Sunday 04 December 2016 – Dubai.
I have considered stopping in Dubai on previous trips back to New Zealand, but have never done so. Last time I came back from New Zealand I suffered really badly from jet lag, so decided that now was the time to break my trip up and spend a couple of days looking around. This seemed like a great idea when I booked my tickets, but I must admit to having second thoughts as the time approached. The more I investigated the more I found that there is not a huge amount of things that actually interest me in Dubai, plus by the end of my time in Auckland I was just looking forward to getting home again. However, it was all booked and paid for so I may as well make the most of it!
I arrived in Dubai at the end of an almost 20 hour trip from Auckland, with a brief, but still too long, stop over in Melbourne on the way. I remember hating Melbourne airport last time and it was no different this time. Note to self. Go via Sydney next time you fly Emirates.
I arrived in Dubai just before 7:00 am. I had decided to book a hotel for the previous night so I could crash before going out for an explore. I never sleep on planes, and after being awake for over 36 hours I was pretty tired once checked in. So I made use of the bed I had paid the previous night for and dozed for a couple of hours.
Dubai is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, it is a Muslim country and is semi-strict. There are a few bars in the city, all in hotels and the dress is supposed to be conservative. I wore long trousers and shoes on my walks, though regretted that immensely, a lot of other tourists wore shorts, and I wished I had to. Naturally there are a lot of mosques in Dubai, including one right outside my hotel room. After having spent a reasonable amount of holiday time over the years in Muslim countries I find the early morning call to prayer quite soothing, so didn’t mind hearing it as dawn broke, not that I was sleeping anyway.
Dubai is not an old place, something I didn’t really expect. I had made an assumption that as the middle east has a very ancient and well documented history that this would have spread to the Arabian Peninsula, but it didn’t really. Until the discovery of oil this area was populated by nomads so no ancient ruins are to be found here. There are some old places in some of the nearby states, but the oldest ruin in Dubai is the fort and that is only a couple of hundred years old. I was a bit disappointed to discover that in some basic research before I left London.
After a hotel breakfast I spent a couple of hours poring over the city map and using the internet to come up with a bit of a plan for the two days I have to fill. Today I was going to explore The Creek area and then walk to another hotel for late afternoon too watch football on the TV and drink a cold beer. My hotel is dry and does not have football on the telly either. There are a few sports bars around the city, so I chose one that was near enough to The Creek area to walk to. Though, I did grossly miscalculate distances, something that I regret more tomorrow. I also gave my sun screen to my son, another mistake once I felt myself getting burnt under the 30+ sun and clear blue sky. It took me a while to find a replaceent, and I was a bit red and sweaty when I did. I think most of it ended up in my eyes.
The metro in Dubai is fairly limited in where it goes, but it is otherwise excellent, I had chosen my hotel on the edge of town, partly due to price, but mainly due to it being a five minute walk to a metro station.
I took the Metro my first stop, the Saruq Alhadid Museum. It was pretty interesting, I think I was the only one there. I mainly went as it is in the supposed historical area, though there as mentioned above there is not a huge amount of history here, and the buildings are all renovated, it was interesting enough; plus it was air conditioned which was wonderful.
After the museum I walked along the Creek as much as I could, past water taxis that take you over to the souks (markets) on the other side. I had planned on exploring the souks, but reading about them and seeing photos, they just looked to be just general shopping areas rather than old style markets, so I didn’t bother going in the end.
I did pass through this small souk between the creek and the fort, I love the fact this had a shop named ‘Jaipur Trading’, selling lots of things from India.
I was hoping to see some magnificent mosques here, this is an incredibly wealthy country, so I was surprised to find that most of the mosques are not that magnificent! I did find a couple, including this one near the fort. There are a lot of flags flying and hanging from buildings as yesterday was the anniversary of the founding of Dubai.
The fort is the oldest building in Dubai, built around 1800, and has been extensively renovated, it was surprisingly small, especially when compared to the monster forts I saw in India. It also houses the Dubai museum and is worth a visit.
From the fort I walked to the Al Bastakiya area, another historic section of Dubai.
I really enjoyed walking around this small section of the city, low rise buildings, designed to capture the wind and shade and make for a cooler place to walk. The towers are wind towers, designed to grab the breeze and funnel it down into the buildings. I have not seen these before and thought they were quite cool.
There was even a bit of street art !
I found a really good art gallery/cafe where I stopped for an ice coffee and a rest, and a break from the heat. It was quite a hip/cool place, not something I expected to find in Dubai. I bought something from the house as well. Very unlike me!
I thoroughly enjoyed walking around here, as the sun dropped there was some quite good shadows to play with. I have been having major issues with the Canon 5d today. I am hoping it just needs a clean, but it was struggling to focus on anything and I was having to manual focus a bit. This is not fun when the eyes are not as good as they used to be. Stupidly, this was the first time since I left home that I did not have the little G16 camera in my bag as well. I have been hoping for an excuse to finally upgrade my 10 year old DSLR, but cannot really afford a new one right now! This was the most photogenic mosque I found in Dubai.
I love alleys!
It is late afternoon and I had been out for about four hours now, wandering around in the very dry heat so decided to stop for the day and walk towards the hotel that had a sports bar. It was quite a lot further than I thought, taking a sweltering 30 minutes to walk there. I passed what must be the only incomplete/failed building project I saw in Dubai. There is a massive amount of construction going on, and the buildings in the financial centre are massive. But not as tall as the Burj Khalifa; the tallest building in the world, which I visit tomorrow….
The football was a bit dull, Bournemouth v Liverpool, it was 0-2 to Liverpool at half time and didn’t really pick up at the start of the second half. I didn’t realise until I got inside that you can smoke in bars in Dubai, it was not a particularly pleasant place, so after a couple of beers and some really nice spring rolls I left. By the time I got back to my hotel there had been four more goals scored in what must have been a cracking end to the second half – and then Bournemouth scored late to see the game off with a 4-3 win.
I spent the rest of the evening in my room, it was cool, quiet. And smoke free!