Fire in Deira!


A fire broke out at a building just opposite my work place a few hours ago. The fire started very small at 5:30 pm. My colleagues and I ran to the meeting room to see the flame starting to get bigger and bigger, right in front of our eyes!

Surprisingly, the people in the building were so chill about it at first. I didn’t see any movements with a hint of panic. We even saw some taking their laundry hanging to dry in the balcony and peeking at the small fire.

fire 1

Fire in Deira from Sandier Pastures on Vimeo.

The fire started in a space between two buildings. The location of the buildings is in Salahuddin road, between Crowne Plaza Deira and Movenpick Deira hotels, right along the Dubai Metro Green Line elevated platform.

fire 2

It was a little bit windier than usual early this evening so it made the fire situation worse. After taking the above picture from my office building, we were asked to evacuate because the smoke is coming in to our direction. I grabbed my belongings and ran out. Most of my colleagues (Muslims) were out for their prayers and I met them outside, they left everything in our building: car keys, wallets, mobile phone etc. Police has prevented anyone from entering our office building.

The flames quickly spread, first to the right building and then in a few minutes, both buildings were engulfed.

fire 3

A few minutes after the fire started, Dubai Metro Green Line operations (both directions) was stopped. People were asked to move away as far as possible, I took the above photo at the entrance gate of Muraqqabat Police station.

fire 4

More sirens and the number of fire trucks increased. What made this scarier is that there is a petrol station RIGHT NEXT to the burning building and the Emarat petrol station was rained on by burning objects. Police drove us further away.

fire 5

Movenpick Hotel Deira tweeted that they have evacuated all their guests as precaution.

fire 7

salahuddin road closed

fire 6

Police restricted access to Salahuddin road on both directions and drove people all the way across the street to Best Western Inn (formerly Traders Hotel Deira).

Since the train operations were halted, I could not go home and so were the rest of the people there. So many were taking photos and videos and since I was stranded, I got busy tweeting the whole situation. You can see my live tweets about the fire on Twitter at @sandierpastures.

The Metro operations still hadn’t resumed by 7:30 pm, two hours after the fire started. Everyone was driven out of Salahuddin road so it was time for me to go home.  There was traffic all over but thankfully, I was able to get on a bus going to the direction of my home. The bus was so crowded but nevertheless I was happy to finally get home.

I am still reeling from the shock of what I saw. My mind and prayers are with the people who lived in the building. Please keep them in your prayers, that everyone got out safely and that they may find shelter and comfort tonight.

UPDATE: 11pm, 23 November 2015

Dubai Police is reporting no casualties or injuries. I suppose because most of the residents in the building were out working when the fire broke out except for a few having day offs. Glad to hear no one got hurt but still all of them are left homeless.

Outside Ghubaiba station

Photo walk: Learning to use the lenses

Outside Ghubaiba station

I was out and about in Deira and Bur Dubai last weekend for my first photo walk with Helen Shippey, a Dubai based photographer whom I’ve ‘met’ and became friends with in social media. We bumped into each other on our visit to Al Tamimi stables. Lovely person online, lovelier person offline.

Each of the participants of the photo walk had their own goals in joining but mine was to familiarize myself with using the two lenses I have.

The photo walk started at the abra station at the Bur Dubai side and at around 3:30 pm when all the participants gathered, we took the abra (a small motorboat that crosses the creek) to the Deira side.

abras at the creek

This old side of Dubai is a treasure trove of photo opportunities, that’s why I joined this photo walk. I’ve been here so many times and had taken a lot of photos in the past but never when I was alone – just me and my camera. It’s always with family so all my photos are ‘chance’ photos, taken during child chasing breaks.

abra at the creek

I took the two lenses that I bought recently: my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens and Nikon 35mm prime lens. I was excited to take these babies out and looking forward to the outcome.

Crossing the creek presents a wonderful opportunity to take photos of these small moving motor boats. I attached the bigger wide angle lens and started to click away.

abra at Dubai creek

abra at Dubai creek


I think I have taken lots and lots of photos of abras so I wanted something different. Like, take close up shots of people, for example.There are so many interesting characters in Dubai – from that abra driver who manipulates his motor boat day in and day out, to that Pakistani guy peeking through an old wooden boat that carries cargo between UAE and Iran, to that local girl sitting all by herself, nothing but her eyes seen under that burqa at the courtyard of the old spice market to the very aggressive (and at times annoying) spice and what nots vendors in Deira souk.

However, many do not like their photos taken, so we’re restricted to take photos of scenes and things (but one must be careful not to take photos of locals in the background, especially ladies, without their permissison!).

spice souq

I learned a lot during the two hour photo walk session. One is that I need more practice, especially with using the new lenses. Which appropriate lens to use, under which available (light) circumstances, etc.

And I learned that there are things which shouldn’t be taken with a 10-20mm wide angle lens: buildings up close. The image distortion is dizzying. I know this lens is great for wide landscape to “get the bigger picture” so it’s certainly not for buildings and cramped spaces.

It would work for these.

abras at the creek

abras at the creek

But not for these!

wide lens distortion

Oh God, no.

wide lens distortion

Vertigo, anyone?

wide angle distortion

I am still playing around with the depth of field of the 35mm prime lens and happy with the result but could be wonderful to take a face of a person against a nice backdrop!

depth of field

I also learned that it’s not easy to keep on changing lenses…moments could escape you easily. But I would still insist you get a prime lens.

A big bonus of using prime lenses is that they’re usually ‘faster’. This means they have a larger maximum aperture, which enables quicker shutter speeds. ‘Faster’ lenses aren’t just good for avoiding camera-shake and freezing the action in dull lighting conditions, another big advantage is that you can get a much tighter depth of field, enabling you to isolate the main point of interest in a shot by blurring the background.

Additional read: What is a prime lens and why use one?

I didn’t take too many pictures during the photo walk as much as I expected I would. I am not sure why, maybe because I am too familiar with the place that I got used to it and suddenly, they weren’t that “picture-worthy” enough for me or I was just discouraged with some of the photos taken with my wide angle lens – it’s not a bad lens, it was just not apt for crowded places like the Deira souk, I suppose. I also felt I can’t capture some scenes perfectly using the more restrictive 35mm prime…which brings me to realize I might need a more flexible lens like the Nikon 24-70mm  (someone stop me from this lens obsession!! This is an expensive hobby!!).

The 24-70mm is a versatile lens can be used for many different kinds of photography needs – from wide-angle landscapes and panoramas, to portraits and events. Why didn’t I buy it? IT IS EXPENSIVE!!

Back to the photo walk…

rule of thirds

Helen also talked about composition. Composition is the pleasant arrangement of elements within a frame which give the most powerful ability to attract the eye, and to keep it exploring within the frame for as long as possible. That’s why I didn’t take too many photos because I felt, simply feeling that there is a picture to be made, and just snapping away from wherever I’m standing, is the best way to take bad pictures. I didn’t want to ask myself later “What was I thinking?”

Again, maybe too much familiarity of the place might have put me off into going into a clicking frenzy.  Maybe when I choose to join another photo walk, it would be a place new to me so I can see it with fresh eyes and hopefully find more interesting things to shoot.

I walked with Helen towards the Metro station when the session ended and we stopped to see the sun just setting in the horizon. I was too lazy to take out my SLR and used my iPhone and put “composition” into action. I like how this turned out and glad we stopped by to take this shot. And this is one of the important things she pointed out during the photo walk: to stop and look for beauty wherever you are and then capture it.


*photo taken with an iPhone 5, filter added via Instagram app*

It was quite a tiring day, but fun nevertheless. Helen is very warm and welcoming and open to all questions about photography. You can connect with her through Twitter and Instagram or follow the Shippey Photography Facebook page for updates about future photo walks.

All photos taken using Nikon D5300 unless otherwise stated.

Revisiting old Dubai

It’s been a while since I featured the old part of Dubai – the part stripped off the famous Dubai glitz and glamor but is glorious in its own way. I love this part of the city, maybe more than I love the other side but alas after six years, I found myself rather staying put instead of going with friends or family wanting to visit old Dubai.

I kind of missed it.

I miss the smell of salt water of the creek, the ramblings of the vendors in the souks, the tourists clutching maps and taking photos. The general atmosphere of old Dubai is charming.

It’s interesting what you can find in the markets at Deira. I wonder if anyone still wears these kind of shoes or they are just for souvenirs/decors?

Colorful plates abound!

Look at these lamps and tell me they’re not beautiful. They exude mystery, uniqueness they’re almost magical to look at.

Oh and these, I don’t know what these are and the vendor was busy selling something to a haggling (really persistent) customer so I did not have the chance to ask. What do you think?

These photos were taken by a friend wandering around the old markets. I really need to pick up my dusty old camera, go out more and take photos. It’s really been a while and looking at these treasures, I think I have missed a lot of things!

I want to wander around and see Dubai in tourist’s eyes again.

Wandering around Dubai like a real tourist: Day 3, The Souks


Today, I am to accompany my friend at the Riviera Hotel. I chose this hotel for her because of its proximity to the Gold, Textile and Spice Souks (Souk is an arabic term for market) and of course because of the superb breakfast. The hotel rate isn’t bad either.


We left home at 11 am and got on a taxi to take us to the hotel. Our room is not ready yet so we left our things and walked to the Gold Souk. We took the back street where the alleys were a little bit dirty – with small stores and saleman calling out “Pashiminas, madam” or “Pure silk, from Kashmir!”

My friend grabbed my elbow and said,

“This is not the Dubai that is in the guide books!”

Well, that’s point of this tour! I love to take my guests to the less hyped parts of Dubai. The less opulent, more of the old Dubai part of Dubai, to the streets that represents the rest of the population other than the rich, luxurious expats in Jumeirah.

The original gold market still glitters.



Yellow gold is not all the color that you can see in Gold Souk. I find this green mosque fascinating.


I took a bigger photo of it sometime in 2007:


Spice souk:


After almost going blind looking at all the gold at the gold souk and getting dizzy with the spice scents, we took an Abra ride to cross the Dubai creek to reach the Textile Souk.


Abras are traditional small, wooden boats used to cross Dubai creek. It costs 1 dirham (USD27 cents) each person, one way. I say it’s not only a very cheap means of transportation, it is a very cheap way to learn a lot about the culture and way of life in Dubai. But of course you wouldn’t find the rich Western expats and their families getting on Abras everyday – just lots and lots of Indian/Pakistani men!

To get on an Abra, you need to go to the Abra Station. In Deira area, there are two stations, one near the Spice/Gold Souk and the other one near Riviera Hotel/ Deira Twin Towers. On the opposite side, there are two stations as well: one near the textile souk and the other one near Bur Dubai bus station.

The Abra station is bustling with activity from early in the morning until late at night. One suggestion: you might need to bring a handkerchief to cover your nose as the fumes from the motors are quite strong (and irritating to some allergy prone people, I suppose).


We made it to the textile souk after the abra ride. You can find everything in the textile souk, not just textiles. There are shawls, shoes, carpets, belly dancing costumes, undies, souvenirs and shirts going at $1.

My female companion couldn’t resist but she insisted that it was the shoes calling out to her and she was helpless!




These shoes are beautiful, all right, but I don’t really know how, when and where she can wear the 5 pairs she bought (when she goes back to Japan)!


I have to cut Day 3 short and put part two in the next post. Next up, is a tour of Dubai Museum, our Dhow Dinner Cruise, a separation anxiety and the headache of the year!

You can read about Day 1 & Day 2 if you are in the mood for armchair travelling.

Along the bank of Dubai Creek

My husband had an appointment at an office near Dubai Creek and asked me, out of the blue if I want to come out and see some sun. I quickly jumped out of my seat and out of the steel-cold office and joined him for a free ride around Deira. Don’t tell my boss.

Dubai creek is a large shallow lagoon (sea water) that divides Dubai into two, namely, Deira and Bur Dubai. The creek is a historic focal point of life in Dubai. The side where we stopped for a walk is a paved promenade and along it, dhows for tourism purposes. We were asked if we would like a ride all the way to the other side but as much as we would love to, we have to go back to work! 

The creek was surprisingly clean despite the number of dhows docked. I can even see the submerged part of the ship!

Here are some pictures taken during that random mid-day walk. The air was refreshing. As usual the sky is blue and cloudless and the most important part of it all, it is no longer hot! Not hot nor cold, just right. It was a great day to spend outside.

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