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binmke Dubai - A travel report by Brian
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Dubai,  United Arab Emirates - flag United Arab Emirates -  Dubayy
7707 readers

binmke's travel reports

Camels, Ferraris, Dishdashas and Baseball Caps

  20 votes
An ultramodern metropolis on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Dubai offers much to dazzle the eyes. My visit was an eye-opening venture into a desert backwater-turned economic powerhouse where business is booming and the streets have no names.

The Burj Al Arab hotel and Jumeirah Beach
The Burj Al Arab hotel and Jumeirah Beach
Until the 20th century, Dubai was a small town which supported itself through fishing, pearl diving, and trade with India and Persia. The Dubai area came under British “protection” in 1892, and was a part of what was known as the Trucial States before becoming the UAE in 1971. Dubai’s geographically advantageous location near Persian Gulf trade routes—along with the discovery of oil in 1966—gave the city the means to modernize itself at an incredible pace. To this day it remains one of the most cosmopolitan and politically stable areas in the Middle East.

Dubai is a world-class tourism and commerce center. Real estate developments are exploding: luxury homes are being built on private, man-made islands in the shape of palm trees. Looking at pictures of Dubai’s early days, it is hard to imagine that just 50 years ago this incredibly modern city was a mere village that once relied on donkeys and camels for transport.

Favourite spots:
Bastakia Quarter.  These
Bastakia Quarter. These "wind towers" were used to ventilate the buildings.
Bur Dubai: the Dubai Museum, Bastakia Quarter and Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum house. The Bastakia Quarter has some of the oldest and most traditional Emirati-style architecture and art galleries. I enjoyed visiting the "majlis" (sitting room) in the Al-Maktoum house, which gives an historical/architectural framework to the generous hospitality of the Emirati people.

Deira: The Spice Souq is worth the trip for the smells alone. Exotic spices, like Iranian saffron, are readily available at prices much lower than what you would find in the United States. They also sell sandlewood and frankincense which smell fantastic when burned. The Gold Souq is also impressive…store after store of 24-karat jewelry.

Jumeirah Beach: Jumeirah Beach Park, Mercado Centre shopping mall and the Burj Al Arab are definitely worth a visit. The sunshine never stops, and the water in the Gulf is clear and warm!

What's really great:
Smell that?  Bags of spices at a store near the spice souq in Deira.
Smell that? Bags of spices at a store near the spice souq in Deira.
Dubai is unlike any other place I have visited because it is so mixed up...I saw a young Emirati wearing a dishdasha with a baseball hat instead of the traditional ghutra...camel races in the desert with the skyscrapers of Sheikh Zayed Road in the background...Starbucks and sheeshas, outdoor souqs and air-conditioned shopping malls. There is *no* crime, and for the most part the city is very clean.

Listening to the call of the muezzin from the hundreds of mosques around town was magical...but I was surprised to find so many bars and clubs that served alcohol in an Islamic country.

One of the favorite things I did was get my haircut here. For around 30 Dhirams you can get a full cut and shave with a straight-edge'll come out of the shop feeling like a king!

I also really enjoyed the expeditions out to the Hajar Mountains, Hatta, Sharjah and Fujeirah which are only a few hours' drive by car, and can be booked through most hotels.

Reflections of the Burj al Arab at the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel
Reflections of the Burj al Arab at the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel
Even if you do not have a room, many hotels will sell you a voucher for use of their pools or private beaches. This is ideal for those wishing to see Dubai on a budget as it allows you to take advantage of some of the five-star hotels’ facilities without having to pay the high room rates. Hotels are also the only places where alcohol is allowed in Dubai.

The most famous is the Burj Al Arab, whose sail-like architecture is the icon for the Dubai skyline. It is the stuff of legend…complete with a helipad, gold-encrusted decorations, and a host of personal butlers to greet the well-to-do guests. Most visitors to Dubai put this on their “must-see” list, however I did not visit as I did not have the patience to sit through the series of security checks necessary to get inside.

All the big luxury hotel chains (Hilton, Le Meridien, Sofitel, Kempinski, etc.) have established themselves here and have great pools, beaches and group tours to take advantage of.

Abras (water taxis) are a cheap and efficient way of crossing the Dubai Creek
Abras (water taxis) are a cheap and efficient way of crossing the Dubai Creek
The club scene here was not at all what I expected. Clubs were filled to capacity with western (mostly British) expatriates and visitors. Literally within seconds of walking into the door at Cyclone (across the street from the Mövenpick Hotel) my friend and I were propositioned by a group of tenacious Chinese and Russian prostitutes. This continued throughout the fifteen minutes it took us to order a beer, drink it, and leave the club. I had no idea that there could be this much prostitution in a Middle Eastern country. It almost gives Bangkok a run for its money. (No, we didn’t take them up on the offer).

In other places we encountered crowds of mostly British expatriates, along with the occasional American soldier or sailor on leave. There is a wide range of music, from Euro techno-pop to Indian dance music, to classic rock and roll.

More details on the club scene, as well as the scoop on visiting DJs from Europe can be found at

A pair of racing camels with their trainer.  The prize for the winner: $1 million.
A pair of racing camels with their trainer. The prize for the winner: $1 million.
Surprisingly enough, in a country where alcohol is technically illegal, we were still able to find several places to have a few pints and talk about the day’s events. All places we visited were parts of hotels. When the weather is nice, you can sit outside and enjoy smoking a sheesha (apple-flavored tobacco in a hookah or water pipe) with your drink.

Two places that we visited had good bars: Le Meridien Dubai (the terasse/patio is really nice, and the gardens are impressive) and Jimmy Dix (Mövenpick Hotel) – a classic pub, with a great live rock band the night we visited.

The streets have no home postal delivery exists in Dubai.
The streets have no home postal delivery exists in Dubai.
There is a bit of everything here. Most restaurants in the city center are Indian or Pakistani. I particularly enjoyed "thali", a vegetarian Gujurati dish served in a steel plate with naan bread. You can get it almost everywhere and it’s very cheap (5-7 Dhirams). The restaurant was called Evergreen, on Al-Fahidi Road in Bur Dubai.

Arab-style coffee is spiced with cardamom and is delicious. If you like your coffee strong, be sure to try it Turkish-style…black as death with an inch of sludge at the bottom of the cup. It is fantastic.

Tea is also very popular, and can be a great way to negotiate with vendors! If you stay at the store long enough to share a cup of tea with the merchant, you will notice the “special prices” they propose get much lower!

On the other end of the spectrum, five-star restaurants are readily available in the dozens of luxury hotels around town. The buffet at the Madinat Jumeirah was impressive.

Published on Tuesday November 16th, 2004

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Sat, Jul 22 2006 - 05:29 AM rating by marianne

Well-written and lots of useful information.

Sun, Nov 21 2004 - 08:51 AM rating by gloriajames

simply excellent 5*.
shall make a stop over next time when i fly emirates!

Sat, Nov 20 2004 - 04:03 PM rating by sven_ak

Great pics, great summary of Dubai. I lived there for 4 months and do miss it. Were you there solely for vacation? Thanks again for your input!

Sat, Nov 20 2004 - 03:10 AM rating by downundergal

Great Report - loved the pics!
Now Dubai has added to the ever growing wish list of places to go.

Wed, Nov 17 2004 - 10:04 AM rating by magsalex

Excellent. Informative with some nice pics!

Wed, Nov 17 2004 - 09:50 AM rating by bineba

Great report. I had already heard from friens what a fantastic place Dubai is.


Tue, Nov 16 2004 - 05:00 PM rating by susylu


Excelent !!! I really enjoy your report. I hope to go to Dubai one day. Congratulations !!!

Tue, Nov 16 2004 - 03:51 PM rating by mistybleu

Just one word - Hot! You reports was well written, with suffient information that made me want to be there. Thanks
Misty ((*_*))
PS what Boris said also.

Tue, Nov 16 2004 - 03:24 PM rating by picasso

Brian you came up with a very fascinating report,what a place to visit!
A lot of information , and superb images as well.


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