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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dubai: best backstreets vol 1

Travellers to Dubai tend to come for sun, sand and shopping. Few seem interested in exploring anything more than the hotel beach and nearest mall. Yet, like Hong Kong, Dubai's backstreets are endlessly fascinating. While the city's critics complain that Dubai has no culture or soul, they only need to get out of their five star resorts or luxury apartments and wander the backstreets to find the 'real' Dubai. On weekends we like to stroll around Satwa, a laidback neighbourhood of vibrant-coloured houses with gates painted with palm trees. Only a block behind the sleek skyscrapers of Sheikh Zayed Rd, Satwa has a narrow main street lined with second-hand stores, Indian sweet shops and Pakistani eateries, and in the evenings it's just as bustling as the busiest souqs. In the side streets you'll find hole-in-the-wall Afghani bakeries and on Fridays the expat Filipino workers play volleyball on the vacant sandy lots just behind the plush luxury hotels. Not far away, Karama's gritty backstreets are some of Dubai's poorest and yet some of the city's friendliest. Shopkeepers chat on the footpath outside their stores and neighbours stand around on street corners sharing news from home late into the night - the guys, freshly-showered and relaxed, with just a sarong wrapped around their waists. Nowhere in Dubai will you find such community spirit. And such great Goan curries.

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