The very name Dubai instantly conjures up an image of a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city complete with amazing skyscrapers.
However there’s an area in this most most opulent of cities that is worth exploring at least once, and is a world away from the malls and Maseratis most people associate with Dubai. It has changed little since Michael Palin sailed from Dubai’s Creek to India back in 1988 while filming the amazing travel documentary “Around the World in 80 days”. It’s worth checking on youtube or download sites to see if you can access the footage.
Over the last 25 years the skyline has evolved dramatically but the dhows have not; they still load up here and ply their trade over a vast area; to India, Somalia and Iran among other places. This photo taken a high floor on the 5* Hilton Dubai Creek.
Looks like this dhow is about ready to go when the tide’s right.
Can you believe all the merchandise just lying on the quayside? In the UK it would be gone as soon as the security man’s back was turned!
Nowadays heavy cranes are used to lug the huge pallets and sacks of cargo, but they still utilise a surprising amount of manual labour.
We’ve seen many cars loaded onto ships, lashed down (we hope) then covered with boxes of other cargo before a final layer of tarpaulin. Right hand drive 4x4s are very popular;many are imported here from Japan then sent by dhow to third world countries such as Somalia. If you are a petrolhead you can while away an interesting hour or two here inspecting the Toyota Surfs, Landcruisers and some sedans like Toyota Cedrics.
Once you’ve had a look at the commercial shipping from the quayside, why not hire an Abra (seats at least 10 in comfort) for 110AED per hour and view the sights from the water? (If you don’t want to go out on the water for an hour, it is also possible to cross the creek in 3 places for the princely sum of 1AED each way). Remember to take a bottle or two of water with you, and in the summer if you dampen your skin then the breeze will cool you down quickly.
Once back on terra firma, there are a multitude of interesting places to visit. The original – and apparently best -Gold Souq is located here, and the price of gold per ounce is displayed near the entrance. If you want to buy a piece of jewellery the gold price is fixed; you are haggling over the cost of the design and the workmanship.
There’s also the spice souq and if you have the energy to wander round further, then a whole host of interesting sights await. To start you off, here’s a mosque which with its arched windows looks surprisingly like a church.
You are perfectly safe to linger, there are no bag snatchers and very little petty crime here. Bear in mind though, that in some cultures it is not considered rude to stare, and some of the workmen you meet will stare at you. Don’t take photos of local ladies without their express permission! Dress modestly and in the hotter months don’t be tempted to wear strappy/vest tops and short shorts as you will be much cooler with a short sleeved cotton shirt/blouse and loose trousers/long skirt.
Once you have had enough wandering around – and you will be tired out long before you have fully explored this area – why not take a break by visiting the Heritage House, which is a small but interesting museum with free entry. It portrays life as it would have been in the early part of the 20th century, and offers a fascinating window on Dubai’s past.
If you’re hungry, then stop for a meal at one of the many Indian, Pakistani or Arabic restaurants. Choose one that looks busy and be prepared to pay 10-20AED for your meal!
Another more expensive food option, which is a bit touristy, is to take a dinner cruise along the creek. We like the Mansour Dhow which is operated by the Radisson Blu, as the food is excellent and the boat has some seating areas to relax after your meal. There are a great many to choose from and these tours are often promoted via group purchase websites.
Where to stay nearby? You will be spoiled for choice, so have a look at booking.com and compare the prices and facilities of the 137 properties on offer. Every traveler is catered for, from the budget backpacker to the 5* connoisseur!
There is a photo album with extra shots from the Deira area uploaded to my blog facebook page which you can view here.
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Read about this area in the “good old days” – here’s a lovely blog from my friend Jan describing the gold souq.
Another friend Candice Bain has written a beautiful blog about the Dubai Creek area and you can find it here.
My recommendations for a jewelry workshop in Dubai Gold Souq can be found here.
- If you would to talk about the places I have visited please contact me on fullemptyquarter at gmail dot com or send me a message via my facebook page.
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