Dubai - A Trip to the Golden City of Dreams

We were planning a trip to Dubai for quite a long time. The plan did not realize for a while for one reason or another. Finally, we were able to visit the city of dreams last Christmas and spent a few memorable days there. Below is my Dubai Travelogue providing a detailed account of our trip. Hopefully, the details below can be of help in planning your own vacation.

Dubai is one of the most frequently visited overseas destinations by Indian tourists. The primary reason for the same is the glamour of Dubai, I guess. There are many man-made wonders that have made Dubai one of the sought after tourist destinations especially to Indians. The short travel time and availability of Indian Diaspora and food also act as catalysts.

But we were not only interested to see and experience the man-made marvels at Dubai. We were also keen to go beyond those glitzy sky-scrapers to get a feel of the old world, to get the smell of the desert and the barren land. So, in addition to spending time in modern Dubai, we spent considerable time on the streets of Bur Dubai and Deira. We strolled along Dubai creek and crossed it by Abra multiple times. We did day trips to Al Ain and Fujairah. We found it to be more rewarding (and less expensive) than aimlessly and endlessly walking and shopping in the gigantic malls in Dubai.
 
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We did the trip almost 4 months back. I did not make a detailed noting of the trip. Therefore, it is a bit difficult for me to construct day by day narratives. Further, there are many places which we had visited more than one time. So, a day by day narration would have some element of repetition.

Therefore, I would construct this narrative on the basis of the places visited by us. The broad classification is as follows:

  • Dubai
  • Bur Dubai
  • Deira
  • Al-Ain
  • Fujairah

In the subsequent posts, I will narrate various attractions of those places which were visited by us.
 

About Dubai


Whenever we hear Dubai, we instantaneously visualize an ultra-modern city backed up by superb infrastructure. It enjoys an impeccable reputation as a trade and financial nerve center of the entire globe. Dubai, as perceived by us, is out an out futuristic city.

But Dubai does have a history and that too is almost 5000 years old.

Dubai’s history can be dated back to 3000 BC. Archeological excavations at Hatta, Al Quasis, and Jumeirah reveal that there was a high degree of civilization in the Dubai area around 3000 BC as well as in the early and middle Islamic period. An Italian explorer in 1580 described Dubai as a prosperous community when the people of Dubai were engaged in pearl diving.

Occupation dating to the third millennium BC (Early Bronze Age) has been found not only in Dubai but also throughout the emirates, as evidenced by the settlement along the western coast of the Arabian Gulf and in the interior oasis and mountain wadis. In Dubai, Bronze Age settlements have been found at two sites – Matta and Al-Safoh. This civilization, contemporary with other major civilizations in Mesopotamia and the Indus valley, flourished in the Emirates. As per the archeologists, this civilization was known in Mesopotamian texts as Magan, one of Mesopotamia’s major copper supplier.
 
The geographical location of Hatta and Al-Safoh contributed to their playing an important role in the trade and transportation of copper from the mountains for export, consolidating their position and status with the other the then ancient civilizations. The populations of these areas were dependent upon agriculture, grazing, fishing, pearling, and manufacturing of bronze and ceramics for their livelihood. Hatta and Umm Suqeim are the oldest human settlements discovered in the Emirate of Dubai to date.

The settlement at Al-Safoh is dated 2500-2000 BC. Located close to the main settlement, is a circular stone-built communal grave, over six and a half meters in diameter, the largest tomb yet found in Dubai. The outer walls of the tomb are built of carefully cut and shaped blocks of beach stone up to 90 cm in length, 55 cm in height, and 10 cm in thickness, which fit together to create a smooth, convex exterior face.

Internally, the tomb is divided into two apparently unconnected halves which are approached by two opposite doorways of 50 cm in width. Further, internal walls divide each half of the tomb into three separate chambers, all accessible via a narrow passage next to the external wall.

Contained in these chambers were the skeletal remains of many men, women, and children, distributed with no apparent chamber specialization according to age and sex. Funerary gifts included ceramic vessels, bronze daggers, and rings as well as many beads, necklaces all dating to the second half of the third millennium (2500-2000 B.C.), an era locally knowns as Umm Annar period.

Many tombs of similar structure and content have been excavated throughout Emirates providing evidence of a widespread and flourishing culture that existed in the region at that time.
 
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With the rise of Islam, the Emirate became part of the Arab-Islamic civilization. Archeological evidence of the early Islamic era, the Umayyad and Abbasid era have been discovered at Al Jumeirah. This site, admeasuring approximately around 20 hectares, has the remains of many houses, large buildings, and commercial shops built of stone and covered with plaster.

The architecture of Al Jumeirah is characterized by the use of arches, columns, and towers, as well as ornamentation and engravings as facades, doors, and windows. Glass and Pottery similar to those found in Al Jumeirah, have also been found in Mesopotamia indicating the existence of a connection between Emirates and Mesopotamia and importance of Emirates as a commercial center and caravan station en route to Mesopotamia and perhaps other parts of Arabian Peninsula.
 
The relics of Islamic Jumeirah are located along Jumeirah beach. It includes the remains of big buildings, a mosque, a number of shops and separate houses. Those remains date back to the pre-Islamic era and the rise of Arabic-Islamic civilization. The archeological discovery shows that the city of Dubai reached its zenith during the Abbasid era (ninth century AD). The sophistication of this civilization is reflected in its architecture which included the use of arches, towers, and different stucco decorations. The ancient city flourished due to its location as a trade station between Oman, the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, and Mesopotamia. This made the population rich and allowed them to lead a developed and advanced lifestyle.

One excavated building in Jumeirah shows the development of architecture in the Emirates from the pre-Islamic eras up to the end of the second Abbasid era (5th-12th century A.D.)

The building is rectangular and was constructed in an area of approximately 347 square meters. It includes eighteen rooms of different sizes and shapes. It was built in two stages. The old part is made of eight rectangular rooms (5th-6th century A.D.). The other part is an addition that was made during the Umayyad and Abbasid eras and includes ten rooms built around an open courtyard. The entrance of the building is on the eastern side and has two quadrant towers. On the four corners of the building, there are circular towers, while semi-circular towers are present on the remaining walls of the buildings. Rooms, internal and external walls, and floors were plastered with pure gypsum.

Dubai first became an independent political entity in 1833, when 800 men of the Bu Falasah tribe, under the leadership of Maktoum Bin Butti, settled in the area. Most of the population settled in Bur Dubai, which was surrounded by a defensive wall. But Deira was not populated in large numbers until 1841, followed by Al Shindagha.

Dubai’s economy prospered after 1894 when Sheikh Makhtoum Bin Hasher Al Makhtoum gave tax exemption to foreign traders. At that time, the city’s exports were pearl and dried fish.
 
Ok, enough history has been discussed. So, I should get into the narration of the specific places visited by us in Dubai.

Whenever, we plan a trip, domestic as well as overseas, we prefer to plan and execute the same on our own. For that, we take inputs from various websites including BCMTouring. We strictly avoid conducted trips. We also do not avail of the guided tour arrangements available in those destinations.

This has positive as well as negative sides.

One of the negatives aspects of self-planned, self-arranged, and self-managed trips is that the trip always becomes sub-optimal. On our every trip, we end up missing a few places which should have been covered. Further, sometimes, our lack of knowledge about the background or context of the attractions restricts our ability to comprehend the significance of that attraction.

The positive side is that we do the trips at our own pace. We see what we want to see. We overstay at those places where we want to spend time. We feel the places in our own way. It allows us to interact with local people, use local transport, and get a feel of local culture. And last but not the least, it allows us to experience the joy of planning the trip from scratch which is as important as the trip itself.

In Dubai, we visited Burj Khalifa, Dubai Frame, Dubai Fountain, Miracle Garden, Global Village, and The Lost Chambers Aquarium housed in Atlantis the Palm hotel at Palm Jumeirah. We deliberately missed the Emirates Mall.

We were forced to give a glance to the Dubai mall because accesses to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain are through Dubai Mall. Similarly, we gave a cursory glance to Atlantis the Palm hotel and Palm Jumeirah while going to and returning from the Lost Chambers Aquarium.

We did not go to Dubai Marina because neither we had the time nor we were very inclined to see Dubai Marina. We also gave passes to Dubai Marina Cruise and Dhow Cruise on Dubai creek. However, we have crossed the Dubai creek multiple times by Abra. We also did a desert safari but did not click many photos.

Before details of the specific attraction of Dubai visited by us, let me post some random photos of Dubai taken during our stay there. Those photos were primarily taken from the moving cars, and therefore, the clarity of the photos may not be good.
 

The Lost Chambers Aquarium


This is UAE’s largest aquarium. The other notable aquarium is at Dubai Mall.

The Lost Chambers Aquarium is in Atlantis the Palm hotel at Palm Jumeirah. It has been created using the lost city of Atlantis as the background. It has 10 chambers and it houses around 65000 marine animals.

Its ticket costs 405 AED per person. It takes around 2 hours to see this aquarium thoroughly.

There are other attractions like Dolphin Bay, Sea Lion Point, Aqua venture Water Park, Diving in Atlantis but we skipped those. Mentioned below are some of the fishes found here.

Arapaima: It is a native fish to the freshwater system in South America. It is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. It can grow up to 3 meters in length and weigh up to 90 kg. It gulps air from the surface of the water which allows it to live in oxygen-depleted waters as well. Due to overfishing, the species is near extinction and has been listed as an endangered one.

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Gourami: This fish is native to South America, which can grow up to 1.8 meters and 80 kg in weight. This freshwater fish has been around 13 million years.

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Albino Pacu: Albino species is extremely rare and unusual. Albino Pacu does have all the characteristics of others of their species except they are all white in color. It lacs melanin or pigment in their skin creating a milky skin color and pink eyes. It has flat human-like teeth. Its molar-teeth are used to crush food like nuts.


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Jellyfish Sting: The stinging cells of the jellyfish are found on the tentacles. These are microscopic harpoons which in milliseconds are fired to stun its prey. The intensity of the sting will kill its prey instantly, or cause anywhere from an itch to a burning sensation.


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