To get to the popular Arabic markets (called souks), a water “taxi,” called an abra, is in store, as the charming saltwater Dubai Creek separates the newer part of the city from the older part, called Deira.
We went for a 90-minute cruise through the harbour, historically a trading port, passing under bridges and checking out the buildings from the other side. What a beautiful, sunny and perfect day. The old-fashioned Arabic boats, called dhows, have a lot of character.
The markets are busy and dizzying. Little narrow streets wind in different directions, all lined with STUFF. It’s a maze. You can’t not get lost. My eyes are big. Shopping mixed with local culture – oh happy day. There is the Dubai Gold Souk, with shop windows dripping with gold jewelry. You can even buy gold bars.
Then there is the spice market. It’s aromatic and colourful, and you will find exotic spices like frankincense and saffron mixed in with your peppers and tea. You will also find sheesha and cardamom, bark, turmeric and tons of cloves.
And now the shopping bazaar. You best have a lot of patience, but not the kind you need to shop: Like any market, you are approached by countless local sellers vying for your attention, peddling their shoes, watches, local crafts and textiles. What they really wanted was to take you to see their knockoff purses. A few times I gave in and followed the men up some stairs into hidden rooms (it sounds dodgy I know), where the smell of leather was rich in the air and all kinds of travellers were behind these unassuming doors haggling over prices for all the latest Louis Vuittons and Guccis. Go up another set of stairs and there are the higher-quality knockoffs, the smell of leather twice as thick. They take a lighter to the purses to demonstrate the quality. They still cost hundreds of dollars. It takes a lot of haggling just to get out the door empty-handed. Their persistence doesn’t pay off – Bevan loves to watch me suffer. How many purses did I have shoved in my face. If they would just let me look with my own eyes and hands for two minutes, I could have some peaceful contemplation. Bevan just sat back and enjoyed my exasperation. OK I need to get out of here. Some will then follow us around to inquire if we perhaps changed our mind. I needed air. But those purses sure were lookers.
Bevan and I had a weird moment where we noticed a bunch of tourists gathered ’round. They were ogling a tall man, like really, really tall, seemingly on display. His handlers stood nearby and people were taking photos with him for money. He was strangely out of place, and he wasn’t saying anything. The whole situation was so weird, watching this man being paraded around for money. He was so tall. Over eight feet, we guessed.
TIP: Take a 90-minute cruise down the Dubai Creek. It is a nice and relaxing way to check out Dubai from another angle. Some amazing buildings can be found not totally visible from the street side.
Published journalist, world traveller, big thinker, fun haver