We have our guide from yesterday, Mohammad, back again today. Rezya, the Pakistani woman is also with us. We’re picked up first, then go by to get Rezya at her son’s apartment. She has a son working in Dubai.
December 2, Sunday, is the National Day of the UAE. The country is 47 years old, gaining their independence from England in 1969, and signing the unification agreement between the seven different emirates in 1971. As a part of the agreement, the Sheik of Abu Dhabi is the president of the country, and the Sheik of Dubai is the Vice-President and Prime Minister. The face of Sheik Zayed, the founder of the UAE is everywhere. This year is also the celebration of 100 years since the birth of Sheik Zayed. His grandson is the Crown Prince, and the de-facto ruler. Everyone here seems very proud and satisfied with the rulers and government. UAE has a population of 9.4 million, with the majority of living in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. 85% of the population are expats/foreign workers.
As we drove Monday evening from Abu Dhabi, we passed the de-salination plants along the coast, pulling water out of the Arabian Sea. Outside of a few small wells, this country and these cities would be nothing. All their water comes from these plants. When you look at pictures of Dubai from the 60’s and early 70’s, how did they get to this? Unbelievable!!!
Our first stop is the original mosque built in Dubai. It’s small, compared to what we’ve seen lately, but important in the history of Dubai. Our second stop is the 225-year old Fort of Al Fahidi. It houses the Dubai Museum. Inside the small fort are several homes and rooms built in the traditional style, demonstrating how desert families lived. Then we’re led down a ramp and there is a huge museum area underneath this small complex. It contains many life-size dioramas of life in the desert and how they survived and thrived.
The rectangular structure on the roof of the small building is a “wind wall”. Inside is a triangular wall. When the wind blows across it, the cool air is forced into the building and the hotter (lighter) air is forced out. “Desert Air-Conditioner”.
After the museum, we make a short walk to the Dubai Creek, the original inland waterway into Dubai. We pass through a souk (market) area. I’ve been through lots of markets during our travels, but these guys were really “good”. As I tried to turn down one sale, another guy wrapped a turban around my head and had me in his shop in front of a mirror, all while I was saying “No, No, No”. His price dropped from 10 dirham, to 1 dirham as I walked away. ($1.00 = 3.66 dirham) I almost turned around.
We walked to a small dock area with small boats, called “opera”. We climbed aboard one and it took us across Dubai Creek to the older traditional areas and lots of souks to explore.
Our first stop was the Spice Souk. Rows and rows of shops selling spices and incense. There are lots of strong smells, very different from what we’re used to. The next stop was the Gold Souk, with rows of shops selling gold, silver, diamonds, and other precious stones. Mohammad tells us most of these shops are legit. Of course, if needed, I could buy a Rolex or Omega watch cheap down one of the alleys, according to all the guys approaching us.
After the souks, we opted to be dropped off at the Mall of the Emirates. It’s much smaller, with only 500 stores. Attached to the mall is Ski Dubai. Yep! It’s a huge indoor (obviously) complex with ski hills complete with chairlifts. There are some small ice chutes for toboggans. This is crazy! If you can imagine it, around here, they’ll build it. Another ski area opened in May in another area of Dubai. There are also plans to build another skyscraper that is 1000 meters tall. Apparently, somewhere else in the world, a building is about to open that’s slightly taller than the Burj Khalifa. The emiratis are not about to let themselves be topped.
Back at the hotel later, we relax, and then taxi over to the JW Marriott Harbour Hotel in the Marina area for dinner. I wanted to try and get some pictures of the “Palm of Jumeirah” island complex from the highest point. Dinner tonight is on the 52ndfloor in the Observatory Bar & Grill. We have a great view as the sun disappears. While we’re watching boats and jet skis scurrying around below us, some skydivers drift in, landing on a small runway area nearby.