Saturday, December 29

Dhows, Gold, Spice and Frankincense

Our first full day in Dubai was spent relaxing and wandering around our hotel’s local area. Deira is one of the city’s original districts, full of character and narrow, bustling streets. It sits along side Dubai Creek, a gently curving inlet filled with the most wonderfully blue waters. A series of wharves jostle for space along the creek’s edge, forming a small port called Port Saeed.

Here traditional wooden dhows and small shipping boats can been seen loading and unloading all manner of goods. As we wandered we saw televisions, sacks of garlic and hundreds of car tires all stacked in disorganised piles along the pavement. I imagine every nation’s wharves once looked like this, long before containerization transformed cargo transportation.

As we wandered we encountered more and more streets cluttered with ramshackled shops selling every conceivable item. At times the scene invoked memories of the colourful streets we've seen in Hong Kong and Shanghai - doorways over-flowing with dingy merchandice, garish neon signs and the constant jostle of locals going about their business.

Some of the district's shops are clustered into traditional Souks, or market areas. On our first day we discovered the famous Gold Souk. Here all manner of jewelry and precious stones were on offer, along with an endless chorus of clandestine sprukers offering fake Rolex watches from dark alleys.

Later in the week we returned to Deira to explore the fragrant back streets of it's popular Spice Souk. While less polished that Istanbul’s famous Spice Market, this Souk felt more like the real thing. Each stall was stacked with large, dusty sacks containing colourful assortments of dried herbs, cinnamon bark, nutmeg and blocks of frankincense. A wonderful experience!

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