A while ago, work took me down to old Dubai, right into the heart of Deira or, as I’d like to call everything that’s 'on the other side' of Dubai Creek, to the 'dark side' of the city. Even though I have lived in Dubai for almost 10 years, I dare not cross the Creek without a GPS in my car and a small emergency food and beverage kit lest I should get totally lost.
Things were a little different 10 years ago, when we lived near Dubai World Trade Centre and frequently drove to Wafi Mall, Bank Street, or whiled away time in Deira City Centre. These days, comfortably settled in 'new' Dubai, we hardly travel beyond what used to be known as Defence Roundabout.
So it was with some trepidation that I started the journey down Sheikh Zayed Road, across the Creek, and past Deira Clock Tower. I was lucky, because it was Saturday and traffic was light, and with the help of my GPS I soon reached my destination, a tiny little road full of tailor shops, laundries and little restaurants. The pavements were thick with people going about their business and delivery vehicles made the lane even narrower. This wasn’t car territory; here, the smaller roads belonged to cyclists and pedestrians, and the occasional rotisserie oven.
Business calling for an overnight stay, I parked the car at my hotel, attended to various work matters, and eventually found myself facing a late afternoon and evening at leisure in this unfamiliar part of the city. The hotel’s sports bar sadly suffered from arctic temperatures, easily a few degrees colder than the drinks it served, and as neither the Filipino nor the Pakistani nightclubs the hotel boasted particularly appealed to me, I decided to go for a walk.
I returned two hours later, somewhat exhausted, but completely fascinated, after walking through parts of the city I have lived in for many years, but had never really seen before. I discovered fabulous little restaurants off the beaten tourist track, chatted to tailors about getting new suits and shirts made (at very affordable prices!), and generally marveled at the hustle and bustle of this part of Dubai, which seems to be awake 24/7.
In fact, I liked it so much, I made the decision to return in the summer when business is a little slower and I have ample free time. This summer, I will be a SloLoTo – a slow, local, tourist in my own city. I’ll walk, take the bus, and perhaps even the odd waterbus, and discover what the dark side of Dubai has to offer.
I’m amazed that this idea hasn’t occurred to me before because I usually like to explore destinations off the beaten track when I’m travelling. I just seem to have forgotten about my current home base in the process.
I remember that, when I was little, my father always used to say how important it is to discover your own country or city first and really see and experience it, before jetting off to exotic destinations. Back then, I assumed this was an excuse to save on airfares, but you know what? My father was right and I have come to realise that we often do not make enough of our own backyards.
So this summer, I will be a tourist in my own city, while some of my friends will enjoy holidays in far-flung places. I dare say, though, that I’ll probably discover more than they will!
Do you have any 'must see' destinations in the old part of Dubai? Get in touch and I’ll put them on my to-do list!
By Martin Kubler
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