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Friday, February 13, 2009

Dubai! Dubai! Dubai! Some tales of a city: Part 1 Once upon a time...

At the shared taxi stand in Abu Dhabi - and other Emirati cities like Sharjah, Fujairah and Al Ain for that matter - taxi drivers yell "Dubai! Dubai! Dubai!" to let potential passengers know their destination. And of course the other drivers shout out their destinations too. But there are always more taxis heading to Dubai and they always fill faster. During our first couple of years in Abu Dhabi, after we moved there in '98, we'd catch shared taxis to Dubai a lot so it seemed. At least once a month or so, to eat out, take in the local sights, stay at a nice hotel, and of course, go shopping. In those days Abu Dhabi only had one shopping mall and Dubai had three decent ones and a few smaller shopping arcades in the suburbs. Once we'd piled into the taxi, we'd each hand over our Dh10 (less than US$3) to the driver for the 90 minute ride then he'd speed off down at a million miles an hour. Crammed in those taxis I learned a lot about the people who'd chosen to live in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I didn't speak Arabic, Hindi, Farsi or Urdu, but I could tell a lot about them by the way they dressed, the things they carried (or didn't), their body language, their eyes, and of course they're smiles... whether a Pakistani driver, Afghani labourer, Sri Lankan maid, or Indian bank clerk, they'd all come here to work, make money, and send it home to a spouse or family to pay for their kids to go to school or university, to buy a house, to one day start a business. Terry and I weren't there just for the money; for us, it was more about the cultural experience and the travel. But all of us were there to make our dreams a reality. And for most of us, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, like fairy godmothers, granted our wishes. For me, the good news stories over the years have far outweighed the bad. My Dubai is a very different one to that I read about in the papers. So I've decided to start a series on this blog called 'Dubai Dubai Dubai! Some tales of a city...' and every now and again I'm going to share a story or two, take you on a ride, and show you my Dubai... are you coming?


Anonymous said...

I left Dubai thinking it was a much better place to live in than to visit. Beyond shopping there isn't much to see or do. I can think of 100 places I'd rather spend time on the beach at.

My advice would be for people to spend a few days in Dubai, then head to Oman, which has much more to see and experience, even if the tourist infrastructure isn't as good.

Lara Dunston said...

HI Gary

But Dubai is a wonderful place to visit! Which is exactly why tourism has been booming there in the last 5 years in a way it hasn't in any of the other Gulf cities/countries.

And there is indeed so much more to do other than shopping - there's the Creek activity, taking an abra across the creek is loads of fun, the gritty backstreets, the brilliant architecture (old and new), the historic Shindagha area, the Persian Bastakiya quarter, good little museums and great art galleries (the contemporary art scene is extraordinary), fantastic food experiences from the cheap shwarma stands to the Lebanese restaurants which gives a real insight into the quintessential Arab night out as it's experienced across the Middle East from Dubai to Beirut to Cairo (feast of food, big band, bellydancer, sheesha), and so much more.

It always stuns me when people say that all there is to do is shopping - which is exactly why I decided to start this series.

As for the beach - there are lovely beaches in countries all over the world, sure, but there are few that offer such a luxurious full-on resort experience, and that's what many people want when they come to Dubai.

I have friends who've visited me in Dubai for two weeks and have been busy doing different things every day.

Whereas Muscat just can't compare to Dubai. It's a charming town with a scenic harbour, fantastic fish market and an atmospheric little souq, but there's little to do there after a couple of days.

The country of Oman is another thing - lots of wonderful forts set amid oases, oases towns with bustling livestock markets, etc - but the UAE (of which Dubai is just one city-emirati) also has tonnes of fantastic places to see, from Liwa (with sublime desert dunes) to Al Ain, an oases city.

Such a shame you didn't spend a few more days in Al Ain and didn't have better guidance on what to see and do.

Fly Brother said...

Great series title, though "My Dubai" sounds just as nice (maybe overused?). Your posts on the city are always engrossing.

Lara Dunston said...

Thanks! The taxi drivers crying out 'Dubai! Dubai! Dubai!' is such a familiar sound to us that it seemed to make sense... and because I hope they'll be more 'tales from the city' rather than 'my tales from the city'... if you know what I mean... lots of ideas, just need to find the time to write them!