Since I spent most of my visit in 2012 discovering Dubai’s exhilarating nightlife, shopping malls and larger-than-life, well, everything, I dedicated this trip to soaking in the city’s culture, displayed in abundance among their vast plethora of tourist attractions.
For those of you who think Dubai has no history or heritage, I urge you to think again. It is remarkable how this city has managed to cling on to it’s Bedouin culture and traditional architecture while embracing the present and the future with the famous mirrored skyscrapers that light up the city’s skyline.
Our excursion began with a dhow cruise along the Dubai creek, learning about the maritime life and business culture that makes the city the economic hub it is today. A little more exploring then led us to the museum (it’s a lot bigger than it looks), the Sheikh’s house and the Wafi area, famous for it’s Egyptian-themed mall and underground market. Once bitten by the shopping bug, there was no turning back and our tour quickly led us on to the old markets or suks of Dubai, where walked through row after row of stores displaying their wares on a busy weekday, the air heavy with the scent of spices. We stopped to sample sheesha flavours, dates (I think I’ll pass), and ooh and aah over window displays of glittering gold. However, the local artifacts, beaded jewellery, scarves and mojri-esque shoes weren’t dissimilar to items you’d find around Colaba for a fraction of the price.
Still, if it’s a unique, traditional souvenir you seek, I’d steer you in the direction of an attar (Arabic perfume) store. Made of essential oils, these babies usually wear very strong and last through the day, so picking a fresh, mild scent is key. What’s most interesting about them is the beautiful bottles they come in, making them interesting gifts for friends or an treasured addition to your vanity table.
Seeing a side of Dubai that wasn’t grand monuments, luxury hotels and over the top opulence wasn’t only refreshing, but a bit of a relief. It’s always reassuring to know that in a world of smoke and mirrors, one can always find what’s real, genuine and organic if you look long and hard enough. Seek and you shall find.
And I can’t wait to see what I find on my next adventure this summer![/one_fourth_last]
What crazy experiences have you had in this amazing city? Share them with me in the comments section. Or to see more pictures from my vacation, follow me on Instagram. Till the next trip!
Photography: Anushka Hajela, Zarah Fiaz