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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dubai: best backstreets vol 2

Not far from Dubai's gritty Karama and Satwa 'hoods is Al-Musalla Rd, Bur Dubai, the city's ‘Little India’. The side streets are lined with Bollywood tape shops and boutiques selling bejewelled and sequinned numbers modelled by kitsch mannequins. There are cheap Pakistani, Azerbaijani and Russian eateries, and Indian sweet shops. There's a tea shop one block from Al-Fahidi roundabout with plastic stools on the pavement out front. On Fridays big groups of expat workers from the Sub-Continent gather outside to share stories from home and, in season, watch cricket on the black and white television. Equally as interesting, in the nearby neighbourhood of Mankhool, near Al-Adhid Rd, local families live in big villas with half a dozen cars out front, there are diminutive white mosques on the corners, and children ride bicycles down the quiet street. This is as close as Dubai gets to an ordinary middle-class 'burb. If you're staying at a beach resort, it's worth wandering around Umm Suqeim, between Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Umm Suqeim beach. In this low-key Emirati neighbourhood of whitewashed single-storey houses and bougainvillea-filled gardens, you'll be sharing the sandy lanes with straying chickens and scrawny cats. Don't worry, it's okay to help yourself to a cup of water from the coolers out front. That's what they're there for.

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