01.03.2013 - 04.03.2013 33 °C
With the recession behind it, Dubai (within the United Arab Emirates) is back to building opulent hotels
and reigniting its reputation as a Las Vegas of the Middle East. But step away from its Guinness World
Record-winning skyscrapers, and you’ll find a multicultural emirate with a centuries-old maritime history.
Bridging Cultures: A short walk from the cruise terminal, Dubai’s dual Heritage and Diving Village
re-creates the traditional life of locals before the emirate’s emergence as a glitzy, pulsating hub. Explore
Bedouin huts made of mud and barasti, dried palm leaves; watch potters at their throwing wheels; and
view pearl diving boats that highlight a once prominent profession dating back some 7,000 years.
Next, hop in a taxi across town to the historic district of Al Bastakiya, a maze of narrow paths meandering
among flat, sand-colored structures made from coral stones. These former residences of Iranian pearl
and textile traders now house coffee shops and art galleries.
Bastakiya is home to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, where visitors can ask local
Muslims about their customs while seated on pillows around a meal that includes lugaimat — round, sweet
dough balls served with date syrup. The Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort, an 18th-century military relic on
Dubai Creek, is within easy walking distance. Along with viewing dioramas depicting desert life, travelers can
obtain passes to visit archaeological excavation sites in Dubai’s Al Qusais and Jumeirah communities.
With a View of the Sea: The high-rise beachfront community of Jumeirah Beach Residence boasts
the Walk, a mile-long stretch of restaurants, souvenir shops, and big-name retailers like Lagerfeld and
From October through May it’s also home to Covent Garden Market Dubai, an outdoor spread of 55 artisan
stalls selling hand-painted ceramic bowls and necklaces crafted from freshwater pearls. According to expat Lynn
Gervais, “In the evenings the area becomes bumper to bumper with car aficionados cruising in their Ferraris and
Sport and Spend: Start the morning with tour operator Arabian Adventures and a four-wheel-drive to
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, an hour’s drive inland from the emirate’s urban center. Half-day excursions
include sand-boarding (similar to snowboarding except done on steep orange dunes) and driving a dune buggy of
your own across the Arabian Desert.
Shopping’s a great way to switch gears following an adrenaline-filled morning: Dubai’s suqs, or Arab markets, are
the best places to haggle for everything from pashmina scarves to gold bracelets. Start at the Dubai Spice Suq,
easy to reach from Bastakiya via an abra — or water taxi — across Dubai Creek. Then swing by the Perfume Suq,
where you can create customized scents from essential oils like jasmine and sandalwood.
This piece, written by Bach Ly, appeared in the March 2013/April 2013