United Arab Emirates


It was around year 2000 which this Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, a self-proclaimed 7-star hotel, was completed and under global spot-light that I reckoned the existence of Dubai in the Gulf region. On and off Dubai had only been a transit point for my journeys between Asia and Europe. Then for New Year 2018 Dubai eventually became my 3 days stopover destination for the UAE experience.
At the time of my visit, Burj Khalifa is the tallest tower in the world. Being 830m tall, hosting 160 floors. Perhaps in a decade, the tower will be eclipsed by another one erecting right beside it…

Amongst the reasons I decided to stopover at Dubai is to visit my friend, James, who stations here. He told me lots of local knowledge, gulf culture and his experience with GCC nationals. Interesting.

Jan 5, 2018

Today is the first day in my life spending a full day in a real sand desert. There is actually nothing but sand and wind. If the tour guide left me, I would be technically lost in the middle of nothing… It is not until I was in Dubai by myself and felt a trace of loneliness that I reckon I have been surrounded by good friends. Thankful. 

My first foot step on sand desert.

I joined a Desert Safari tour arranged by the hotel for USD50 which picked me up around 3pm and returned me to hotel around 10pm. 

The tour included a sand dune which I reckon is a free style roller-coaster ride inside a Toyota 4-by-4. We just slid from sand hills to sand hills until we reach a desert camp. 
Temperature difference is huge in desert area. Once the sun is gone I immediately felt the chill.

My first camel ride. It’s tricky to get on the saddle as camel functions differently from a horse. She kneels down to 40 degrees when she gets up or down. So hold tight.
Desert camp for dinner and shows. 

Selfie with Cammie.
Fire performance.

Belly and boob dance.
I was grouped with Filipinas who work locally at Dubai. Their happy index is off the roof. Great to have companion for the day.

Typical Arab food, barbeque skewers with hummus and pita bread.

As contrary to most people’s belief, so far oil and oil related industry have accounted for less than 5% of Dubai’s GDP and tourism produces 20% of the GDP. These figures exhibit the success of Dubai transforming its economy in order to survive the decay of fossil fuels. One the other hand, starting in January 2018, the government is collecting 5% sales tax to boost revenue.
Sheikh Zayed Road, the longest road in the Emirates, which runs roughly parallel to UAE's coastline along the Persian Gulf.

Dubai has become an icon for skyscrapers and ultra-modern buildings. 

The Burj Al Hotel Project in 1994 gave hope to the economy to become a famous tourist destination. 

Downtown Dubai,
which is home to Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountain.  
Aero view of UAE, building civilization out of sand. 

Persian Gulf. Had my skimpy dip to the Persian water

The Dubai Mall is the world's largest shopping mall by total area. It houses Dubai Aquarium and Under Water Zoo and more. It’s too large for me to explore. Yet I bumped into a full dinosaur skeleton exhibition. Cool.

The Dubai Creek, locates at the old Dubai, divides the city into Deira and Bur Dubai districts. The Dubai Creek area is the foundation of Dubai and retains much of the historical essence of Dubai.

Bur Dubai area on the shore of Dubai Creek. Quite scenic with traditional Dubai buildings.

As you thought most of the traditional buildings are old, they were actually new builds.

Abra (Arabic boat) is a traditional Arabic boat made of wood.

It costs only UAD1 (or US$0.25) for a one-way ferry to cross the creek.

Dubai dhow (Arabic ferry) outside of Dubai museum at Bur Dubai districts.
The Al Fahidi Fort, now Dubai Museum, was built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai.

His Highness The Ruler's Court, the governmental office of Dubai, at Bur Dubai area.
The only remaining portion of Dubai’s old city wall, built in the turn of the 19th century.

Corridor of The Ruler’s Court.
Typical scene of old Dubai at the historical district of Al Bastakiya.

The local Emiratis represent approx. 10% of the population in Dubai. They are rich as the government fully supports them. Technically the government employs foreigners to work for the Emiratis. This boy at the Ruler’s Court is perhaps a noble. Haha. 
A mosque at Deira.

Bur Dubai Grand Mosque is a tiled Iranian Mosque. It’s under renovation when I was there.

Traditional Dubai building with wind tower for cooling and ventilation. This building is the Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Café. James brought me here for westernised-authentic Arabian dishes. Compared with the hustle and crowded local area of Dubai,
it is definitely an escape to a calmer and relax environment. 

Yet, service from African waitress has room for improvement as they are usually trained as machine and follow orders.

The pita bread is freshly baked, and hummus is freshly grinded. Emiratis like to serve in large portion as a gesture to welcome their guests.

I enjoyed a few hours of tranquil afternoon at Al Bastakiya.

The weather was perfect in January as daily temperature between 16C to 26C.
So I spared the moment to write postcards to myself, friends and family.

I must be thankful that my life is filled with good friends and family. Life is not extravagant, yet simple and serene.
Bur Dubai Souq. Walking along the souq is such a hassle as they are over-excited to get you to visit their shops. One shop man did grab my arm and force me to his shop…
Deira Spice Souq

Only a few shops sell spice.
Deira Gold Souq

The world’s largest ring at 64kg.
Textile Souq

Local area of Bur Dubai
Friday is their prayer day. Most residents in the local area are Indian and Pakistani. Rarely are there Emiratis.

Then again, you won’t see any woman walking on the street…
Designated area for female and children.

Metro scene. No Emiratis.