Ruchira takes us on a tour of Dubai, in her weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
On a pleasant December afternoon, I saw Dubai for the first time. It was a nice end to an otherwise bad day. Well, first things first. On that chilly, winter morning, at Delhi airport we learned with dismay that the flight to Dubai had been inordinately delayed, owing to the thick blanket of fog that had enveloped Saddi Dilli. Hours later, when we finally took off, we found that the flight was dreadfully slow. So half of the day was gone by the time we finally landed. The visa formalities over, we drove towards the city. The first impression was that of a bustling cosmopolitan city exhibiting a fine blend of Western and Islamic culture as well.
There are plenty of things to do and see in and around Dubai, but for this, it is highly advisable to have loads of cash as well as plenty of time on your hands. While in Dubai one is bound to be impressed by the sprawling open space, spacious roads, innumerable hi-rise buildings, glossy shop windows, neat apartment buildings mosques, dozens of shopping malls and what have you! There are so many Indian expats to be seen everywhere. My daughter remarked, it looked like we had not left India at all!
Begin your city tour by paying a visit to the two famous landmarks of Dubai. One, the Burj Al Arab whose unique sail-like silhouette has made it an icon of Dubai metropolis. Built on a triangular man-made island, the billowing sail-like edifice towers 321 metres above sea level! Incidentally, the hotel’s atrium lobby is the tallest in the world. This hotel has carved a niche among the globe’s most luxurious hotels.
By the Seaside
Dubai boasts of a free public beach located bang next to Burj Al Arab. Its azure waters, long stretching coastline, and the white sands are a feast for the eyes. Ideal for water sports like swimming and snorkeling. Don’t miss out the new kid on the block the Burj Khalifa whose height of 829 metres makes it the tallest building anywhere in the world today. It houses hotels, residential towers, parking lots and lots more.
Visit the splendid Jumeirah Mosque, highly venerated by the devout locals. Its architecture is an eclectic mix of the modern and the traditional. For the women visitors a word of caution: please ensure that you are adequately draped from head to toe.
From the Past
Visit the imposing Fahidi Fort that stands tall amidst desert sands. An architectural marvel it houses the Dubai Museum. The place transports you back to a bygone era. On display are traditional weaponry, musical instruments, and other artifacts.
Pay a visit to Dubai Creek, called Khor Dubai by the locals. It is a water body that cuts through the heart of Dubai and traditional Arab dhows (country boats) are visible, crisscrossing the vast expanse of water. Avail yourself of numerous tourist packages for exclusive dining on board a dhow. Wine and dine comfortably in a charming ambiance; let the gently floating dhow offer a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline and tranquil waters of the creek.
Wine, Dine & Shop
Spending a few hours at the Souq Madinat is a must have on your itinerary. This is an authentic recreation of medieval Arab marketplace with stands, barrows, and stalls to boot. Wander through the narrow lanes and by-lanes, winding passages, cobblestone paths, with dim archaic lamps lighting your way, the air heavily laden with perfumes, frankincense, and other fragrances. However, the place provides high-class dining and shopping experience too! Major globally renowned brands and restaurants offering diverse cuisine – Italian, Asian, Persian, Arabic, French and American – jostle with one another to grab clientele. Whether you wish to grab a quick bite of fast food or sit down to enjoy a lavish, leisurely dinner, Souk Madinat is well equipped to cater to your whims and fancies. The upmarket restaurants and eateries afford charming glimpses the architecture and the waterways which are bound to enhance your dining experience. The Souq also has ample provisions for entertainment ranging from Karaoke, Lounge bar, to Salsa and Jive dances, and plenty more.
Talking about shopping, tourists must visit Souks or stores selling an immense variety of gold ornaments and artifacts. Your eyes are bound to get dazzled by flashes emanating from huge quantities of gold on display.
Sands of Dubai
You must take out time to experience Dubai’s famous Desert Safari, a major crowd-puller. Speeding by miles and miles of sand, vigorous dune bashing, (people with weak hearts please give it a miss) glimpse of Bedouin lifestyle – camel rides, tents, aromatic smoke, swirling from hubble bubbles, scintillating belly dancing, whirling dervishes , rounded off with a sumptuous lip-smacking dinner on the sands, under a starlit sky – make it an out-of-the-world experience.
The energetic people can try their hand at scuba diving, opt for a glass bottom boat ride, have a close brush with the sharks, meet the dolphins; discover other amazing varieties of fish, at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. It is a page from a biology textbook come alive – piranhas, penguins, otters, crocodiles, lionfish, and spider crabs are plentiful!
No trip to Dubai is complete without a visit to the Jumeirah Palm Islands the only one of its kind in the world at present. This is a fantastic, highly ambitious real-estate development project, an architectural marvel, which is being hailed as the 8th wonder of the modern world. Jumeirah Palm island features several themed hotels (the most popular being the Atlantis), luxury villas, apartment buildings, beaches, marinas, restaurants, retail outlets among others. The crowning glory of Jumeirah is the Atlantis. Its spectacular architecture makes it a unique edifice. Located at the tip of the Palm Jumeirah, it was the first ever resort to be built on an island. Its unique theme – the lost world of Atlantis – lends it an enigmatic aura.
©Ruchira Adhikari Ghosh
Photos by Dr. Prithvijeet Debnath
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Born in Guwahati Assam, Ruchira grew up in Delhi and Punjab. A product of Sacred Heart Convent, Ludhiana, she holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh. Armed with a P.G diploma in journalism in Journalism, she has been a pen-pusher for nearly 25 years. Her chequered career encompasses print, web, as well as television. She has metamorphosed as a feature writer, her forte being women’s issues, food, travel and literature.