Header image    

The Travels of a
Single Parrot

   
  

   
 DUBAI WEATHER

Click for Dubai, UAE Forecast 


 
 
DUBAI
United Arab Emirates

STATISTICS
Country: United Arab Emirates
Population: >1,400,000
Language: Arabic (but English spoken widely)
Climate Sub-tropical
LOW: 10 C
HIGH: 50 C
Currency UAE Dirham (AED)
Number of Pirates Probably quite a lot
Number of Parrots Many green parrots that were not indigenous.
Location (Northing, Easting): 25 08 29.01, 55 11 06.15 (paste into GoogleEarth)
HISTORY

The "town" of Dubai dates back to the late 1700's. Dubai itself was home to the Al Abu Falasa lineage of the Ban Yas clan and was a dependent settlement of Abu Dhabi in 1833. On the 8 January 1820the then "Sheik" was a signatory of British under the General Treaty of Peace.

The Al Maktoum dynasty of the Bani Yas tribe left the settlement of Abu Dhabi and took over the town of Dubai in 1833 and from that point on, Dubai was constantly at odds with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

An attempt by the Qawasim pirates (I do love a Pirate!) to take over Dubai was thwarted. In 1835, Dubai and the rest of the Trucial States signed a maritime truce with Britain and a "Perpetual Maritime Truce" about two decades later. Dubai came under the protection of the United Kingdom (keeping out the Ottoman Turks) by the Exclusive Agreement of 1892. Like four of its neighbours, Abu Dhabi, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain, its position on the route to India made it an important trading city.

In March 1892, the Trucial States (or Trucial Oman) were created. The rulers of Dubai fostered trade and commerce, unlike the town's neighbors.

The town of Dubai was an important port of call for foreign tradesmen (chiefly Indians), who settled in the town. Until the 1930s, the town was known for its pearl exports. After the devaluation of the Gulf Rupee in 1966, Dubai joined the newly independent state of Qatar to set up a new monetary unit, the Qatar/Dubai riyal.Oil was discovered 120 kilometers off the coast of Dubai, after which the town granted oil concessions.On 2 December 1971 Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi and five other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates after former protector Britain left the Persian Gulf in 1971.

In 1973, Dubai joined the other emirates to adopt a single, uniform currency: the UAE Dirham (AED).

OK, enough of the boring stuff (have a look at the links if you want history as there is a lot of it), what’s there to do?

Dubai Map (Click to Get a Larger Image)

THINGS TO DO

There is so much to do in Dubai you could dedicate a website to it and there are many, have a look at my selection. What I wanted to do was tell you a little bit about the things I got up to when I visited.

SOUKS
Time to Allow: A few hours
Expense: Free to enter but you can spend a fortune
How to Get There: Taxi (AED 100 max), parking near Bus Station but do not park illegally as my Pirate friend did as she got a 200 AED fine!
What to Do: Buy gold at a good price and haggle
What Not to Do: Say, "yes I would like a fake (insert any) watch/handbag/kidney"
Important Info: You can trust what you see and hear in the shops, but not in the street.

Dubai is famous for its Gold Souk and if you are after gold then there is no better place. There is such a selection that you can find almost anything. Be prepared to haggle and always ask for their “best price”, they expect to give a discount and this can be up to 10-20% of their first price but be prepared to walk away for the best deals. You can always come back.

Next to the Gold Souk is the Spice Souk, this has every spice you can image, saffron, frankincense, myrrh and much more. I especially like the dried lemons, keeps the scurvy away you see. All along the Dubai Creek, the dow's bring all sorts of stuff that is sold both in the souk's and all around Dubai. Walking around this area you can stumble on the Linen Souk, the Pots n Pans Souk, the Knock Off (oops sorry, replica) Watch Souk and all sorts of toys and useless memorabilia.

Simple to get to but you have to dodge the traffic which is manic at times. Best get a cab – ask the driver to take you to the “backside” of the Gold Souk. He will drop you off near the bus station and then you cross the road into gold heaven (if you like that sort of thing). If you are real Pirate then you will valet park you car at any good hotel (Dusit, Emirate Towers, Kempinski etc.) and the get a cab thus cutting the costs down considerably.

I much prefer doubloons myself.

MADINAT JUMEIRAH
Time to Allow: A few hours to shop and more if eating.
Expense: Free of charge.
How to Get There: Ample parking (if you can park in tight spots) or get a taxi (50AED).
What to Do: Take a trip on the abra's at AED 50.
What Not to Do: Go when there is any big event at the Arena next door.
Important Info: The restaurants are excellent, try Left Bank, Trader Vicks

I have talked a lot about the Jumeirah chain, I think I should be on commission, but they really do it well. For an interesting shopping experience like a souk but in air conditioned comfort without those bl’’dy hawkers that seem to be able to smell you money 1/2 a mile off, then the Madinat is the place for you. They have a lot of up market tat  (sorry, merchandise) to suit all tastes. My favourites are Marina for their excellent selection of replica furniture as well as some real stuff too (go to their Al Barsha warehouse, it is just unbelievable what you can buy), Royal’s for a fitted suit and the range of restaurants such as Left Bank, Trader Vicks, Japengo etc.

I would also recommend going on the little Abra’s that ply the hotel waterways and if you are lucky, the Captain will take you to see the turtles at Mina Al Salam – ask him and slip a few Dirhams it is worth it for the view of the Burj Al Arab.

BRUNCH
Time to Allow: 5 hours.
Expense: 300-500 AED.
How to Get There: TAXI, do not drive if you intend to drink.
What to Do: Eat small portions and taste everything.
What Not to Do: Drink too much.
Important Info: Do not drink ANYTHING if you intend to drive, there is a zero tolerance to alcohol which means go direct to jail.

“Friday Brunch” is a real tradition in the ex-pat community in Dubai and now catching on in other Middle East destinations. The “brunch”, derived from the US for Breakfast rolled into Lunch, is an excuse to eat and drink until you burst or in my case, fall down. The basic premise is, you arrive around 12:00-12:30 and you get greeted with a glass of champagne, your are then seated and then you are subjected to every food that can be squeezed into the restaurant space allocated. For example, the Fairmont has Moet on tap and opens every restaurant as a “station” – e.g. sea food, tandoor, teppanyaki, Thai, Chinese noodle bar, sushi, etc. etc.

The best-rated brunches are at the Fairmont (Spectrum on One) and Al Qasr (Jumeirah again, AED 50 please Jumeirah Group LLC, thanks).

Brunch usually last for about 3-4 hours which is a serious amount of eating and drinking but the best value meals I have had since weevil biscuits and gruel on the good ship Black Pearl which with a ration of rum, went down a treat and at no cost other than a touch of scurvy.

BEWARE: Champagne has a tendency to get you a little more tipsy than you think (the bubbles I believe) as I can recount since I was told when I got back to my ship I did a little “river dance” before falling over the gang plank and getting drenched.

BURJ AL ARAB
Time to Allow: Depends on what you go for but a few hours.
Expense: Depends on what you book but around AED 200 unless you buy a property and this could be anything from AED 500,000 to AED 20,000,000
How to Get There: Taxi is best but you can valet park.
What to Do: Take the glass elevator to the top deck and see the view.
What Not to Do: Buy property unless you planned to.
Important Info: Expect decadence.

The “Burj” as it is called locally, is a National Treasure, the only 7 Star hotel (OK, there are others now) in the world, or at least the first. There is a story that the interior design was “boutique style” and when the design was presented the only comment was “more Gold” and that’s what you get – complete opulence.

You cannot just turn up and enter the Burj, it has such tight security, even the most sly Pirate cannot pass the gates without a reservation. A good way to keep out the riff raff. There is a “back door” as there always is, you can book Breakfast, Afternoon Tea or Cocktails OR, wait for some property launch and you can get in for free. I walked around the complete hotel for hours but I did spend AED 540,000 on a one bed roomed apartment in Ras al-Khaimah (a place I have never visited). Best go for the tea option, it is cheaper and it's no commitment.

DESERT SAFARI
Time to Allow: 8-9 hours.
Expense: Around 300 AED.
How to Get There: Call and book, they pick up from where you specify.
What to Do: Hold tight.
What Not to Do: Have a big meal or lots of drinks before going.
Important Info: If you get travel sick, do not sit in the back seat, best sit right at the front.

The desert is all around and to see it, or at least some of it, then the best way is to buy a camel heard and become a Bedouin. A cheaper and less life changing way is to go on a desert safari (not to be confused with a dessert safari which you can get at any good brunch – see Brunch). The desert safari is truly an excellent experience, they come in 4x4’s (four wheel drives, usually Nissan Patrols or Land Cruisers) and pick you up at your hotel and then after a shortish drive, subject you to 1 hour of exhilarating dune bashing. Since I am a ship hand, I do not get travelsick so I cannot vouch for those who have no sea legs but I enjoyed it so much I nearly pooped. 

After a little 45 degrees sideways, slope sliding and peak jumping driving, we arrived at our desert camp. At the camp, you eat a barbeque meal, watch belly dancing, get a henna tattoo and dress in traditional dress for a photo (not sure about this one, but each to their own). After the festivities, you get a leisurely drive back home at around 10:00-11:00 pm.

Truly excellent fun :).

WATER PARKS
Time to Allow: All day.
Expense: Dreamland Aqua Park (80 AED, Adults, 50 AED kids, <4 free)
Wild Wadi (AED 150 kids AED 125)
How to Get There: Dreamland Aqua Park - drive with ample free parking.
Wild Wadi - Next to the Burj Al Arab, ample parking which is free.
What to Do: Jumeirah Sceirah
What Not to Do: Leave valuables in the open, get a locker as them Pirates are everywhere.
Important Info: Get there early and stay all day. Get a locker to lock up your valuables.

 

There are two good water parks , one is in the center of Dubai, your might have guessed it, next to Mina Al-Salam called Wild Wadi. Oddly the mascot is Aladin and not the character from the old story but the Disney Cartoon rendition. If you go, go early, it opens at 10:00 am and then gradually gets busier.

The rides are good though, and the most famous is the Jumeirah Sceirah – 33 meters of drop and 80 km per hour of terminal velocity. At the bottom it is good for watching how fabric is much more flexible than water at high velocity – ladies beware of the bikini on this one – I cannot believe even a duck could remain watertight on this one!

The other ride is the Master Blaster best described as and uphill water roller coaster. The only word of warning is if you are of a large build you can get stuck half way up and have the “walk of shame” back to the bottom. Make sure you loose a few pounds for this one.

The other, less known water park, is Dreamland Aqua Park in Umm Al Quwaim which is about 1 hours out of Dubai but my Pirate friends says it is cheaper, better and less crowded. The rides to try are the Twisting Dragons and the human toilet called Twister. One thing to beware is that the Dead Sea Pool finds every scratch, spot or sore you have on your body and all the ones that you did not know you had.

GLOBAL VILLAGE (not permanent)
Time to Allow: Open at 4:00 pm and goes on until late.
Expense: AED 5 (yes FIVE Dirhams).
How to Get There: Follow signs for Global Village - I think they start in Oman.
What to Do: Buy antique silver from Yemen and original art from Iraq.
What Not to Do: Buy sunglasses from the England stand.
Important Info: If you want the best deals, go on the last day as everything has to go at any price.

Global Village is not really “Global” but the concept is there, every Country is represented by a pavilion that champions the Country’s greatest products. For example Saudi Arabia has the best dates, Yemen has the best silverware and honey, Iraq has the best paintings and England has fake sunglasses sold by the Chuckle Brother’s (it has to be seen to be believed). Sadly the USA does not seem that interested in representation, possibly as everything is made in China anyway (they have a massive stand).

The Global Village is one of those Dubai institutions, it happens every year and there are excellent bargains to be had. I bought a chest made by UAE prisoners for AED 250, several shell boxes for AED 10, a pearl necklace for AED 50, a picnic basket for AED 20, it goes on…

The fireworks are worth the AED 5 (yes that’s 66 pence in UK money) entrance and there is a small fair plus loads of restaurants serving Maccy D’s, KFC’s and Curry’s. If you want a good meal, go to the Philippines pavilion and have Shrimp Balls and then a slice of Durian (hold your nose though).

BIG RED
Time to Allow: A few hours.
Expense: If you want a quad bike then around AED 100-150 for 30 mins (that's enough, I had blisters after about 20 mins)
How to Get There: Drive toward Hatta, it is about 40 mins out of Dubai.
What to Do: Quad Bike, Dune Bash, Camel Rides.
What Not to Do: Feed the pet Monkey, it will punch you.
Important Info: Don't assume that they have HSE Certificates - this is at your own risk.

Big Red is not a overweight sun burnt European but a big sand dune – and it is reddish in colour. Big Red is quite exciting during the day, you can hire a quad bike and hit the dunes but Health and Safety consists of “this is to go and this is to stop” but the stop bit does not really work! You can also ride a camel, ride a horse and ride in a beat up Patrol with a driver that rivals the Stig but has no regard for speed, height, slope, other people, other hard objects like 4x4’s, quad bikes, trailers, camels or in fact anything at all. I had heard the term “white knuckle ride” before but since I don’t have knuckles I did not think this would effect me – WRONG, I have white feathers that I did not even know I had.

As we came back through Big Red in the darkness of the evening, I said it was exciting during the day, well at night, have you seen the film Mad Max 3 – Beyond the Thunderdome (bad film with Mel Gibson and Tina Turner), this is like “Bartertown” (except without the pigs of course). It is M.A.D., everything is everywhere and Big Red is alight with mechanical equipment tuned to get every last cubic centimeter of power from the motive power unit.  The Stig would look like a woos as all the drivers seem to think that a tee shirt and a cheap baseball cap is all that is needed to ensure a safe and controlled landing in the event of collision.

SHOPPING

Dubai is famous for its shopping, I talked about the Souk's but there is also the Mall's. There are several malls worth a visit, these comprise:

Ibn Battuta - Themed on the travels of the explorer Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta.
Mall of the Emirates- Famous for Ski Dubai, skiing in the desert.
Wafi Mall- Themed on Ancient Egypt.

There are others and new ones being built all the time.


LINKS
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubai Great information but not much mention of Pirates.
http://www.dubai.com/ Good range of links for things to do.
http://www.dubaitourism.ae/ A good site with lots of things to do and a great interactive map
http://www.dubaicityguide.com/ Complete information on Dubai City.
http://www.madinatjumeirah.com/ An excellent Friday Brunch at around AED 300 per person including all you can eat and as much as you drink. Also try the other names for Friday Brunch:
http://www.madinatjumeirah.com/ Al Qasr (MJ's)
http://www.fairmont.com/ Fairmont Hotel (Spectrum on One)
http://www.dusit.com/ Dusit Dubai
http://www.madinatjumeirah.com/ Madinat Jumeirah excellent for shopping, like a Souk but a outlet feel.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ras_al-Khaimah A nice place that I own an apartment (well a plan for one anyway) - I think I was press ganged!
http://www.raktourism.com Seems to be like Dubai but less expensive and more beach
http://www.wildwadi.com/ Superb water park.
http://www.dreamlanduae.com/ A lesser known water park, cheaper and servers drinks at a pool side bar at very good prices.
http://www.ibnbattutamall.com/ Ibn Battuta Mall
http://www.malloftheemirates.com/ Mall of the Emirates
http://www.waficity.com/ Wafi Mall at Wafi City
 
 



United Arab Emirates National Flag

Where I stayed, excellent Villa
with own pool

Dow on the Dubai Creek

Abra Taxi on Dubai Creek

Brunch at Mina Salam (I especially
liked the goose liver risotto). Free
drink, it can get messy!

One of my Pirate Friends (Mina A'
Salam Brunch)

Fun on the high seas (Mina A 'Salam
Brunch)

Me at Left Bank in the Madinat
Jumeirah, popular with the UK
footballers fraternity

Trinkets and Shisha for sale in the
Madinat Jumeirah

Abra Station at Madinat Jumeirah

Camels on the road (near Hatta)

The Old Souk (Dubai City)

Friday Brunch (Al Qasr)

Me again!

Aaargh, Pirates

Ibn Battuta Mall (Dubai City)

Spices at Geant Supermarket in
Ibn Battuta

Fish Stall in Geant Supermarket in
Ibn Battuta

Beach at Al Qasr (Dubai City)

Getting dark at Wild Wadi (Dubai
City)

Dreamland Aqua Park Pool Bar
Umm Al Quwaim

Dreamland Aqua Park Twisting
Dragons

Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence
(typical cost of a 1 bed apartment
with see view is AED 2.5M

Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates