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