Visiting Dubai’s past – Bastakiya District

bastakiya-wind-towers

If you had the impression that in Dubai, there’s nothing older than cheese, well you’re about to be educated. Not all of Dubai is new although during the last 5 years or so, Dubai has experienced an upsurge in infrastructure development, demolishing old buildings and communities and replacing them with posh, giant structures with blinding neon bright lights.

In the Bur Dubai side of the creek, you can experience a tour of Dubai’s past. The Bastakiya District gives visitors a tantalising change of scenery with its narrow lanes and tall wind towers. It is home to the largest concentration of traditional courtyard houses with wind towers.

bastakiya-district

bastakiya-huts
I won’t get tired of visiting Bastakiya District and sit on these hidden corners, doing nothing but staring at the blue skies pondering about my life. Be prepared to ponder on yours when you visit. ūüôā

bastakiya-corner

Contrary to the raucous rush in the streets outside the Bastakiya District, you can find peace and quiet and an unDubai-like laid back atmosphere.

bastakiya-corner-2

Famous for its wind towers that lined the Creek, the district is a popular historical attraction for tourists. These wind towers were not purely decorative. They were the only means of cooling the citizens of the desert town in the past.

On Saturdays every week, there’s a Saturday Market at Bastakiya District that features the works of local artists.

bastakiya-saturday-market

There were lots of handmade jewelry, pillows, furniture but this fancy heart art caught my attention:

bastakiya-heart-art

During the Saturday Market event, camels are available for your riding pleasure.

bastakiya-camel-waiting

Some children were there. It was their first time seeing and riding a camel so the wide smiles on their faces!

bastakiya-camel-ride

The Dubai government is planning to renovate all the historic buildings of the Bastakiya area to open more museums, galleries, restaurants and traditional markets. Bastakiya is a district you will not want to miss, especially if you are interested in learning what Dubai is all about.

Day 3, Part 2: Dubai creek at night and a migraine that won’t go away

After going through every shop in the textile souk (in Day 3 Part 1), checking the colorful shawls, textiles and shoes, we took an Abra back to the hotel. By the time we reached the other side of the creek, I had terrible headache. It’s pretty warm (hot!) today at temperatures nearing 30C. It’s supposed to be winter!

I had to go home to get my meds and spent an adequate time at the toilet throwing up. The headache was that bad. I have noticed lately that when I go out for more than two hours, my migraine attempts to kill me. Tonight, we have a scheduled Dhow Cruise that I couldn’t miss (for my friend) so my mom, my lifesaver, massaged my neck, shoulders and head and gave me meds and a hot tea. In less than an hour, I was half ok.

A Dhow Dinner Cruise is a two-hour cruise of Dubai creek with buffet dinner (a mixture of Arabic, Indian, English and American cuisine) and live entertainment. It is also a great way to see the vibrant city at night.

A view of the dhows at night:

Dhows on parade

The dhow cruise includes live music and singing and Pristine really, really like these kind of things. I made an additional reservation for one child earlier that day because I thought she will really like my surprise. We had been in a dhow cruise before and she loved the singer, even requested her to sing “Dancing queen”. You could just imagine how happy she was when she heard that song being sung to her, live.

Pristine and I got on a taxi and I asked her if I could close my eyes until we get to the hotel because I am sick. She told me, “just close your eyes mom, I’ll tell you when the taxi stops.” I really love my travel partner.

The driver seemed to not know the way (not a big surprise here in Dubai, really) so I whispered to Pristine to tell the driver to take us to Baniyas Road, Riviera Hotel, Dubai creek in Deira. She repeated that same sentence to the driver but in a bigger, affirmative voice. We arrived safe and sound.

The driver picked the three of us (me, Pristine and my friend) up (pickup and dropoff is included in the cost) and took us to the harbor. When the boat departed at 8:30 pm, Pristine started looking for the singer. My friend was also excited with the whole thing but there was no singer, only music was played in the background. What happened? I asked the owner/operator of the tour and she said, it’s the Islamic Holiday (Dec. 28, for year 2008 – the date moves 10 days earlier every year) so, live music is prohibited.

WHAT!!?? I felt a headache coming back.

From the look of my daughter’s clearly disappointed face, I could’ve taken the microphone and sang for her but I had to spare the other tourists from bringing back home bad memories so I didn’t. She was really sad there’s no singing tonight and what a bad timing for my friend and for the tourists!

So after having dinner, we went to the upper open deck and watched the lights of Dubai at night instead. The air was cold but the sights were worth it.

This is the Bur Dubai side of the creek with enchanting lights. These building are part of what remains of the old Dubai, before the skyscrapers came into picture.

Bur Dubai at night

Another dhow carrying tourists and diners.

Dhow

A mosque along the creek at night:

After a while, Pristine’s mood lightened up. She was amazed to see the lights and even posed for me.

dhow

We were back to the hotel at 10 pm. My mother was expecting me to return Pristine home but I wasn’t able to do so. I can’t sleep without my daughter. Talk about adult separation anxiety and the wonders of being a mom – when I looked forward to the day I’ll be able to have the freedom to sleep as long as I can, to have a nice bed all to myself, here I am bringing my daughter to the hotel room. This was the night I found out how sleeping is almost impossible if you’re sharing a single bed with a five year old. I must have had kick marks all over my body the morning after.

Day 4 takes us to the newly opened Dubai Mall and my friend’s neck hurt when looking up the now 780 meters tall Burj Dubai.

World’s longest arch bridge in Dubai (soon)

I heard it in the radio news a few days ago, Dubai plans to build the world’s longest arch bridge at a cost of a stunning 3 billion dirhams ($816 million).

sixth crossing bridge.jpg

The mega bridge will measure 1,600 meters with an arch 205 meters high and 667 meters long. At 64 meters wide, the bridge will accommodate 12 lanes of traffic and a metro line running down its center. Sounds really promising to ease the present traffic gridlock in the present bridges over the Dubai Creek at the moment.

The bridge is modelled in the shape of an arch and it could be viewed like an acoustic wave forming a tone or like a dune or new moon in Dubai night.

 sixth-crossing-bridge.jpg

Beautiful, isn’t it? But don’t get too excited now, the bridge is said to be completed in four years – and we all know that everything comes to slow motion (including construction)¬†during the peak of summer here.

more on Dubai Creek

There are lots of things to see along Dubai creek. By the creek is where you can catch a glimpse of old Dubai. We got on an abra with everyone else and headed over to the spice souq and gold souq.

This is what an abra looks like:

abra passengers

~for 1 dirham (less than US$1), you can get on an abra and cross the creek~

Bur Dubai side of the creek

Most of the passengers in an abra are men so females might feel a little bit uneasy but I can guarantee, they never bite! Crossing the creek in the primitive way unless of course you want to swin across was a great experience for us – –¬† least there were no traffic compared to when crossing Maktoum Bridge! (We were in another abra when taking the above photo)

Another charmer along Dubai creek: 

The National Bank of Dubai building, situated near the creek is a unique structure. Its wall finishing reflects the water, making it look like a large LCD television.

National Bank of Dubai

~afternoon in the creek~

I’ll be posting more about the creek while we discover bits and bits of it in the coming weekends. Don’t get bored of the creek photos!

You can find other Dubai creek posts I wrote here and here.

Dubai Creek from a higher ground

M had been asked to evaluate a hotel near Dubai creek for his work and we were invited to see the rooms overlooking the lagoon. It was such a great experience to see this body of water that is so much part of Dubai’s history. We have strolled along its banks but this was my first time seeing it from above:

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~north of the creek~

Some have noted that this body of water was too big to be called a creek. I don’t know why they call it that way too, it¬†sounds strange to me too as I have been used to seeing creeks that are dirty. Dubai Creek, however, is so clean¬†the water is so clear. The government is taking action towards making it presentable for tourists.

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~Traditional dhows for commercial and tourism use line up at the creekside~

The first settlement was built¬†along the creek. On the Deira side, traditional wooden dhows still trade with the sub-continent, Iran, East Africa. You’ll see all kinds of goods being loaded from¬†sacks of clothes¬†to spices to trucks!

three months

Three months down. How many to go? Can’t really tell!!

I like the lifestyle — no overtime at work and trips to the beach,¬† I like the sunshine — 360++ days of the year¬†and the mostly tax-free living — the joy of getting 100% of your monthly salary. Yeah, yea, ya, I have occassional bad hair days and episodes on the road to whine about but once I get home, everything is forgotten in the quiet little corner of our bedroom, reading stories to the little girl, listening to her non-stop¬†talk about school and her friend¬†and finally kissing her goodnight.

Three months has passed, the Thursday and Friday day-off still do not make sense to me. Working on Saturdays and Sundays will never rub in. But as I made the choice to be here, on my free will, I will shut up.

Leaving you with a picture of Dubai 50 or so years ago:

before.jpg

… and the Dubai now:

after.jpg

I wonder how will it look like when my little daughter graduates from primary school?