SURPRISING DUBAI (2)

How to explore Dubai as a local…

…with Couchsurfing of course! Tonight, I’m meeting Liz and her gang from Africa, India and the Philippines. They’re waiting in front of my apartment tower and Liz hands me a box of delicious chocolates and dates from Dubai as a welcome gift. She works in a chocolate factory. “A little taste of Dubai to remember us. Are you ready to hang out with my crazy family?” Oh yes, I’m ready!  Our first stop is an Indian restaurant. It’s great to have some Indians in the group. They take very good care of us and order the best stuff only. I’m tasting real Indian food for the first time. In Dubai. I guess that’s one of the advantages of living in a multi-cultural city. All the dishes we try are superb! Later, we grab an Indian sweet tea and enjoy some views of the world’s only seven-star hotel Burj al Arab at night. Thanks, Liz & family!

During the following days I do a lot of touristy sightseeing throughout the city: Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai Mall during daytime and the Dubai Marina Walk. You might be wondering, why I’m visiting so many malls… well, there are two reasons: reason (1), they are air-conditioned, reason (2), they offer so much more than shopping: ice-skating, skiing, eating, drinking, watching the fountains, gazing at exquisite architecture & designs…

How to discover Dubais traditional side!

Dubai has a different, almost alternative side to all those world-record buildings and modern luxury. Today, Onil and I are going to explore these parts of the city. But first, a bit more luxury. We meet at the Mall of the Emirates. No, we don’t go skiing, but enjoy watching from the outside for a while. Our next destination is called “Madinat Jumeirah”, a luxurious 5 star resort in Dubai. It is designed to resemble a traditional Arabian town. It’s a beautiful place, well-stocked with great souvenir shops and mouth-watering restaurants. We enjoy a refreshing lemonade and then continue via taxi to Dubais traditional and historic districts: Deira and Bur Dubai. It’s early in the afternoon and therefore not much is happening around the famous markets Gold Souk and Spice Souk. Many shops are closed during this time of the day. It’s quite hot anyways and I don’t mind the emptiness at all. I can only imagine how exhausting this trip must be with thousands of tourists and merchants flooding the streets. I’m already hiding from the few that are approaching us: “Sir, I have the best watches! Come, see! Best price! Mister, gold, very cheap!…” I don’t enjoy bargaining at all and I can’t stand being surrounded by obnoxious people trying to sell me stuff I don’t need and can’t afford. Even if it is a “very special price for my good German friend”. Upon strolling around Deiras souks we arrive at Dubai Creek. To cross the creek we hop on one of the small ferries called “abras”. An abra is a traditional boat made of wood. The fare is one dirham only (around 0,24 EUR). The short ride -nice breeze- ends at the Textile Souk in Bur Dubai. Time to refuel our energies and cool-down with a healthy salad and a refreshing drink in a beautiful restaurant’s courtyard. Sadly, I’ve forgotten the name… but there’s a nice photo below. Fortified, we continue our tour to my favorite part of Dubai: Al-Fahidi Historical Neighborhood. The traditional style of life that was prevalent in Dubai from the mid 19th century till the 1970s is reflected here. Small museums, beautiful cafes, many artistic activities, tiny stores, handcrafted souvenirs and a very relaxed and creative atmosphere make this place so special. Onil and I both fall in love with a small café called “MAKE ART CAFE”. Local artists exhibit their works around the cozy interior. I’d never expect such places in a city like Dubai…

Our day ends in a popular Filipino fast food chain (!) called “Chowking”. I have to try a very famous dessert: Halo-Halo with mixtures of shaved ice and evaporated milk to which are added various ingredients, including boiled sweet beans, coconut, jelly and fruits. The city of Dubai is full of surprises. I can’t wait to come back!

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