Postcard from Dubai

24 Mar

Meet the abra. Riding one of these boats just might be the most fun thing you can do in Dubai–but take that with a grain of salt, as I haven’t spent more than 20 hours in a stretch in the city and am the farthest thing from an expert on the place. Still, for the short time I was there, this topped my list of things I did.

To be honest, Dubai wasn’t on my list of places to visit in 2017–or ever. I’d never really considered going to the Middle East, but when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t resist.

I was fortunate enough to be selected to teach at the WFTDA Officiating Clinics in Australia this year. With a non-profit, we need to be pretty conscious of the money we spend on travel. Usually, I’d be flying some form of American/Qantas, which is generally pretty reasonable, but then I saw what Emirates had to offer: A much cheaper flight with long layovers in Dubai on each end of the trip. How much cheaper? A good $500, and that’s with adding a one-way ticket for intra-Australia travel. And I had one fewer flight on each end. And I didn’t have to travel through LAX, one of my least favorite airports spawning one of my least favorite flight paths, the coast-to-coast trip.

On top of that, getting to and from Australia took only two legs each way–two very long legs, but if you’re traveling six hours, you might as well be traveling 12. Both are long, but at least with a 12-hour flight, you’re in a huge plane, you definitely get fed, and you have a really good entertainment system.

While I did have 12+ hour flights, they were broken up by getting a day on either end to explore Dubai. Win-win!

Granted, I just scratched the surface of what Dubai has to offer, but I was seriously enchanted with the place. It’s like a conservative Las Vegas–massive architecture, some of which is gaudy;  obviously a lot of money in some places, but the old section of the city was less-than-opulent; and conservative attire, but everyone thought to follow those guidelines (guidebooks advised women to cover their shoulders and knees. I saw one woman wearing a top with cut-out shoulders. Really?).

Anyway, one of the things I did do–and could’ve done for hours–was to take an abra across the creek. The creeks separates Deira and Bur Dubai, both of which are old parts of the city, with tiny roads and souks. The easiest way to get across the creek is to hop on an abra, a small boat that holds maybe 15-20 people. There’s no set schedule for when they go–once one is full (which generally takes a few minutes), the driver collects everyone’s 1 dirham (about US 30 cents) and hops into a small pit in the middle of the boat and takes off.

Chugging down the creek in a tiny boat that’s spewing diesel fumes and pretty much has no safety measures might not sound relaxing, but I loved it. I liked casually hopping on board, sliding down the bench to make room for as many people as possible, and then taking off randomly. No fixed boat schedule? No worries! You’ll get there! Need to feel free? We don’t need rails on this boat!

For a city that offers a lot of manufactured swank, riding an abra felt really authentic. What a way to connect with a culture I hadn’t really experienced before. It’s interesting how a short boat ride really gave Dubai a heart that I hope to continue to explore some day.

 

 

3 Responses to “Postcard from Dubai”

  1. David Payne March 24, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

    How has the spring weather in Dubai compared to the autumn weather in the parts of Australia you were recently?

    I expect both very different to Boston even when you get home!

    Almost 2 years ago Melbourne, (Australia)’s weather flipped from hot to cold in late April. Almost 1 yr ago in early April. Not very autumnal.
    This year the comparatively rare very hot days appear to be over until Decemberish. Maybe it will be cold from sometime in March.

    Like

  2. Jill March 25, 2017 at 7:29 pm #

    Both places were pretty hot, which is in stark contrast to the weather Massachusetts. It made for a shocking homecoming, that’s for sure.

    I think I was in Melbourne when it got kind of cold–I remember having packed too many hot weather clothes and being slightly disappointed.

    Like

    • David Payne March 25, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

      As you may realise, the rest of Australia loves to sneer at Melbourne weather but on an international scale it’s probably relatively good.

      Apart from in 2009, few people die from the heat and even less often due from cold. The temperature varies more than tropical areas but the winds rarely kill anyone either. Snow near sea level less than once per decade, and you have to rush to see it.

      If your’re rich enough, a winter palace and a summer palace still seems attractive.

      Like

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