaining exhibits gave a quick and comprehensive introduction to Dubai's history, culture and traditions. It was one of the most interesting parts of the tour, along with the water taxi cruise over the creek we did afterwards, which gave some fantastic views of the city.
For the final part of the tour we were allowed to have a look around two very different 'souqs' in the district of Deira. The first was the Deira Spice Souq, which afforded a great opportunity to inhale the aromas of frankincense and myrrh. We continued on a little further to the Deira Gold Souq, the Gulf's glitziest gold market. Remarkably, Deira felt more like India than the Emirates, with numerous hawkers trying to sell cheap rip off rolex's among other things.
I had a couple of hours to wait back at the hotel before my flight to Perth just after midnight, but I was glad I'd put in the effort to visit the city. It was pretty much as I imagined, a large work in progress, without a great deal of atmosphere. Admittedly I was alone, broke and only there for a day, but there was nothing which would really entice me back. Nevertheless, 20 or 30 years down the track, it would be interesting to see how the place would evolve, and whether my theories that it was completely unsustainable would prove to be true.