Money in liberty
800 000 natives, 4 200 000 expats, are building a delirium in the sands of Dubai. “The biggest… the highest… the richest… the craziest… the most expensive… the most uncommon…” and other superlatives are the rule in Dubai.
But… for whom? Why? Till when?
Now Dubai is trendy, and people converge in Dubai because… it’s trendy!
One day, the euphoria will pass, another trendy place will appear (China… is working in the same direction) and what will then keep attracting people to Dubai?
Shopping? Will someone pay expensive flights to expensive hotels to save some cents in expensive articles?
Beach? “Impossible” in summer (weather) and out of summer (prices), with the large competition of better and cheaper tropical destinations?
What else? History? Where? Typical references? What? I couldn’t even see a camel… (No, I didn’t go to the Zoo, but if that’s the solution we have camels in Lisbon’s zoo too)
I came full of doubts.
Meanwhile, amidst the forest of cranes, some of the “castles” really deserve to be seen.
I don’t know when it will come the wave that erases the castles in the sand. But experience says that it always ends that way.
Join the club “I saw It”
Yes, it is very big, very beautiful, and inaccessible to the common of mortals. So, stop nearby, make your photos and join our club: “I was there and I saw it”.
Nightfall is the best hour, providing two different look, with and without artificial lights.
I think that the real Dubai is now confined to a small quarter, but housing a sample of everything – small souks, a museum, a mosque, a traditional house, handicrafts, actually, an island in the forest of cranes and skyscrapers.
It’s easy to notice that this mosque is a recent building, with the opulence and richness that are becoming standard in Dubai, but it’s also noticeable that it was built with full respect for traditional Islamic architecture, and a good taste in the decorative details.
The result of this combination of modernity and respect for tradition is positive, and the mosque is a beautiful temple in all the plans and from any distance.
Mosque at night
All the guides and most VT tips advice the visit to Jumeirah mosque at night, to see its illumination. My hotel was across the street and I did it almost each day. I agree with the tips. At night, it gets new colors, new relieves, and, with the not so hot weather, we may take a little longer appreciating it. (My daytime visit was at 6 AM, also “mild”).
Built 200 years ago using traditional techniques, this modest mosque is a good example of the real Dubai before the petrodollar invasion.
We didn’t visit it, but I think that it is open to visitors (a nice and uncommon exception), so, I have to use Wikipedia
The mosque was originally a school devoted to study of the Qur’an, known as a Kuttab, which welcomed its first students in the year 1900 to learn the Qur’an by rote. This building was replaced by a new mosque on the same site in 1960, which in turn was itself rebuilt in 1998, closer in style to the original of 1900. This mosque is one of the largest in Dubai and is dominant edifice in the old city.
The tallest feature of the mosque is the 70-metre (230 ft) minaret, the tallest in Dubai, which resembles a lighthouse.
Al Fahidi Fort
The walls of the fort are built from coral and shell rubble from the sea, and are cemented together with lime.
Wooden poles, called handel, support the upper floor, and the ceiling is made of palm fronds, mud and plaster. A massive, iron-studded door stands at the entrance, and its battle-scarred walls and towers, bear witness to the conflicts in the past.
Address: Opp. Grand Mosque – Al Fahidi St
My most interesting visit in Dubai was the museum. Installed in the recuperated fort of Al-Fahidi, built in the 18th century, it has not a remarkable collection, but it concentrates mainly in the people and their behaviors. Contrasting with the modern and high buildings that popup everywhere like mushrooms, this classical structure has the look and personality of the real local architecture. The views from outside are very interesting, but you should enter and enjoy the freshness and simplicity of its interior.
Address: Opp. Grand Mosque – Al Fahidi St., Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Directions: Located in the Al Fahidi Fort
Phone: +971 4 353 1862
The museum’s collection is poor.
To give life and expression to the place some displays where focused in people’s life, instead of people’s belongings or art creation.
In a dimmed light, some of the real scale creations do have expression, and the final result is positive.
One of the landmarks of Arab culture in Portugal is the “nora”, a very ingenious device to pull water from the wells, using an animal.
I thought that the device standing in the museum’s yard was something alike, but it doesn’t: it is hands driven, more primitive or maybe, more suitable to elevate water from deeper wells.
In the museum’s courtyard stand some of the most interesting pieces in display.
The typical house is one of them: made in wood, its rustic conception and execution doesn’t spare the clever solution to drive the wind inside, as the cheaper and most effective way to cool the house.
In the summer extreme heat, the museum’s freshness is a relief.
However, I think that women may need some precautions – when exiting, Marilyn Monroe came to my mind.
In Muslim countries life concentrates around the commercial areas, traditionally named souks. Dubai, in its dual image is no exception – modernity lives in giant malls, but the spirit of the people is still present in the old souks.
Smaller than many other (Hurrah, something small in Dubai!) the ambiance is real and bargaining stills rules. Spices, clothes or gold, each one has its area.
One of the recommended goods to buy in Dubai is… gold.
Well, the gold souk is astonishing: hundreds of shops side by side, with all kind of gold and golden artifacts may turn into any woman’s dream. But for me it was somewhat constraining: too many qualities, too hard to bargain too much money for a “cheap” item that may be lost or stolen during our trip.
Fernanda felt in love with really beautiful earrings, that didn’t match her price. And I escaped, this time. Good! I really appreciated the gold souk.
No kidding! It is something that really has to be visited.
Address: Al Sabkha Rd., Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Heading to the gold souk, we didn’t pay much attention to the spices souk in the way.
It is small, but it shows all the usual colours and smells, looking wider and calmer than the ones in north Africa.
The poorest souk in Dubai is the cloths area – it’s easy to understand, that, with so many malls and brands around, things are not favorable to traditional commerce in this area.
Maybe for locals, but… who are them? Where are they? In the malls, like everybody else, of course!
Besides, concerning cloths., Fernanda always opts for other alternatives…
One of the top “monuments” of Dubai is the Burjuman Center. Yes, it is big! Yes, it is modern! I came out with the feeling that I had already seen it before, but can’t remember exactly where. Luis Vuitton, Zara, H&M and other, are names that sound to me as something that I knew from… from…
Forgive me, but I swear I have seen them somewhere else!
In the arid and torrid sands of Dubai which sport should I recommend? SKI, naturally.
Accessible from the shopping area of Mall of Emirates, or from the adjacent Kempinski Hotel (where you may book a chalet in the snow for “only” US $1000 a day) the artificial snow hill really creates the true ambiance.
All the equipment may be rented or bought locally, but… you better try to book in advance.
A very big mall, still under construction when we visited it, wants to dispute all the tittles: “the best” “the biggest” “the most beautiful”…
Well, I can’t be judge in such competition – it has everything (as all the other), and… maybe it is… until the next one!
So big that each sector may be treated differently, we passed along China, India, Egypt, Russia, I don’t know what else, always inside the same shopping mall. Wafi Center is really big, has all the common shops of western malls and reinforces the sensation that shopping is always the same, either in your street or in Dubai.
The only real difference is decoration, and the money spent to make you believe that the place where you are IS the right place to leave your money.
Costume to be
When visiting Wafi Center, something failed: the mix of exotic references altogether in a single although large complex. More than in Egypt, I felt like being in… Las Vegas.
Maybe, but it put me guessing when will gambling arrive to Dubai, to justify (and pay) so much investment in luxury and fake culture.
This luxurious complex tries to compose the traditional look in studied harmony.
Each door, each window, open to a perfect sight, where not a single detail was neglected. Beach, hotels, shopping mall, pools, bars, lakes, everything is accessible and available to make you feel in a 1001 nights place.
At a price… of course.
Mina a Salam Hotel
I didn’t stay there – just entered for a drink and a brief visit, and I hesitated where to post it. Everything in Dubai is being built with the objective of getting the top in luxury, comfort and beauty. That’s why hotels, malls and office buildings are assuming the role of Dubai tourist attractions.This hotel easily hits the goal. Each room, each corridor, each corner, each lake or pool was thought to please.And it does. The integration with the shopping center and the sea works fine.
Even if you don’t stay there, when visiting Madinat Jumeirah you should enter and look around. It’s a privileged place to see the Burj al Arab hotel, and a cocktail in one of its many bars is a fresh relief in the torrid heat of the beach and pool.
The building euphoria couldn’t spare the royal family – huge palaces were being built out of common people’s sight.
Furthermore, pictures were forbidden, so I amused myself photographing some peacocks.
Look at them, so nice, the peacocks, without any palace behind them.
In the forest of skyscrapers and cranes, suddenly, a strange image – a tree!
No, it was not a garden, it was a real natural tree. And more than that, in the shade, a modest building.
How could they forget it there?
Don’t try to go and see it. If it wasn’t a mirage, a new skyscraper is already growing in its place.
I only saw from outside this water park situated between the Burj-al-Arab and the Jumeirah Beach hotels.
Of course that, being in Dubai, it must be the most… something, but the almost 50º C of August didn’t allow us to leave the air-conditioning.
Maybe next time, if it there will be one!
This dinner in a boat it’s a different way to see the creek and to travel in Dubai in the air-conditioning.
The prices are reasonable, and the quality acceptable, however, don’t expect a great experience.
The upper deck calls to romance, but… don’t get too hot; nor the climate, nor the local culture advise that…
Website: Dinner cruise
More than a traditional transport, the filling of these boats and their “dance” from bank to bank are an interesting performance to see.
By sunset, when the heat becomes bearable, the stronger colors and shades enhance the visual effects.
“Out of the beaten paths” it’s possible to see some contrasting sights of tradition and modernity, hi-tech and improvisation.
The hidden side of each city is quite often the most authentic, and rather important to those who like to have an independent idea about the visited places.
Not easy, but possible in Dubai.
Near Jumeirah Mosque I was attracted by a beautiful building, reflecting the Islamic style.
I couldn’t decide if it was a school, or a mosque, or both; however, once again, I had the confirmation that we shall never rely exclusively in the promoted highlights, even if visiting time is short for the large top alternatives.
In the heat of summer, the “cool” nights around 40º Celsius, are the best time to peep outside.
The show is prepared, and the photogenic elements illuminated for your delight.
Burj al Arab is a must, of course, but even beach and pool are inviting… where allowed!
Eating in Dubai
Seville – Almost Spanish
I had a good lunch in Seville, a restaurant included in Wafi complex (yes, in Spanish Seville too).
Advertised as Spanish, it really has a Spanish look, but I can’t guarantee that the food is so Spanish as expected. Anyway, it was tasteful, gently served, and at a reasonable price. The only problem was the location of the restaurant: although included in the complex, we had to leave the air-conditioned, across some terraces badly signed.
I hope that with the ending of the works things will be easier now.
Address: Wafi Center
There are several starting points and several prices to this dinner, announced as one of Dubai’s highlights. We bought it in our hotel, by the regular price (I think), with the advantage of transfers both ways.The sights are not so gorgeous as expected, and the dinner is nothing special… as expected. Anyway, we had to dine each day, the quality was acceptable, it was different, and travelling in the air-conditioning along the river was comfortable enough to justify the price.
Address: Dinner cruise
Dubai Marine Beach Resort
Hotel in a Garden
Dubai Marine Beach Resort is rather different from the general hotels: instead of a big building, with lots of rooms spreading up the tower, this is a garden, with lakes and plenty of green.
The rooms are located in small villas, all with easy access to the lobby and the pools. A clever and simple system allows direct access to the bathing area for the customers, while visitors must use the reception, and controlled access via reception when the doors are opened, at night to external clients.
Everything works with efficiency, allowing a calm stay.
Choosing the Dubai hotels had the help of friends in internet.
Thanks, JessH for the suggestion in VT that took me to the Dubai Marine. The hotel has not an outstanding luxury (excellent), but it’s comfortable, and very well located, only some minutes away from… everything (if traffic allows it!).
Address: Jumeirah Beach Road
Price: US$180 and up
In Dubai Marine Beach Resort we had three degree of temperature in the water: the boiling sea, the tepid pool, and… the normal pool.
The cascade does refresh a little, and moving into it after coming from the beach (or from the other pool) was very pleasant.
Furthermore, it was the shadiest area, and that made it my favourite location in the hotel’s facilities.
For all tastes
During the day all the movement into and out Marina Beach hotel must use the reception.
When the night comes the gate to the pools area and restaurants is open (and switched to the reception the access from residential area) and the restaurants are open to the public (ingenious solution).
Several cuisines and a club turn the night more animated than the day. At least in hot summer days. Eating “at home” gives time for fun and relaxation.
Mina a Salam Hotel
For your Pleasure
I didn’t stay there – we just entered for a drink and a brief visit, because I read that it was one of the best Dubai hotels.
Everything in Dubai is being built with the objective of getting the top in luxury, comfort and beauty. That’s why hotels, malls and office buildings are assuming the role of Dubai tourist attractions. This hotel easily hits the goal. Each room, each corridor, each corner, each lake or pool was thought to please. And it does.
The integration with the shopping center and the sea works fine. Staying there must be a great experience… if you can afford it, as everything in Dubai.
Rihab Rotana Suites
My choice of Dubai hotels for the first stay was this hotel because I wanted to stay in Deira, not far from the airport, and the hotel, respecting those needs, had good references in the net. It’s really a good hotel, across the street from Deira City Center, but two things did go wrong:
I arrived past midnight as expected and it was supposed to be received at the airport by the hotel’s minibus, informed of the flight scheduling. At the arrival door, a long line of people holding cards, identified the hotels… but mine was not there. I saw another Rotana, and approached the man, asking him if he was serving both hotels. He said no, informing that my driver should be outside, past the arrival door. I went out, to a violent heat, and saw a still larger line of people with more cards in several languages.
It took me several minutes to sweat around, to a final conclusion – he was not there also. I phoned to the hotel, being informed that the driver should be there, searching us. Another long wait, and… nothing. I phoned again, having the same answer, but that time explaining him exactly the place where we were waiting. Some minutes later, at last, someone came to pick us.
I’m allergic to tobacco ash. Being so, after a bad experience in Miami, I’m always very careful asking for a non-smoking room. I did it as usually but entering the room the tobacco smell was almost a punch in the nose. I left immediately and at the reception the bad news: there was no non-smoking room left. I didn’t accept the room nor the excuses, and, as the room was already paid, and it was not what I paid for, I demanded a solution. It was the bellboy who suggested that I could go and see another free (smoking) room and decide. I went, the smell was not so obvious, and I accepted. No reaction, thanks God, but the behaviour of the front-desk was not professional.
Address: Al Garhoud Road
Take seriously, very seriously, all the warnings about dehydration, this is the most important tip in Dubai warnings!
I only exposed myself to the sun for the needed seconds to enter the water, and had no problems, but Fernanda likes to stay under the sun, and even bypassing the “killing hours” of the day, she had problems twice.
Even before 10 AM, twice she felt… something she was not able to explain, but that I fought immediately with a big bottle of water, with immediate success.
At the second time she listened to me: since then, she followed my precautions and everything ended happily.
Staying in the beach during the hot hours, in summer days, is suicidal.
However, the swim at sunset surely compensates the hours under the protection of the air-conditioned.
The heat is bearable, the water is hot, calm is everywhere, and the falling of the night a relaxing enhancement to the bath.
Good moments, but I remembered Cancun, with a bath at 6AM, impossible here, with the beach opening at 7.
One day, this will be a rich and luxury place to live, but that wasn’t what I found.
Be careful when booking your hotel, because you risk to get installed in the middle of a noisy and dusty construction site.
It must be a lively place, nowadays, but,,, distances are still the same, isn’t it?
The useful with the pleasure
You “have” to cruise the creek. You have to spend a couple of hours each night to have dinner.Why not, joining the useful to the pleasure, and book a dinner cruise? It’s not too expensive, you may book in at your hotel desk where they may pick and drop you, so why not? We did! And it was OK.
Select your company
The right event demands the right people in the right place. The same program may become boring or unforgettable, according to the behavior of the clients. The dinner cruise is an opportunity that depends on the customers.
Fernanda was in the mood, but… alone. The singer tried her best, pulled the people, but the other clients seemed to have a funeral (or work) the next day.
I use to like low season.
The sensation of almost exclusive use of the hotel is nice, and the prices are better, but in Dubai, low season… burns!
No! I don’t recommend Dubai in summer.
What a waste of time, the red flag in the private beach of Dubai Marine until 7AM!
At 6 AM, both the air and water were under 40º C, the water absolutely quiet, the beach empty, no shark or jellyfish, good visibility, and… no swim?
Watch your lenses
You feel good in the air conditioned. But you need to exit and… there’s your photo! Take it easy.
The warmth and humidity instantly dims the lenses and disgraces any quick photo, so, each time you face the strong shock of temperature and humidity, you’d better give your camera a time to adapt, or clean the lens.
Otherwise you will end, like me, ashamed of your pictures, and the computer will make only half miracle.
Remember – that may happen each time you leave the air-conditioned!
The advantages of the Touristrips (and symilars)
The secret for a good vacation is… preparation. Time is always short, the budget, short or large must be controlled, and the location and quality of hotel may make the difference. I booked my stay in Dubai with the objective to stay first in Deira to visit the city, and afterwards in Jumeirah beach. I booked the Sheraton hotel that, in the net, seemed very good and well priced.
In VT forum I was alerted for Sheraton’s location, almost 30 km from town, and that made me change to Dubai Marine, at the other end of Jumeirah beach and close to town. I visited the Sheraton and confirmed the wisdom of my decision: It is a good hotel (I think) in the middle of a building quarter. With the impossibility to stay long in the beach (the heat…) and with nothing else than cranes in its surroundings, without changing I would have spent a lot of time and money in long distance taxis. VT, (Thanks Jess) was precious!
Booking an escorted visit around town may seem a good idea, and, considered the aggressive weather out there… it was, but I must confess some disappointment, when I noticed that half of the announced time of the trip was used… collecting guests from the hotels. That’s when we realize that the city is wide, the construction obsessive and the traffic generally jammed. Of course, we passed in places where we wouldn’t go, saw what we wouldn’t see, but discovered that a taxi to the souks area would be cheaper and allow more time to what really should be seen.
One of the recommended goods to buy in Dubai is… gold.
If you know what you want, and are sure about how to choose, the gold souk will be your universe. I can’t recommend one shop: they stand door after door, and you will end losing yourself in the golden maze, searching for your precious ornament.
The prices seem to be good, but… it’s gold, you know?
It is wise to have in mind the recommendations of Dubai-online:
“Always barter on the price of anything you wish to purchase. Sellers will initially set a high price. The weight element of the price is non-negotiable but the charge for workmanship is. Reductions of as high as 30 percent are possible. Similar items can be found in many of the stores so take your time to shop around. Credit cards are accepted, but better discounts can usually be obtained if you pay in cash.
To be on the safe side ensure you purchase from the stores. Strict government regulations ensure items on sale are accurately described. The street vendors don’t adhere to the rules and the jewellery they sell will often (if not always) be fakes.
I enjoyed very much the brief visit of the old city – smart recovering, unusual cleanliness, but the real image of what was Dubai before the petrodollars explosion.
The quarter around the museum must be visited out of peak season, to allow a little walking in the streets.
Nationalities, cultures, styles, everything is mixing in Dubai.
To attract people is the goal, and everybody searching for an opportunity may have his chance.
Construction grows everywhere, the balance between tradition and modernity is seriously compromised.
I don’t really know if the Dubai that I left was the same that I met two weeks before, or something different.
My memories of Dubai may be strong, but I don’t know if I can recognize Dubai if and when I will visit again.
In a city where everything needs to be the bigger, the most outstanding, the most expensive, it’s possible to see some quarters in construction (of course!) but… out of context.
They are modest, though carefully planned with interesting architecture.
Already aiming to middle price segment???
Do you believe that, sometimes, I was the one heading to the malls?
Fernanda was surprised, but the fifty someting Celsius degress outside, pushed me into the air-conditioned.
Which one is the best? Well… that’s a problem – all big, all with outstanding architecture, all with the same (expensive) shops and brands, all… so cool!
1,2,3,4,5,6,7 racks in this shop. Thirty six shops to come.
What am I going to do in the next 7 hours?
Or… am I being optimist? Eight? Nine?
Help! The plane to China will depart in about…
This was my only victory: twice we passed in front of Mercatto, and twice I escaped!
Please don’t tell anything to Fernanda, otherwise I may be asked to start immediately planning a second visit. I was kidding, of course! Honestly, I have problems in my conscience: Does it have a Zara and an H&M or not? And Mango? Is it big or small? And…
Oh my God! How am I going to sleep?
Buy with comfort
Mina A’Salam shops
Simulating an old bazaar, many narrow corridors lead to a complex of shops, dominated by local (or… almost) crafts.
With the advantage of the air-conditioning, their drawback against the real souks are the prices, as expected in Dubai.
No problem – we were passing, in the way to China!
Top Price Selection
If you have travelled to India or any Islamic country, entering this centre you have the sensation of “déjà vu”. Several products and techniques, with a common link: Expensive.
Wonderful pieces, enormous pieces, exquisite pieces, it sure deserves a visit (no picture inside… obviously). Buying? Well… it’s your money!
What to buy: Inlaid stones, Metal works, Rugs, Cloths
What to pay: Dilemma: Please your senses and hurt your wallet, or defend your money and buy… something, in the low rank.
Address: Jumeirah Beach road, Jumeirah 3
Dubai transports – the boat
Half boat half raft, this is really an efficient and cheap way to cross the creek of Dubai.
The lively docking stations evidence the typical hustle and bustle of middle east, but transport seems to be safe and to flow quite well.
I didn’t check the price, but it seems to be cheap, seeing the popular use of it.
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