Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gold, Gold, and More Gold in Dubai, UAE

The ship was docking overnight in Dubai, so we had almost two full days there. Here we are having gone through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the island of Bahrain, and then back down to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Dubai is the second largest of the seven Emirates in the UAE.

The skyline of Dubai with Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

Dubai is continually reclaiming waterfront land for new building sites.

These "rocks" for the breakwater look to be man made. Can you imagine the cost?

There were several cruise ships in port with us, but this isn’t a cruise ship, just a huge yacht!

And this was the spot between two ships that the captain had to manoeuvre into. It looks large from here, but it wasn’t that big. A tugboat pushed against us to put us into place. Look at the sand that we are kicking up.

And then a tiny line is thrown to the workers on the pier to pull a larger rope in for tying up the ship.

There is the Queen Elizabeth II which is a permanent fixture. Dubai had plans to make it into a 7 star floating hotel, but those plans were put on hold during the recession, and nothing has been done since. Dubai loves the term 7 star hotel. Technically, there isn’t such a thing, but they do everything big here.

We were on a private tour today arranged by a Cruise Critic member, Antonia. Our guide, Shehnaaz, met us with genuine delight. She and Antonia had been communicating for the last six months, so she felt like we were already her friends.

Our first stop was the Jumeirah Mosque, which was established as a learning centre to educate non-Muslims and tourists. You were able to enter the mosque with a guide and ask any questions about the Islam faith. Shehnaaz decided to show us just the outside, as she correctly gathered that we had seen a lot of mosques by now.

She explained about the ablutions and how Islamic people prepare and cleanse their body before prayer.

“Open Doors. Open Minds.” It’s a beautiful concept.

The sun looks like a ball of...heat. It was hot, hot, hot!

A Dubai license plate...

One of the first uniquely shaped buildings we saw was the Etisalat Tower, designed by a Canadian architect...

Beautiful flowers and greenery in a desert. Every 15 minutes reclaimed water is sprayed through extensive sprinkler systems. 

This area had the original homes of the Bedouins who were enticed to move into the city from the desert. Notice the rectangles on the top of the buildings which are wind towers. We got to stand under one, and it was amazing how you could feel a breeze coming through.

This area is now mostly restaurants and one of the proprietors allowed us to walk through and see his shop and restaurant. This beautiful piece of art caught my eye.

The current Sheikh is Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Throughout the day, Shehnaaz kept testing our memories by asking us to say his name. We usually managed to forget one part of it!

Our van, which had the best air conditioning!

The next stop was the Dubai Museum, which is contained in the restored Al-Fahaidi Fort. The fort is the oldest building in Dubai and was built in 1787.

The museum aims to show the traditional way of life when Dubai was a small fishing village. It displayed many of the early boats, called dhows, which were built using only simple tools.

This is an original well that provided water for Dubai. When water was found and a well dug, it was immediately surrounded by a fort and a tower. Water in the desert is gold.

They also showed a typical Bedouin home, called an Al khaimah, which was made of palm tree fibres. This is the bedroom…not so bad! Although I don’t think I could stand the 50 degree Celsius temperatures so well.

The city is divided by Dubai Creek. The most interesting and direct way to travel from Bur Dubai to Deira on the north bank is by abra water taxi. This is the traditional form of transport used by locals to go about their business, and by tourists to access the many spice and gold souks. It is very inexpensive to take the taxis, the equivalent of about 25 cents.

We had been experiencing a sandstorm all day with most of the skyscrapers barely visible. Shehnaaz was so happy that we had reservations to go up in the tall building (Burj Khalifa) the next day, as we wouldn’t have seen much today.

After a quick ride, we arrived at the other side. There are many dhows waiting to be loaded with goods bound for neighbouring countries. The piles of unattended cargo on the dockside show the honesty of the Dubai people. The dhow owners do not begin loading the boat until every item to be carried has arrived on the wharf. This can often take several weeks. In the meantime, the unpacked cargo stays where it is, but no one touches it. That's unheard of in most countries.

This guy was selling a little bit of everything!

The spice market! For some reason they also love to burn incense in the souks, which really adds to the smells.

It’s nice to look around, but many of the proprietors are so aggressive that you hardly want to show any interest in case you are cornered.

What are these? Rocks?? Noooo…they were yummy chocolate. Shehnaaz gave us a sample and then we had to buy some.

Shehnaaz brought us through the back streets. She assured us that Dubai is very safe as the penalties for any crime are quite severe.

We came out of the tiny souks and into a more modern area.

This souk rivals the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul for gold shops. I don’t know how they all survive, but Shehnaaz  assured us that each was different.

Very unique and extravagant pieces…

This ring holds the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest gold ring in the world. It has 58.7 kg of gold and 5.17 kg of precious stones and is valued at close to $3 million.

Gold, gold, gold…

Look at these gold belts!

Gorgeous dresses…

We ventured down this street, but didn’t spend too long there. You seriously cannot look at anything without being accosted.

And then we were back in the van and on our way to the Dubai Mall, the world's largest mall, to see the fountain show. We were very taken by the buildings. They refer to Dubai as an architect’s playground.

Yes, there are actually buildings here, which are still being hidden by the sandstorm. I put arrows to indicate where they are. Can you see them?

These buildings are the Jumeirah Emirates Towers (JET). Like everything else in Dubai, JET is over the top. The complex consists of two skyscrapers, one occupied by a hotel and the other by offices. In between the two lies a glittery shopping mall, one of dozens in town.

The Dubai Metro is the only fully automated, driver-less one in the world. Everything in Dubai is the biggest, the best, the only…

The buildings are beautiful.

Burj Khalifa still hidden in the sandstorm...we really wouldn't have seen too much from the top.

Apartment buildings…almost 80% of workers' salaries go towards rents.

We parked near the Dubai Mall. Shehnaaz knew a quiet place to watch the fountains, so we headed there  through a hotel property.

It’s called The Palace...

We could see a bit more of Burj Khalifa, which is next to the Dubai Mall, as we got closer.

Wow…this was a nice hotel. Of course, they all are…

Everything man made…

Look at all the cranes…that’s all you see in Dubai. More construction!

Although it is supposed to be bigger/better than the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, we didn't see a big difference. These were designed by the same engineers and were just as beautiful.

Jim with the Dubai Mall in the background...

Here we are with Shehnaaz. Doesn’t she look Egyptian or Arabian? She was actually born in Johannesburg, South Africa, but left when she could no longer stand the atrocities she saw each day.

Because the next day was Friday, which is like our Sunday, many people were out and about. People in Dubai love to eat out.

The fountains run every half hour, so we stayed for another display. 

Burj Khalifa at night…

As we were leaving, the fountains went off again. What the heck? That wasn't half an hour between shows!

Back through the beautiful hotel. Our feet were aching by now!

And we were back at the ship. We were starting our tour at 9:30 in the morning, so we had a quick bite and headed off to bed.

Tomorrow we continue our tour of Dubai before the ship leaves for Salalah, Oman.