Dubai is a tale of two cities

So far, we’ve definitely seen the luxury side of Dubai. To be honest, it hasn’t felt at all like the Middle East we’ve experienced in the past. While cities like Amman and Cairo have their developed aspects, Dubai is in a different universe. The metro here makes the one at home look rather “developing”, especially when you find out it was built in three years.

So it was time to leave the world of the ultra rich – both because we couldn’t afford to stay and wouldn’t want to – and head, for lack of a better phrase, back to reality. Not our reality, but a reality for many people.

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But it’s really hot out

After a little more time at the pool, we hopped in a cab for the quick ride to Bur Dubai, not far from the original settlement location. Our hotel, City Max, is the meeting point for the Gadventures tour we’re joining for the trip into Oman.

When we checked into the hotel, I asked the woman at the desk if it was a long walk to the Dubai Creek from the hotel. She looked at me like I was crazy before saying, “you know, it’s really hot out there. We have shuttles to the beach.” Two problems with this response. First, of course I know it’s hot out. Sadly I didn’t travel by transporter and even if I had come straight from the the airport in a taxi, you cannot miss the heat here. Second, a shuttle to the beach does us little good in getting to the creek.

Despite her help we managed to get checked-in and headed off, on foot, towards Dubai Creek. Not surprisingly, it was hot, even at 5:30 in the evening, but the creek was less than 1km away from the hotel, so certainly manageable.

Walking from the hotel to the creek was like walking across continents. With every step towards the river, it felt more and more like what we think of when we set out for the Middle East. Actually, it felt more like India, though far less crowded. When you consider that this is home for many of the Indians who make Dubai run, the comparison makes sense.

We wandered through Bastakia, a historic quarter that has been restored to give you a taste for how Dubai, the pearl merchant centre, would have looked before the oil.

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It’s a nice area, but oddly quiet. There were no other people around and few of the buildings were open. As we would be back the next day we didn’t stay long and headed down to the water’s edge.

A short walk along the water took us through the textiles souk to where we planned to catch an abras (water taxi) across the creek to Diera. Fortunately, we were rightly suspicious of the first guy trying to usher us on his boat. Otherwise our 5 min trip across the river for one AED (about $0.30 CDN these days) could have turned into a much pricer dhow tour along the creek.

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If you don’t acknowledge them, they’ll go away

On the Diera side of the creek are the gold and spice souks. As is often the case in markets like these each stall has a guy out front who can say, “where you from? Have a look!” in 40 languages. Sadly I’ve learned the hard way that the trick is to fight my natural Canadian inclination to apologize to each one for my lack of interest in their wares and just ignore them. I can’t say that a sales tactic that makes being rude seem like the only appropriate action strikes me as a great strategy. Then again, I don’t run a successful souk stall, so what do I know?

We did a couple of quick, rude, laps of the souk so Katy could get a feel for the tourist magnet market before hopping back on the water taxi to get some food. As it turned out, we found a nice little Lebanese restaurant with a balcony over the creek and a view of the sunset. Not a bad way to end the day.

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Back at the hotel it was time for bed so we could get up to meet the Gadventures group we were joining in the morning. As usual, there was much speculation between the two of us about what the others in the group would be like.

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