Monday, January 28, 2019

Doin’ Dubai . . .Differently

I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder 
than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.
                              -- Bill Bryson

Maybe that is why we ended up liking Dubai.  

Skyline from freeway interchange - Dubai

We’d once had a four-hour layover in Dubai and saw nothing more than an airport concourse. It was interesting, but still, just another airport.  

Reviews from traveling friends were mixed: love it or hate it, but there would be no in-between. Or so it seemed, before we arrived on a bright December day aboard the Celebrity Constellation. Our itinerary called for an overnight stay in this high-rise mecca of modernity and opulence.

A Marina Bay Sands like that in Singapore is under construction - Dubai
That’s the sum of what I knew about Dubai when the ship docked.  The city was waiting to be explored.

The one thing I knew I wouldn’t do while there would be to travel to the top of its tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which at 828 meters (2,717 feet) and 161 floors, is the tallest building in the world. A trip to its top can be done for a price, a rather hefty price for an elevator ride at that. (It is that spire building in the photo above.) My dislike of small enclosed spaces -- like elevators -- and heights like this tallest building in the world, removed that outing from the ‘to do’ list. 

And neither of us were too excited about visiting ‘the Dubai Mall’ (its the one with the aquareum in it and and ice skating rink). It is also one of 73 malls at last count in the city.

Hop on, Hop off tour bus - Dubai
With nothing in particular in mind to see we opted for a Big Bus, hop-on, hop-off tour of the town. The bus company wisely has started serving the cruise port here, so we could walk off the ship and board the bus.

It might have been the best cruise-tour decision we could have made as it gave us independence to stop where we wanted and provided a full-day’s overview of this rapidly expanding city.  (They offered two-day packages as well and one that included a trip to neighboring Abu Dhabi, located just down the road and across the desert.

Traffic, traffic everywhere

Our tour guides -- real humans -- provided lots of tidbits of information:

We were cautioned not to take photos of government buildings, military establishments, airport or cruise ports (too late for the latter when you arrive on a cruise ship). 

We were told not to take photos of Emirati (those wearing traditional dress) without their permission and certainly not to take photos of policemen; unless they were near their new fleet of cars which includes Maseratis, Jaguars, and Ferraris (in which case the officer would likely agree to a photo by the car if permission was asked first).

Among the things we learned is that of more than 2.5 million people in Dubai only 15 percent are Emirati.  The remaining 85 percent are ex pat and migrant workers.  Of those folks 71% are Asian (the majority coming from India). 

While oil production is credited with putting this area, settled by the Bani Yas tribe back in 1833, ‘on the map’; today oil production makes up less than 5 percent of its gross national income.

What a difference a decade or two makes - Dubai
The tribe settled along what is called Dubai Creek, although the ancient Greeks called it the River Zara. Back in the 30’s and 40’s the cityscape looked like the poster above and its main industry was pearl diving.

The Old Souk, once called the Textile Souk

Old Dubai, that which was constructed in the mid-20th Century, is clustered around that creek and its old skyline has been preserved by city codes forbidding major changes in building height and design. It was this old area that we liked best.

Textile vendors line the streets near the Old Souk
It is still home to a very active souk, once called the textile souk for good reason we learned as we explored its side streets.

PicMonkey Collage
We dined
We dined at a restaurant Bayt Al Wakeel, overlooking Dubai Creek. The meze plate was delicious and the setting spectacular as the restaurant is housed in the building constructed in 1935 to serve as the headquarters of the Gray MacKenzie shipping company. The bottom of the building was the shipping company office and the manager and family lived upstairs.

From the table we sat at on the wooden porch extending over the creek we watched the marine traffic that plies the water, hauling goods and people from one point to another.

The wooden dhow transports tourists as part of the Big Bus tour
We joined other visitors on the dhow pictured above and spent an hour traveling the creek as part of the Big Bus tour.

Water taxis shuttled people back and forth across the creek
We also rode one of the many water taxis, a cheap way to get to locations along the waterway.

This area of the city seemed a bit more real than the high-rise area
A kaledescope of scenes from the working ships and live aboards to those a bit more opulent:

It would have been fun to see this one's interior 
It was also fun to see the city from the water as our dhow took us between the old and the new areas.

PicMonkey Collage
Scenes along Dubai Creek
Dubai, we’ve decided, may not be a place we’d rush back to as we would to Abu Dhabi or Muscat, Oman (both were also ports of call on this cruise) but a cruise stop was an excellent way to see this Middle Eastern megalopolis.

Cruise passengers were welcomed with long stemmed red roses - Dubai
I suppose I technically wasn't supposed to take the photo above, as you recall, no photos in the port. But when the welcome is warm and the place worth remembering, I'll risk a reprimand for taking a photo (there wasn't any, btw)

Thanks so much for the time you spent with us in this port of call. When we left Dubai we headed for the Gulf of Hormuz and then the Arabian Sea and our next ports of call on India's west coast. Hope you’ll join us as we explore those cities in future posts.
Safe travels to you and yours.

Linking with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. Fascinating! I have only seen photos of the glitzy modern part of Dubai, and enjoyed seeing the older side through your photos. A friend recently came back and was telling us about it - I think it would be fun to see once for a short time, as you did. Happy Cruising!

    1. It was fun seeing the less glitz side of this amazing place. Not sure I'd go back to it as a destination trip but wouldn't mind stopping again aboard a cruise ship! Thanks much for stopping by!!

  2. Wow. Fascinating to see these photos. Thanks for letting us travel with you vicariously, and thanks for linking up at

    1. Thanks, as always, for providing such a great link-up!

  3. We had a 20 hour layover in Dubai last year so we got a hotel and ventured out. We didn't get to see as much as you did, but it was pretty impressive and would like to go back someday. Thanks for giving us more options!

    1. It does have a way of sticking with you and making you want to see what they do/build/create/imagine next, doesn't it? Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I think I'm in the category of both loving and hating Dubai! I don't like the malls and the concrete, or the lack of anywhere to walk; on the other hand, I really liked Old Dubai and the modern architecture.

    1. I hear you on all counts. I could spend more time in Old Dubai but not all that impressed with New Dubai for all the reasons you mentioned.

  5. Great photos. I really admire your photography skills. Keep posting good things. Best Regards.

    1. Thanks for commenting. . .hope to see you should my travels take me back your way.

  6. I visit Dubai every year as I have family there and I never tire of it. The contrast between the old and the new is incredible, fascinating and intriguing.

    My pictures and Linky!

    1. Keith, we were amazed at the number of people who have sons/daughters/other relatives living in Dubai and who travel there regularly for visits and as sun seekers. There were many like you on our cruise! Thanks for stopping by!!

  7. Thanks for writing this. I like the hop on and off bus tours all over the world. They are a great way to get around cities to the major sites and learn about the city as you ride. Dubai was never on my bucket list and I never read much about it. Having read your post; it matches my image of Dubai. I know it will never take priority on our list over nature and the outdoors, or over seeing the US.

  8. We only had an overnight layover in Dubai and our friends took us to what else but the Burj Kalifa and the Dubai Mall! I would much rather have done the tour your had and seen Old Dubai. The water tours would also show the contrasts better. But the day tour to Abu Dhabi I would have loved.

  9. This looks like the perfect place to take advantage of Hop On/Off Bus tours. ...And I didn't know Celebrity had a port of call there.

  10. I am not sure I want to visit Dubai, though it looks like it could be fascinating. I think a tour would be best for us, I must say that I love markets and the old towns. Happy travels Jackie and thank you for taking me to Dubai!

  11. Thanks for the introduction and brief history of Dubai and it looks like the hop-on, hop off bus is a great way to get an overview of this intriguing city. It's hard to imagine 73 malls and a police force with Maseratis, Jags, and Ferraris in one city and the divide between vast wealth and immense poverty elsewhere must have been striking and something to ponder on. I know I would have preferred Old Dubai like you. PS The Bill Bryson quote is perfect!


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