Friday, 30 January 2009

Dubai: Living history

Just around the corner from where we stayed with friends in Dubai, we could see The Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world. A little on the skinny side to be impressive, I still think our Twin Towers are prettier and take a better picture. Construction is everywhere, and provides stark contrast to the pristine shopping malls all over the city showcasing elaborate and creative architectural design.

The mall concept is family-based with activities for all. The main attraction in the Mall of the Emirates is Ski Dubai which features the only ski slope in the Middle East. In fact the line grabber in tourist blurbs is that Dubai is heavy on achieving Guinness world records. It's not surprising that the Mines and Sunway Resorts of KL are favourite destinations of our Middle Eastern tourists.

Variety is the spice of life, for shopping that is, and Dubai offers all that it claims. The Dubai Shopping Festival does promise real sales of up to 70%-90% discounts. As a defender of the Malaysian shopping scene, in general prices are better in Malaysia. Don't go near the cosmetics counters as products maybe 10 - 40% dearer. Ouch! Counter service is, however, more professional, attentive and international. The City Center Mall Bobbie Brown regional make-up artist was from Slovenia, Dubai Mall cashier from Uzbekistan, Madinat Jumeirah waitress from Ukraine, and many from the Philippines, Egypt, and Lebanon.

The Dubai Museum, housed in Al Fahidi Fort prides itself in a comprehensive array of exhibits ranging from old dhows, lifestyle tableaux and archaeological artifacts from the third millennium BC of the small human settlement of Al Qusais discovered 15km from Deira.

A small temple (worship of snakes) and fields of graves with almost intact skeletons, including intertwined skeletons of a husband and wife are the important discoveries.

Deira, the heart of old Dubai, is where the early traders and merchants set up shops along narrow alleyways. Trade still goes in much the same way in this antiquated settlement with modern trimmings.The Arab flavour of the souk is distinctive but it seems like 99% of the traders are from the South Asian subcontinent. From spices to gold to hubbly bubbly or shisha, you are spoilt for choice. The Dubai Museum gives a good video presentation of the development of Dubai over the last 80 years starting in Deira and Dubai Creek area. The aerial view reveals the magnitude of the estate development achieved. As the seagull flies, daily life goes on as usual for the water taxis, the merchants, workers and tourists. Crossing the Creek in an abra, was easily the highlight of my Dubai experience as it conjured up for me visions of life in this exotic place, then and now.
Dhows fringe the Creek side, forming an interlacing pattern of bows and sterns. The history of Dubai stems from the dhows that plied the seas between the Arab peninsula and South Asia and East Africa, hence explaining the demographic profile of the country. The lateen or triangular sail is the hallmark of these traditional Arab sailing vessels and was the inspiration for the design of the Burj Al Arab. As evening sets in, the call to prayer reverberates in the air, as the voices of the muezzin echo each other from mosque to mosque. Heading home, still tingling and satiated after this explosion of culture, I soaked up the twilight breeze and sights. We returned home to the villa on Al Wasl Road. Our gracious hosts had acquired a household full of Malaysian guests who happened to zero in on them, all in the same week, so much so that a close relative had to find alternative accommodation. Sibuk sampai demam . . . kesian!
I hear from our hosts that they are now relaxed enough to watch movie reruns and babies are having withdrawal symptoms from being pampered by the numerous aunties and uncles the whole week.

1 comment:

boy from dungun said...

Demam dah ok, thanks for your tablets.
Thanks also for the DVDs and all the troubles you took in sending them via Paul. We got them on Thursday. Russo is very pleased with it, and so are we with the other discs.
Your pics are all excellent and texts are spot on.