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Dubai - Day One

Saturday, December 22, 2012
We’re up and ready pretty early this morning. Chaz and Chandler make a grocery store run and then we’re packed and driving to Dubai for two days and one night. Chaz makes quick work of the 140 km drive and very shortly we’re seeing the skyscrapers of Dubai. Dubai is very spread out and we hit two separate downtown areas separated by residential sprawl before we see the unmistakable height of Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world at 2722 feet. It towers over the skyline and just defies your imagination.


Today is the second day of their weekend so traffic is not too bad. Using our map and the directions from the hotel website we soon drive up to our hotel, the Majestic Hotel Tower in Bur Dubai. With valet parking we can leave the car and use taxis today to sightsee. Upon seeing the hotel, Chaz realizes this is not the hotel he stayed in years ago but we’re pleased with it. Our one bedroom apartment has a separate kitchen, living and dining area, bedroom and bath. We’re on a corner and there are two balconies but only one is accessible. We’ve requested a single bed to be brought in for the living area for Chandler and when it arrives, it’s a mattress and box springs (not a roll-away as we would have expected) that they set up directly on the floor.


It’s lunchtime and we’re hungry so we gather the camera and notes and strike out. The hotel has suggested a Lebanese restaurant a few blocks down in Al Khaleej Centre – kind of a strip mall but enclosed. The restaurant is called Automatic – such interesting names! We’re the only customers as it’s about 11:30 am. We’ve noticed most folks do not start lunch here until after the 12:30 call to prayer, or around 1:00 pm. First the waiter brings us a plate of pickles with two types of olives. Next he brings a plate with half a head of cabbage, whole tomato, bell pepper and cucumber. When I ask what do we do with this, she thinks I’m questioning the cost and keeps saying, it is complimentary! So Chandler does the honors and cuts it all up and we munch on veggies while waiting for our food. Chandler has ordered the mixed grill – similar to what we ate yesterday in the mall. I have ordered chicken shwarma – shaved chicken on flat bread served with fries. Chaz has pepper steak with gravy. She brings a basket of traditional Arabic bread but it's fresh out of the oven and puffed with air. When you pick it up the air squishes out and you're left with the flat bread. It is all so good and a lot to eat!


Have I mentioned that UAE has the highest rate of diabetes in the world? If they eat this way at every meal, then I can see why! I know I have gained 10 pounds since my arrival here.

For dessert they bring us hot tea and a flan like dish topped with shaved pistachios – it’s very good.


We’re headed to the old town of Dubai to see the souks and cross the street to catch a taxi. We tell him we want to go to the Creek – a creek that separates Bur Dubai which is the neighborhood our hotel is in and Deira which is Old Dubai and where the souks are. He says he knows where that is but drops us off at a wharf where there are numerous dinner cruise boats. We ask someone where the abra wharf is and are told “The other side”, gesturing down the wharf. Abras are small open boats that charge AED 1 or about 27 cents to take you across the creek – about a five minute ride. So we walk for 20 minutes to the other side of a large hospital and find the abra dockage.


Our walk leads us through the textile souk where you can order custom made suits for men and women. There are numerous shops with the scarves and traditional Arab dress for men. When I casually feel of a scarf outside one shop we are swiftly ushered inside by the Afghani shopkeeper. He drapes me with scarves and begins dressing Chandler in the local men’s traditional Arab dress of kandoora which is the white loose fitting robe, the white open weave skull cap that fits tightly over his hair, then the large scarf that is folded in a triange and draped across the forehead and held in place with an agal, a black rope circlet with long streamers that hang down the back. He is very charismatic and has us laughing throughout his antics. When we ask prices, he won’t say, he just keeps dressing Chandler and showing him different ways to tie his headdress. He tells Chandler to put his sunglasses on so he'll look like a true sheikh.


Chaz keeps asking for a price but none comes. Finally he pulls out a calculator and puts in a price for Chandler’s outfit and a price for my scarf. I offer him half. Chaz keeps walking out and the shopkeeper keeps going out and getting him and pulling his arm and saying, Big Boss, what is your price? Chaz tells him I’m the boss of the money and he has to deal with me. It’s so funny!! We settle on a price about half of his initial offer. But not before I’ve walked out at least twice. It’s so much fun that when later Chaz buys the same pieces at a different shop for half of what we paid for Chandler’s, we don’t even mind because of the fun experience!

Next we head to the abra dock – we’re the first on the boat but it fills in moments and we’re off for the five minute ride across the creek.


This is the neighborhood of Deira and where we’ll find the gold and spice souks. We wander through the narrow streets and lanes where the shops are closed. Most of them seem to be wholesale though and not retail shops. The area is also on a hill rising from the creeks – the first elevation we’ve experienced since I’ve been here.


We turn a corner and there is a wide cobblestone alley filled with people. It’s lined with glass-fronted shops glittering with gold necklaces and rings, diamonds and silvers. The shopkeepers are in the alleys and approach you as you walk by trying to get you to come into their shops. Men walk up to Chaz and say “Copy watch, you look for copy watch, sir.” They are selling fake designer watches! They walk up to me with scarves in their arms and drape them over my head exclaiming, “Oh, madam, you look so beautiful, come see my scarves.” Chandler is not left out – he is draped with Arabian headdress scarves. You just have to avoid eye contact and keep walking. We meander for quite some time, people watching and gawking at all the gold. Women are not left out of the traditional dress for sale - but they look like they're more for belly dancers to me!


Chaz buys a full outfit like Chandler’s, telling the clerk to just give him his bottom line. He gets a very good price after trying on several to find a good fit for his broad shoulders. I buy a refrigerator magnet for my collection. Last stop is one of the spice souks where I buy some walnuts for a recipe I want to make Christmas Day.


We climb the last of the hill to find a taxi back to the hotel. It’s not long before we’re headed back – the taxi ride is only AED 20 or about $5.50. We have him drop us off down the street from the hotel at Spinney’s and we buy a few things for hors d’oeuvres tonight and breakfast in the morning. Chaz spies a tobacco stand and buys a couple of Cuban cigars.

Back at the hotel we relax a while before deciding what to do for dinner.


We settle on eating in the hotel as it’s been a long day and we’re ready for something easy! Sightseeing and travel can be very tiring in a strange city. There’s a tension that doesn’t dissipate but always seems to linger. It feels nice to just let go and take the easy route. There are three restaurants in the hotel and we settle on Tirquaz Bistro. The atmosphere feels like we’re underwater – aqua lighting and accents, silver and chrome décor, all very modern feeling. All of our meals are excellent.

Chaz and I are ready for bed by 10 but Chandler heads down to the Music Room for a late nightcap. There’s a cover band there with musicians from several different countries. The Music Room is actually listed in my guidebook as a good example of Dubai nightlife.

Posted by ncoats 19:09 Archived in United Arab Emirates

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Thanks for the vivid descriptions and phots--In China and in Africa I experienced the same type of buying items.

by Walker Knight

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