Unholies in UAE – A day or two in Dubai

In United Arab Emirates by Jaclynn Seah4 Comments

After our wonderful stay at Qasr Al Sarab at the edge of the Liwa Desert, we headed straight on to Dubai. I’d been to Dubai back in the summer of 2007, so I was curious to see how much it had changed in the last 5 years, though with just 1 night there I didn’t think I would have time to do much exploring.

Dubai is an odd place – Singapore is often noted for its amazing speed of progress, but Dubai has an even more accelerated pace, thanks in part of having oil money. You can see the contrast in the shiny sky-high skyscrapers alongside the older, rambling souks and buildings.

Dubai is famous for its growing skyline, where buildings try to outdo each other in height and architecture weirdness. I would dearly have loved to go up to the top of these buildings – I love a good high place – but we didn’t have a lot of time so I only got to admire them from afar…

Buildings, buildings and more buildings – that’s how you know you’ve reached Dubai

The Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world at 828m, is like an odd silver needle that’s pretty hard to miss. Not the prettiest building though.

That’s the closest I got to the iconic sail-shaped building – the Burj Al Arab, or the so-called 7-star hotel when we passed by the Jumeirah area


Being Christmas, we decided to do our annual Unholies secret Santa gift exchange here with a difference – instead of separately buying gifts, we headed to the Dubai Mall and 100AED each, went helter skelter around to see who could get their giftee the best present in just 30 minutes. Shopping in 30 minutes is definitely a challenge, but in Dubai where the malls are humongous? Man I was really tired after that sprint.

Just one of many wings within the Dubai Mall – the people in the UAE are pretty patriotic, you see lots of flags and national colours everywhere, even in the malls

The Dubai Mall is home to the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater World, a 10-million litre tank which is the largest in the world. I can’t believe this is located in a shopping mall!

So big that you can have scuba diving lessons in here, which is cool because you’ll have all the animals that you want to see in one place


But the one place you can’t leave Dubai without going to first, the one and only Choc & Nuts store! It’s a rather small place, nondescript amidst the high buildings and busy streets, but this is apparently where everyone who visits Dubai gets their souvenir chocolate dates and nuts to bring home!

The Choc and Nuts store, frequented by air crew and everyone I know who visits Dubai!

This shop is filled with all sorts of chocolate and fresh nuts

It’s run by a really friendly Iranian man who will let you test everything and even offer you free drinks from the fridge to do so!

In case you’re coming by, the opening hours.

There’s one traditional thing that you definitely have to do when you’re in Dubai, which I think is and will always be my favourite memory of Dubai – heading to the creek to ride the Abra, a very simple river taxi system that ferries people from one side of the Dubai Creek to the other, for just 1 dirham! It’s been upgraded a fair bit since 5 years ago, with proper jetty docks, signages in English, and even helpful guides that speak good English who’ll direct you to the right boats.

Map of Water Taxi Stations

Abras in the creek, very simple wooden boats powered by diesel. These days they have Standard Chartered advertisements on their roofs with lifejackets hidden underneath them.

It’s a pleasant ride down the creek, windy and relaxing, but not if you’re in a rush! The abras depart when the boats are mostly filled and it’s definitely no speedboat…

We took a ride from the Baniyas Station to the Dubai Old Souk Station…

There’s an old market like street where you can walk along. Lots of shops and earnest shopkeepers welcoming you into their shops to buy their wares.

After that we headed back across the creek to Deira Old Souq station to check out the Spice and Gold souks

The spice souk smells like you think it would, all sorts of fragrance and spice in the air

For those who just want a little bit of everything

Funniest thing I found – traditionally garbed bobblehead dolls!

These blue balls are actually dyes for jeans

Pretty UAE flags against the sky


One end of the Gold Souk, a long covered walkway with gold shops of all sorts on either side

Even the sewer covers call back to the place where all sorts of gold and other jewelery are sold

Most of the shops look something like that, gold and jewelery galore in the windows


And as the sun started to set, we decided to take a walk along the creek back to where our car was parked. The old harbour, surprisingly, is still very much in use today, with lots of small boats and goods being hauled off them. I saw things from tyres to refrigerators in the port that day.

Boats in port, it was still rather bustling in the evening when we walked by

Docked Abras

And of course, an exhortation from me to you, an important message placed at the docks:



  1. Good to know 🙂 One more question.

    I checked out your entry on Qasr Al Sarab and came to the conclusion that its way over my budget for a stopover! Also checked out some hotels in dubai http://www.trivago.sg/dubai-549/hotel well the prices are not that expensive but do you have any recommendation on where to stay?

    1. Author

      Hi liting – yeah we had a special deal on that through my friend and it’s a pretty pricey place to stay! Unfortunately don’t have any personal recs at this point though, sorry! I’ll drop you an email if I come across any, but do share any of your own recs here =)

  2. Hi, how many days would you reckon to stay in Dubai? I would like to visit Dubai but am not sure if it is worth spending a week there or to tie it as a stop over city for a day or two.

    1. Author

      Hi liting, I don’t think you need to stopover there for an entire week! I think 2-3 days is more than enough to check out the Dubai quite thoroughly – spend some time along the river and the souks, check out the al fahidi fort museum and walk around the windtowers a little, maybe the burj and other buildings if you’re so inclined, a mall or 2 for the heck of it…

      hope that helps! perhaps other people might like the place, but I personally think there’s not much to see in Dubai…

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