The Diary Of A Dubai Resident… As Home Turns Into An Inn!

Posted on July 1, 2012

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Sun, sand, sea and stones

An excerpt from an earlier post… Dubai, my home for almost the last decade, is a quintessential tourist’s haven. It’s a shame that the only thing that comes to mind when one hears Dubai is Shopping. But, walking through the art alleys of Bastakia and the old quarters along the Dubai Creek, watching the sun go down the beautiful and never ending beaches, catching the stars in a moonlit night over the desert sky… there’s so much more to Dubai. Dubai is a remarkable place; a vibrant and growing city where expatriates from all over the world are striving, to make it a true international city. It has the best of modern technology pitted against absolute consumerism. Zero carbon footprint is a concept that Dubai-ites are trying to learn after emitting gallons of carbon in the air!

Sunset in JumeirahNot everyday one has to travel far away to distant lands. Today was one such day. I wanted to dig out all funny memories associated with roaming in and around Dubai. The places that have given us immense pleasure and where we have shared so many lovely moments with our visiting family and friends. Since traveling always brings the best out of me, so here I am teasing my guests a bit, by narrating those moments when I have been wandering with them, like a tourist in my own city! Another version spun from this post – Things To Do In Dubai – Like A Tourist In My Own City! This is perhaps one of the most ‘shared’ post in my blog. I am digging out this post from the archives only because I had spent lots of humorous hours penning it down and now it’s time to showcase my love for Dubai with the 41st UAE National Day lurking around the weekend.

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Scooting to and fro from the airportFrom my Lodge Diary…

May 6, 2011, Friday – Ma (my Mum-in-law) leaves for Kolkata; 9:30am – Leave for Dubai Airport to drop Ma

May 6, 2011, Friday – Jüta and Jürgen arrives from Frankfurt; 6:30pm – Leave for Dubai Airport to pick up the new set of guests

May 8, 2011, Sunday – Jüta and Jürgen leave for Egypt; 6:30am – Leave for Dubai Airport to drop them

May 10, 2011, Tuesday – Seema and family arrive from New York only for 8 hours, en-route to Kolkata; 1:30pm – Leave for Dubai Airport to pick them; 10:30pm – Leave for Dubai Airport again to drop them…

In between, many things needed to be done. Before Ma leaves on Friday, on our way to the Airport we pick up a packet of Zatar, a local spice which from now on is going to be sprinkled upon Ma’s Chappatis during her daily breakfast; we also pick up a small box of Saffron which will be used as a garnishing on Indian sweet dishes like ‘Rasmalai’ that Ma is promising to make with her own hands when we camp ourselves for 2 months in Kolkata over the summer.

After Ma leaves, we transform ourselves into super fast House-Service personnel. The used bed sheets whacked out of the mattress with super-fast lightning speed and changed into another set of crispy white bedsheets spread promptly in the guest bedroom. Other things that are immediately re-organised in a fast-forward mode for our new guests – Water jugs, fresh flowers, welcome candies and a long list of little but important things included in the long ‘things-to -do’ list.

I know Jüta only eats organic fruits and vegetables and is allergic to pulses and legumes. She feels sick if onion and tomato peels come her way while eating! So I run down to the building grocery downstairs to buy a new sieve. And Jürgen? He demands only spicy Indian food when he sees me. His only criterion is that his Beers needed to be chilled 24×7 (24×2 this time as they stayed only for 2 days!). And oh, we drove here and there just to get a few fizzy mineral waters for our German friends – most of our German friends like drinking their water with fizz only – wasser mit Kohlensäure! I was also wondering whether the bed mattress was too hard for them.

The hard orthopaedic mattress in the Guest RoomThere is a long history behind the bed mattress in our guest room. My parents-in-laws are used to sleeping on hard mattresses. Our guest bedroom is more or less adhered to their needs. A hard orthopedic mattress has been accordingly designated in the guest room. Guests flying from the USA face a challenge while sleeping on this bed. There are two comforters which have been permanently assigned to the job of lying on top of our hard mattress so that our American guests may sleep comfortably! After a long debate we decided to place these special comforters for Jüta and Jürgen as well. Then the hotel slippers that we whack on our travels (we are not ashamed of our act as we do this for a greater cause – so that our house guests may snuggle comfortably in the warmth of the velvety hotel slippers while roaming around in our home. I hope you understand our act of thoughfulness!) had to be taken out and we played the usual guessing game of which size of slippers were actually going to fit them. Since Jüta belonged to the ‘allergy-type’ category and exuded a high-maintenance tag she got to wear a new pair of slippers. Poor Jürgen was not all that poor. He got a pair of slippers from the set of slippers which have been worn a few times by our various house guests but have been scrubbed clean and sanitised!

I sincerely hope that the above paragraphs did not sound like a list of complaints! We simply adore guests. Staying away from one’s own country we become so emotionally vulnerable that we readily welcome any member from our fraternity of friends and family. So what if I put lots of coriander leaves in a dish and realise that my guest is allergic to them; so what if I cook lots of potatoes and realise that my guest eats everything but potatoes; so what if I cook ‘whatever’ because my guest can eat ‘whatever’, only to realise that my guest absolutely needs rice with ‘whatever’ pasta that I have cooked; so what if I have transparent drapes hanging in the guest bedroom in order that my guests have a beautiful sea-view the moment they open their eyes, only to realise that their eyes were open throughout as my guests needed absolute darkness while sleeping; so what if the dessert turned out to be the best that my kitchen has ever produced, only to realise that my guest is acutely diabetic!

And so the list goes on…

We are used to bigger storms associated with guests. I am very city-proud (applies to whichever city we are living in at that point in time). I almost drag my guests from one end of the town to the other, forcing them to enjoy Dubai (my city) my way! If you happen to have an encounter with me in one such fateful trip of mine where I myself have become a tourist in my own city, you will really be impressed. My eight-seater 4×4 is stacked with unhealthy snacks (in case the healthy fruits get rotten in the hot car), crisps (in case we over shoot our lunch time while on a city tour), cartons of water (to keep us hydrated all the time, plus to keep the little hands naturally germ -free), a huge mat that can house a family (in case we make a stop by the beach), newspapers (in case we need to light some fire, wipe our dirty feet, wipe the windscreen, or we need some make-shift clothes, hats – you name it!)… the list is actually endless. I am absolutely equipped to face any situation.On the Palm Crescent

Approaching Atlantis via monorail

I like to show-off a bit. Hence my tour of Dubai starts with the most popular Palm Islands and the Atlantis. I have illustrations of the Palm Islands torn from magazines which I have kept almost sacredly. These illustrations are absolutely important when I explain to my guests how the Palm Islands were built. They are also important when I explain to my guests whether we are driving through the trunk of the Palm or whether we are in the Fronds, whether we are on the western end or the eastern end of the crescent that ultimately envelops the Palm Islands. Maybe, my guests don’t care, but I surely do! Actually, I have a whole lot of pamphlets and have a knack of picking up all the Dubai Guide leaflets from wherever I can.

If you happen to be one of my guests, please note that I am not an one-way fact-blurting-out-machine in operation. At the end of our trip I would be taking an oral test, on the basis of which my next day’s trip would be based. Usually, my adult guests fair poorly to my oral tests. And their children always happen to be their saviors. The latter are too excited to be able to seek me, the Dubai Aunty’s undivided attention and love which would ultimately earn them big popcorn packets and dollops of ice creams from Baskin Robbins or Håagen Dazs later on! What the heck, am I an Aunty already? I always thought irritating Aunties belonged to my childhood only!

I prefer to do Palm Island and Atlantis trip during the sunset. Ideally, I should be driving my guests through the Dubai Marina, explaining how back in 2004, these buildings didn’t even exist, that so proudly dot the Marina skyline today. The history of this area dates back to 2004. Yes, as recently as 2004! 2004 was the year when the construction of the Dubai Marina was finally completed.Dubai under eternal construction

‘WOW-W-W-W!’, my guests seem visibly excited. My mission is accomplished. I take a sip from my bottle. After all I have been speaking and speaking over the last few minutes – ‘You know guys, Dubai Marina (below) is a canal city, like Venice, carved along a two-mile stretch of the turquoise Arabian Gulf. Luxury condominium towers and villas along the waterfront – a modern day VENICE!’ Yessss, I’ve sold Dubai to my guests. And incase if you have been wondering – No! I don’t get paid to show-off the city. I generally do all these for free!

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As we drive along the various parts of Dubai, it is unbelievable to think that Dubai was just a small port on the Arabian Gulf even 40 years ago! Over the past decade, Dubai has snowballed into a dream bubble which people feared would burst at any single opportunity. Though it did burst a bit, I am here to mend it with super glue and highlight only those memories about places which have made our stay in Dubai absolutely eventful and an ever-long dream vacation.Picture taken by me in the Dubai Museum – it shows Dubai in the early 20th century

Open air Double Decker bus ‘The Big Bus Company’ Big-Z is always excited when we have guests around. This gives her a break from her normal routine of studying, piano practice and strict bed-times. She is also very proud of me as the open air Double Decker bus ‘The Big Bus Company’ carrying tourists from all over the world doing the city tour follows her Mama’s car. We call our little tour company ‘Big Mama’s Tour’ and our loyal Dodge Durango the ‘Big Mama’s Car’! Big Mama seems to be doing a good job really as the ‘The Big Bus Company’ and its tourists follow wherever Big Mama goes.

After the Dubai Marina tour, we proceed to the Atlantis Drive, explaining the formation and technicalities of the Palm Island in great detail. The Palm Island is a vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai. Imagine, an island in the shape of a palm tree! Each leaf (frond) having individual beach area and water front! I still cannot fathom the massive technicalities that must have been braved to realise this vision. Or the disruption of marine ecology for that matter.

The Palm Islands are the only man-made construction after the great wall of China to be able to be seen from the moon! ‘REAL-L-L-L-Y?, shouts my guests… I feel absolutely satisfied! I don’t think that there is a bigger level of land reclamation on sea taking place anywhere in the world as here. Not even in the Netherlands.

Guest posing during sunset infront of teh Atlantis

There is a crescent which acts as a breakwater that promises to protect against the sea storms, yet offer uninterrupted views of the sea. And the Atlantis Hotel sits right in the middle of this crescent, just like an undisputed crown. The view of the sunset (left) over the vibrant turquoise of the Persian Gulf, as you stand on the natural rocks, is to cherish forever. As if one is watching a panoramic 3-D view of the shoreline with water all around and pinned at the base of Atlantis!

People naturally live along the 16 fronds of the Palm Jumeirah and everytime I am asked ‘Who lives here?’

Newspapers regularly come out with long updated lists of celebrities investing in Dubai real estate. So I do throw in a few names just to add a bit more ‘wow’ factor to our trip. Yeah, like Shahrukh Khan. I think even the Beckhams are contemplating staying on the Palms or had contemplated once – or something like that. A bigger WOWWW from my audience!

Such is my passion to show around the city to my guests in my way, that sometimes my guests pretend to be ‘not upto it’ all the time. I am known to be an otherwise sensitive human being, but these are the moments when I am a bit blind and become insensitive. I cannot imagine that my guests will go back without having seen all the places in Dubai that I would have wanted them to see. And don’t forget the tagline – ‘In My Way’!

Last December, our house was totally full with two groups of guests which I’m going to address as Group A and Group B.

Group A – My cousin with her two girls (aged 10 years and 8 years) had come from Mumbai; Group B – my husband’s cousin with her son (aged 10 again) had come from Kolkata. Both groups joined us over the New Year’s Eve.

We were together all the time – together in the same house, together in the same car! We had to hire a minivan (left) so that we could be accommodated as we arrived upon our friends’ pad who were hosting the New Year’s Party!

4 familiesIn 2008 New Year’s Eve, four of our close friends from good old college days landed from Bangalore with family (left; Photo Courtesy – Srikanth, my friend who’s a brilliant photographer). The hotel apartment (Exclusive Hotel Apartment in Golden Sands Area – I still remember the name) where they were booked in was rumoured to have shut down its operations after the chaos and the mayhem left by our 6 days long continuous partying! There were rumours too that we sold off our sedan after that New Year’s Eve since we were ashamed that our Sedan couldn’t accommodate our friends. The 8-seater Dodge Durango came in the sedan’s place. Though it still cannot accommodate 16 guests, it does save ourselves from some amount of guilt sometimes – at least 7 guests can squeeze in… Maybe our hearts and home may not be big enough to accommodate so many guests but we do have a very big heart!

Coming back to last December… Besides Group A and Group B, my own two little brats – the Z-Sisters had to be accommodated as well. Luckily, the timing was appropriate which means that the schools were closed and I didn’t have to squeeze in school – runs in between Big Mama’s city Tours! I had a separate list of itineraries for both set of my guests.

Exclusive itinerary for Group A comprised of Desert Safari; visit to the Gold Souq; climbing the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest towers); visiting Carréfour for souvenir shopping and chocolates; visiting the crowded Meena Bazaar for original perfumes but at a discounted rate; and finally, trying out Sushi for the first time!

Exclusive itinerary for Group B comprised of visiting glitzy Shopping Malls that Dubai was famous for; again visiting glitzy Shopping Malls that Dubai was famous for and lastly, once again visiting glitzy Shopping Malls that Dubai was famous for… hence Dubai Mall, Mall of Emirates, Burjuman, City Centre Deira etc. The Dubai Tourism board would have been pleased with my Group B guests!

There was also a common itinerary for both Group A and Group B which included the following -

Frolicking in the sun and sand in the beach; visiting Dubai Museum; a drive along the Creek side and strolling in the Bastakia quarters (Yes, they had no choice over this. They had to do this part because Big Mama wouldn’t let them otherwise!); eating more than 2 meals at Mc Donalds and Burger King (who can fight the decision of 6 adamant kids joining hands for their ‘meal cause’); watching the Dancing Fountains at Dubai Mall; experiencing glitzy fireworks across the Dubai sky; see the Burj al Arab as the sun set; and lastly experiencing snow in Ski – Dubai!

Sunset reflected on Burj al ArabEveryone managed to do everything. At the end of the day while stock taking I was happy knowing that I was ticking away points from both the list of Itineraries. And they were getting to see Dubai ‘my way’! The only challenge lay in organising all the eight people from the composite group (Group A and Group B plus Big Mama’s own little kitties) to get ready by a decent time so that the city tour went off decently! Each kid getting up when they are already switched onto their holiday mode; finishing the ‘Breakfast Hurdle’ by the last permitted hour of Breakfast timing and that too when one kid had toasted bread with only butter; the other demanding sugar on buttered toast; jam please and not jelly on toasted bread for the third one; and my own girls demanding all of these on ‘soft’ toast! And the Mamas? One Mama needed only skimmed milk, another Mama apparently could not stand the smell of skimmed milk! Tea for one and coffee for the other… and then the decision time for choosing clothes and shoes -probably  the most difficult part if the entourage is more inclined towards the fairer sex! There was only one boy in the composite group and the rest of us were all women and ladies and girls of various ages – ranging from 2 years to 40 years! So the debates were many – stilettos vs Crocs, sunblock vs foundation, sleeveless vs sleeves, skirts vs shorts, Indian attire vs Western… the temporary decisions before one single final decision of ‘what to finally wear’ were also too many!

However, the final decision would ultimately be based on how they wanted their friends to see them on FaceBook under their albums titled ‘Winter Vacation in Dubai’! They obviously couldn’t have been caught dead with the same clothes that they wore to their previous vacation in Singapore or Hongkong, could they?

FACEBOOK reminds me of a funny incident too. Thanks to FACEBOOK we are again connected to so many of our school friends – friends who were culprits or siblings-in-crime in various sinful acts in our golden childhood days. One such friend was visiting Dubai for a week en-route their journey back to Canada from Kolkata. We just had to catch up, but how? She was busy with her interesting itinerary. Big Mama’s tour spared her and her family because she was seeing my Dubai, in my way, although on her own!

I was busy juggling with my 2 group of guests. The only evening she could possibly spare was one Thursday evening. There was a typical Dubai-ian display of fireworks as well on the same day at Festival City, a shopping Mall situated a bit far away from where we stayed. There was no way I would let Group A and Group B miss out on this grand display of Dubai’s generosity.

The Walk by theJBR

I asked my friend to meet me at the Walk (leftt), just below our house at 5pm so that I could personally take them (her 2 sweet little girls, her hubby and my friend) for a drive to Atlantis and the Palm Islands. Please note the time – I was planning to drive them along the long drive along the Crescent of the Palm Islands exactly at sunset, so that by the time we reached the western end of the crescent they could marvel at the night lights breaking out of the sky-scrapers dotting the Dubai Marina and the JBR.

But before I could take them out, I had to meticulously plan, so that Group A and Group B could take a taxi on their own and go to Festival City to watch the Fireworks. I emotionally blackmailed Big Z to take an afternoon siesta so that she could enjoy and let us enjoy when my friends and family came home later in the evening for dinner.

I managed to do a super fast grocery shopping and then managed an even faster cooking of ‘okay’ standard Mutton Biriyani and Tandoori Chicken (or was it some other Chicken, I am confused now). I put the numbers of all the Taxi companies in Dubai on my speed dials, so that I could co-ordinate the taxi for Group A and Group B, while Big Mama could take her new set of guests for the Palm Island Drive.  And after this meticulous planning, ‘Big Mama Tour’ started her evening city tour over the Marina, and then the Palm Island… the FAQs being tackled by Big Mama with great ease and practice. Big Mama herself beaming with pride as her new tourists blurted out the countless ‘WOW-W-W!’s and ‘REAL-L-L-L-Y?’s…

Everything was going according to the tour plan till Big Mama’s mobile rings.
‘There is no taxi’, ‘No taxi is stopping’, ‘Oh, we are going to miss the Fireworks’ – my guest kids called up as they were waiting at the main road in front of JBR for an hour. Apparently not a single taxi stopped for them. This is the reason Big Mama likes taking control of all the movements of her guests. Missing the fireworks was definitely not an option at all.

Not a single taxi company could be connected. It was a weekend plus New Year’s Eve was about to set in… everybody was putting everyone and everything on hold, let alone the taxis! Suddenly there was this empty taxi at the side of the road. The taxi driver was probably taking his time off to do a lot of things that were basic necessities I guess – like smoking, having a cold drink, making some personal calls…

“Please ‘Bhai-saab’, please follow me – I have got a few guests waiting at JBR and they would like to go to the Festival City… Please, please, please follow me!’

The taxi-driver was naturally too happy to follow me – he would have got paid around 40 Dirhams just to follow someone… was there an easier way to earn money? So I almost dragged the taxi to the door, so that Group A and Group B could ride the taxi from almost their doorstep. It is as good as driving them myself, wasn’t it? And then when I narrated to my husband how I got the taxi to follow me, he got so nervous regarding the capabilities of our guests to get a taxi for themselves that he went out of the office all the way to pick them up, in case 5 people went missing from the face of Dubai!

I also remember the time when I was carrying my first baby and one of my best friends had moved into Dubai. I was dangerously pregnant, with my huge belly steering my car into the next lane every now and then. My friend still remembers how I bullied her into seeing everything that Dubai has to offer. I even showed the Gold Souq to her in ‘My Way’. We were staying in Bur Dubai at that time. Both she and I, we walked all the way from our home to the Abra Station and took an Abra (traditional ferry) to cross the creek and reach the Gold Souq. As we would board the Abra, all the other passengers would stare at me – a hugely pregnant lady with camera hanging from her neck, jostling for space! Was I a pregnant tourist or a pregnant Photographer, they would perhaps wonder. Either way, I looked a total misfit in the crowded Abra, looking like I belonged exclusively to the Maternity Ward!

Taking the Abra across the Dubai Creek to go to the Gold Souq – this is one of my all-time favourite touristic deeds in Dubai. An Abra costs only Dhs 1 for a one-way commute – the cheapest thing that you can get in Dubai probably, since a can of coke too costs more than that!

Dubai Creek that divides Dubai into Bur Dubai and DeiraThe Dubai Creek has a lot of historical importance. Whereas most places in Dubai has a history running to as little as 2 to 5 years, for example – the Burj Khalifa, The Palm Islands, The Dubai Marina, the Dubai Metro, the massive shopping malls etc, the Dubai Creek is really the focal point in Dubai’s history. It is a natural sea-water inlet which cuts Dubai into two parts – the old part of the city known as Deira and the relatively modern part – the Bur Dubai. These two parts have their own uniqueness and identities, not to mention their own idiosyncrasies. The residents living in Deira are skeptical of the residents living in Bur Dubai and vice versa. If you ask me the reason I won’t be able to tell you why. Being a resident of Bur Dubai in our early days in Dubai I also belong to this typical Bur Dubai camp. Now, we have moved into a even more new part of Dubai – the Dubai Marina Area and I am realising that another camp is gradually forming, comprising of residents of Dubai’s newer developments.

The Dubai Creek is definitely one of the most amazing features of Dubai. It obviously doesn’t have the promenades, the upper-lipped gourmet restaurants and the exclusive lifestyle that the artificially built Dubai Marina boasts of. The Dubai Creek is real. It mirrors centuries of old trading traditions. Throughout the creek, starting from its initial inlet into the mainland Dubai one can still see the loading and unloading of trading goods from the traditional Dhows. The smells from the the various ports of origin for these Dhows, situated in distant countries like the South-East Asian countries, India, countries from Africa etc seem to pervade the air. Whereas, the trading boats are visible on the Deira side of the Creek, one can only find beautiful luxury private yachts, traditional wooden dhows promising sunset and dinner cruises, on the Bur Dubai side of the Creek.

The Dubai Creek has been very important in Dubai’s development as well, as Dubai started off as a small trading city, occupying a small dot on ancient trading routes connecting Asia-Europe-Africa. It still does. An Abra ride is absolutely essential to experience the creek. So many times we have taken a small water bus for a private sail along the Dubai Creek till the Makhtoum Bridge which still splits open at night to let the ships pass!

I have always wondered whether we could actually sail along the Creek as it pierces into Dubai for 15 kms after which it finally gets absorbed like a sponge at Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. Well, I guess I must find that out.

Anyway, I love this Creek for various emotional reasons -

Shindagha Tunnel: The Al Shindagha Tunnel is a tunnel in Dubai which goes under the Dubai Creek. Constructed in 1975, it is the only underwater crossing in Dubai Creek. I always put the music on full blast and drive through the tunnel. At the point where the tunnel is deepest under the creek, the transmissions stop. ‘Oh no, we are under the water’, I shout! If you happen to be in the Revolving Restaurant in Hyatt Regency, Deira (once upon a time the only high-rise hotel) it indeed is a scary feeling when you see a queue of cars coming in and going under water (as they go into the tunnel) and gradually come out of the other side, almost like some magic!

The Dhow Cruise: Sailing into the sunset with the two shores gradually fading by as you sail on a traditional dhow into the sea. The traditional wind towers of the old quarters of Bastakia and the Heritage area of Al Shindagha on one side and the old souqs on the other side look absolutely breathtaking – a page out of some traditional arabic folklore. These heritage buildings are historic monuments and have stood the test of time. The call for the evening prayer, Adhan by the Muezzins from the innumerable mosques scattered around the area, the setting sun – everything makes this Dubai landscape so ethereal. Sailing back from the sea into the Dubai Creek on our journey back makes us feel like the triumphant fisherman or the successful pearl diver coming back home after toiling the whole day in the sea with the priciest catch!

The Seagulls in Dubai CreekFeeding the seagulls – The seagulls engulfing the anchored Dhows, flying at a jet’s speed and trying to snatch away the breadcrumbs from our hands… walking along the creek, feeding the seagulls and the fish, taking an occasional boat-ride along the creek, smoking Seesha (Hubble-Bubble) at the Creek Restaurant (which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore), taking all our guests for a Creekside drive and a long walk past the anchored yachts, luxury boats, traditional Dhows – we have done it all. We have actually over-done the Creek a bit!

Being in the crowd – We have also stood for hours amongst thousands of people thronging the Creek side to watch the dazzling firework displays during the inauguration of the DSFs (Dubai Shopping Festivals) year after year. We have also spent many a dirham buying mostly unnecessary stuff in the Night Souq that used to come up along the Creek when we had just come to Dubai. We have also sat on the super giant Ferris Wheel (oh the mushy-mushy days of romance when we were the just the two of us) and held hands as we went up and down and promised sweet nothings to each other with the Creek waters flowing by as a witness!

On a desi trail... walking around Meena Bazaar

I love the walk upto the Abra Station as well, from the ‘managed-a-parking-atlast’ spot in the over crowded Meena Bazaar area. We walk through the traditionally styled Souqs which promise to sell everything real – from real Prada and Gucci bags, Bvlgari sunglasses, Chanel and Christian Dior perfumes, Lous Vitton shoes, Armani scarfs… If you have a brand in mind, all you have to do is just name it. There are hidden shops in the small dark alleys and a fairy God-father will pop out from the middle of nowhere. He would have heard your wish and would promise to provide you with the ultimate retail therapy of your life, without even costing an earth! Interestingly, though idol-worship is not permitted in Islam, it is here in one of the alleys near the Bastakia that you will find Sunni mosques, Shia mosques, Hindu temples – all snuggling into each other.The alley that leads to the temple

Meena BazaarContrary to the glitzy shopping malls in Dubai, Meena Bazaar has a different charm altogether. From glaring lightnings to the blaring horns from cars struck in perennial traffic, from the snaky lanes and by-lanes to the crowded main-road, from Indian and Pakistani stores selling traditional clothings to Iranian spice shops, from haute-couture fashion Boutiques (selling mainly traditional Indian and Pakistani ethnic attire) to stores selling high-street fashion, branded watch-houses to shops – the ’10 Dirhams shops’ selling inexpensive models, from electronics to home products, from computers to spare-parts, from quick-fixers like cobblers and menders to expensive tailoring shops – I love Meena Bazaar. Specially when the narrow dark alleys suddenly open up and you are hit with the bright sunlight and the sparkling sea-green waters of the Dubai Creek!

The traditional Souq in Old Dubai - textile souq

The souq (above) has many handicraft shops selling almost everything – spices, traditional Arabic clothes, Indian shoes and pashminas, beads, old coins, utensils, Indian and Pakistani ethnic attire and shoes, and lastly, not to forget the ‘branded’ stuff! This area also promises absolutely delicious traditional local delicacies vendoring out of small kiosks and small cafeterias. But, you have to know the exact location. Otherwise finding anything for the first time could be quite a nightmare!

Spice Souk station across the Creek on the Deira side, is less than a 5 minute walk from the Gold Souk. This is the where we disembark from our Abra. Soon you will be transported to a tourist’s heaven. The Gold Souk can be recognised from far as the enormous wooden gates framing the entrance greet you and promise to lure you to the dazzling world of gold.Gold Shop (left) and Spice Shop (Right)

Traditional wooden frames support the entire walk-way into the Gold Souq (above left) from the Spice Souq (above right). The smell of Attar floats in the air. The beautiful Sheeshas on display, the aroma of exotic spices, the lure of the cheap silk kaftans, the dazzling imperfectly embroidered tops – it is indeed very difficult to resist the temptation to buy, if not a lot but atleast some small thing.

Gold 'just' hanging in one of the shops in Gold SouqAnd then when you come to the Gold Souq, it hits you like you have just been hit by the fire from the oven. Is it real? The entire stretch of the jewellery shops displaying gold chains and jewellery as if they were clothes hanging from raisl. Who buys all these gold, I wonder. Obviously, someone does. Otherwise, how do these shop manage to exist day in and day out, season after season, year after year, displaying kilos and kilos of gold! No wonder, one sees pages and pages in various Dubai magazines, advertising jewellery for any occasion – Mother’s day, Daughter’s Day, Valentine’s Day, UAE National Day, the Holiday Season, The Festive Season, For Simple Reason, For An Unique Social Cause… You may also donate an event name for the jewellery industry to ponder!

Traditional wooden frames the entrance to the Gold Souq

Haggling is as part of tradition as buying gold is. Shops are wide awake until 10pm. And don’t worry about the type of currency you are carrying – you can pay in British pounds, US Dollars, Australian Dollars, Indian Rupees, UAE Dirhams…and of course your credit card! Only, take your time and choose wisely. Gold is a very serious business, more lucrative than Real Estate, I hear! The Gold Souq dazzles in the true sense and it’s a short of miracle if you are not blinded by what you see – windows full of every imaginable piece of jewellery!

The Gold souk is the heart of Deira. It has more than 300 retailers trading almost exclusively in jewellery. The history of Gold Souq dates back to the 1940’s and runs parallel to Dubai’s history.

Trying Arabic kavaI feel very proud as an Indian to share the fact that India is Dubai’s largest buyer of gold, accounting for approximately 23% of the emirate’s total gold trade. (Yuhoooooo!) Also, India accounts for approximately 68% of all diamond-related trade in Dubai! 68% of diamond-related trade in Dubai? I cannot even fathom the actual figures. Unfortunately, these figures alone cannot pull up the millions of people in India living under the poverty line over this dreaded line.Once you are done with the ‘Wows’ and the ‘Unbelievable’s and the ‘Oh My God!’s, and can take it no longer, please take a taxi back home. A stroll in Gold Souq is pretty much fatiguing. And you need lots of energy to overcome the sheer opulence of the tourist spot. Big Mama’s Tour has no more suggestions for the day. Even Big Mama’s Tour gets fatigued once in a while!Alleys of Bastakia

In the future, I would have to share a few more places in Dubai, without which this entry is incomplete. Plus, a sequel is the order of the day. Every movie has a sequel. Every novel has a sequel. So in modern times, a Blog should also have one. And that sequel should be covering the following…

Basta Art Café- The art alleys of Bastakia (above) and the old quarters
– Sitting for an Arabic coffee in Basta Art Café (right)
– The drive along the Jumeirah Beach Road
– The Meena Bazaar in greater detail
– The Barbecue on the Beaches
– The fresh fish offered by the shack hiding on Jumeirah Beach Road
– And much much more…

There are obviously many a thing that I haven’t yet done in Dubai. If you have, please do tell me so that I can update my emotional vacation in Dubai. Till then Tchüs!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Glossary:
Abra – Water taxis
Dhow – Traditional wooden boat which used to
be used for transporting goods for trading from
across various countries
Seesha – The Hubble-Bubble or the Hookah is a traditional Smoking Pot
Souq – Traditional Arabic markets

isclaimer: While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. Please note that this blog is not a sponsored blog and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. You can catch my daily travel and food journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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A few picks from my Dubai Diary:
♦ Things To Do In Dubai – Like A Tourist In My Own City - Showcasing the city I love to call my home!
My First Authentic Emirati Food Experience!
Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant | Capturing A Hidden Gem In Jumeirah. A Video Too!
Masqouf in Bait Al Baghdadi | Tasting Iraq’s National Dish
The 7 Tastiest Fast Feasts Of Dubai | Introducing Chowzter to Dubai
Locavorism, Friday Market | Tok Palong/Sour Spinach Chutney
Semaiya Kheer/Vermicelli Pudding, Eid in Dubai | Eid Mubarak!
Meena Bazaar At Night | Introducing DubaiUnblogged… Dubai In Instagram♦  Arabian Pilgrimage Food Tour With Frying Pan Adventures