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!