Playing tourists in Dubai

creek boats

Back from the two day weekend and I am so tanned, exhausted but happy to have toured around Dubai and Abu Dhabi, proudly pointing the this and that that puts Dubai (and Abu Dhabi) in the map to our guest who came all the way from Japan. One of the best things about having guest come over to visit us in Dubai is being able to become tourists ourselves.

Reconnect with the city.

Stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

We were excited – the last we have done this was way in the year 2009 but days leading up to our guest’s arrival, we were asking ourselves, where will we take him? Where will we have our lunch? Fancy, local themed dinners? Is the beach good enough at this weather? Where are the places that would excite a tourist?

Expat or not, it’s very to get lost in the mundane of everyday life. We are on our 8th year in Dubai and suddenly, the city that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors just became “normal” for us. Biggest malls, tallest building this and that, they all became bleh.

Nothing shocks us anymore.

But we ultimately made up a plan, a simple itinerary. The weather is leaning towards hellish summer already and we do not want our guest to get too exhausted. After picking up our friend from his hotel, we drove to a part where he can see the lineup of buildings on Sheikh Zayed road. We drove up to Ras Al Khor, near the bird sanctuary. Yeah we got a good view of Dubai’s skyscrapers but there must be better places. Do you know which ones?

Next we drove to the beach. Nagano, Japan, where our friend lives is still cold. We were sure he would welcome this wholeheartedly.

burj al arab beach

I know I did. When I saw the water, I wish I could stay and swim. It was perfect. The water temperature was perfect (it was a bit cold when we went to the beach at Ras Al Khaimah a couple of weeks ago). It was lovely digging through the soft, velvety warm sand .


We drove out on an early Friday morning and what a joy. It’s like we owned the roads. Our friend was overwhelmed at the great weather – it was a bit hot last Friday but there was breeze and the cloudless blue sky! He says we’re lucky to enjoy a weather like this. And we thought, yes! See, sometimes someone has to point out the good things for us to re-realize the good things about living in Dubai

peaceful friday

Looking up at the sky, we also needed to explain what this gigantic golf ball is doing on top of this building! This is the Etisalat building, a telecommunications company owned by the government. All Etisalat buildings have this golf ball like thing at the top. My husband said it’s actually an antenna.

It was picturesque Madinat Jumeirah next. I never get tired of this view. It’s like our little Venice in Dubai, always picture perfect, all throughout the year.

Madinat Jumeirah

Souk Madinat Jumeirah was quiet and empty on an early Friday morning, probably the best time to be there so you can take a lot of photos without people getting in the way (if you prefer it that way, of course).

Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Souk Madinat Jumeirah

souk madinat jumeirah 2

Our guest has a desert safari booking with pick up at 3:30 pm so we really didn’t have time to explore everything. But we have to include a little tour of old Dubai. My husband dropped me and our guest at the Bur Dubai side of the creek, at the textile souk. The textile souk was bustling with shoppers even if it was Friday. I found it amusing when the sellers are blurting out their best Japanese language greetings towards us. They probably learned in the streets, dealing with tourists every single day for years on stretch. Or they could have Googled.  

textile souk

We didn’t buy anything at the textile souk but went on towards the abra station to cross the creek to the gold souk…but first, let me get my coconut water. Years of living in Dubai and I have not tried to buy my coconut water from these local shop vendors selling fresh coconuts (from India/Sri Lanka). Shame. 

coconut water

After drinking all the coconut water, I requested the man to cut open my coconut. Who would want to waste that coconut meat? I have to have it! It was nice and reminded me of my time in Thailand and in the Philippines.

It was time for our abra ride. (We wanted to go to Dubai Museum but it was closed on Friday morning too)


I took this video in 2010. Nothing has changed, it’s the same scene when crossing the creek. And the fare to cross the creek is still the same at 1 dirham. This is how it looks like.

Our guest was thrilled. I could tell from the expression of his face.


We safely crossed the creek to the gold souk, passing this green mosque.

green mosque

There were more shops closed than open at the gold souk. The place will only pick up by afternoon, around 4 pm on a Friday. 

And then it was lunch time, after looking at dining options, we decided to go to Gazebo Restaurant at Deira City Center. Gazebo is a popular Indian restaurant we really love and we’ve taken friends and guests here and all of them loved it. Our guest will have Arabic fare at the desert safari camp that night so we didn’t have Arabic themed lunch.

We took our friend to the desert safari pick up point and wish him good luck. I’ve been to desert safari three times and the last one was terrible. It involved involuntary projectile vomiting. Sorry, TMI.

Playing tourists in our own city was actually fun. It made us see the little things we otherwise ignored , it makes us see Dubai in new eyes, as others see it. Day 1 done, a longer day on Day 2 to Abu Dhabi!

Check out my old posts in 2009 about Wandering around Dubai like a tourist part 1: Dubai city tour and desert safari, part 2: Trip to the Springs community and part 3: The Souks.


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