Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dubai, City of Gold

Today was a great day messing around in Dubai!

Last time we were here I was not crazy about the place – we spent our time in the modern downtown area and it was all you could expect of such a visit – shopping malls, glitz, glamor and a name-brand extravaganza.

This time we decided to do our own thing – we have all day – supposedly from 8am to 11pm - so there was no rush in getting out and about.

As is usual these days our Captain (who seems to be a remarkably slow driver) got us here late. We sailed in after 9am and were only cleared to disembark at about 9.45.

We are fortunate today in that our side of the ship – the port side – is facing the Queen Elizabeth II and the city of Dubai. As we look out from the balcony the modern city center is to our right; the old city area Deira is across the Dubai Creek to our left.

The day was hot, hazy and humid. Apparently the haze was due to sand in the air – residuum of a sandstorm in from the desert – so we had a poor view of the Burj Khalifa (the worlds tallest) and the other skyscrapers.

There are a few lessons I have learned about his cruising thing; the first is that being tied up at a wharf costs the Company money. By the hour. So, if they can contrive to arrive a bit late and leave a bit early they will certainly do so.

The second lesson relates to local currency. It’s a good thing to have (for cabs, small purchases and such). Two common ways of obtaining such currency are ATMs (a good option – you get the bank rate of exchange) or the local Money Changer. The lesson to be learned is that if the ATM is next to the Money Changers cubicle, the ATM wont work!!!! Such was the case today. Grave danger of your card disappearing into the ‘bowels ex machina’

So, lesson three, if you arrive at a port where a shopping mall provides a free to-and-fro shuttle bus, take it (its free after all); there will be an ATM at the mall where you can get your local cash, you can do your mundane shopping for supplies (toothpaste, shampoo, talc, magazines, local newspapers) and then you can take a cab to where you wish to go.

Lesson four, cabs at the cruise terminal tend to be more rapacious than those outside a shopping mall – where you might (theoretically) actually know where you want to go and how much you want to spend.

So, today we took the free shuttle bus from the cruise terminal to the Mercato Mall as soon as we disembarked. The mall was a short drive along the Jumeirah Beach Road – lined by small high end boutique stores and small malls; past the Jumeirah Mosque and then, in the company of Porsche, Jag and BMW owners we did our little bit of shopping for necessaries (and a Starbucks).

Dubai has a lunch break (siesta) from 2pm to 5pm so we headed back to the cruise terminal for unloading of goods, uploading of Mumbai photos and text and downloading of the blog (free, fast - albeit spotty - WiFi access).

Dubai is three weeks into our cruise and the end of our first leg, so passengers were getting off (~400) and a new crowd getting on for the next leg (~300). The terminal was thus pretty busy.

Next we haggled with the taxi crowd (see lesson four above) for a ride to the Dubai Souks. This time we headed off in the opposite direction to Deira passing under the Dubai Creek using the Al Shindagha Tunnel.

The most famous of the Dubai Souks is the Gold Souk – shop after shop selling bright gold jewelry and precious stones.

There is also an amazing Spice Souk with the fragrances of Frankincense and Myrrh in the air. I smelled the roses (dried) 

and the incense of Frank

it appears that some of these spices have pharmaceutical properties as well!!

The other Souks sell textiles, perfume, fish and meat and even pots and pans all in separate areas.

All the way through men stop you to offer watches, bags, pashminas and all manner of other diversions.

Walked to the Deira bank of the Dubai Creek. this is described as a dynamic and frenzied artery of the city bustling all day long with crowded abras - this is an abra filled with fellow passengers - yachts, dinner cruise boats and colorful working dhows - great views

Did I mention, by the way, that it was siesta time?

After a lovely experience in old Dubai we headed back to the terminal by cab (see lesson four above) for a second relax and regeneration an then a possible return to exploring in the evening!!

Lovely Dubai; now on to Oman.


  1. Not sure if it can work where you are but for getting local currency, have you tried buying something in a store via a PIN transaction and getting cash back as part of the transaction?

  2. Also, can you just buy gold from them in it's "purest" form?

  3. gold in its purest form... many mentions of frankencense.... You should be careful when you cross back through customs- How much were those necklaces going for??? looked heavy