Our fourth day in Dubai started on a wrong foot. I had booked taxi on that Monday to Abu Dhabi hoping to visit Ferrari park there. What I did not realize that Monday was a holiday for the Ferrari Park. So in the last minute had to switch my program and started to explore Dubai instead. My hotel tour operator helped me to sort out this mess easily. My plan was to use Big Bus tour for our exploration even though metro rail was another option. Metro can get you across Dubai for a cheaper cost (AED 14 per day for all day trip). If you are mall hopper this is the best mode to take, as almost all malls are connected to Metro station via a bridge. All you need to do is get down in those station and start walking towards the mall you want to visit. Once finished you can come back and re-board Metro to find another mall to explore. I was tired of glitzy malls and wanted to see tourist places which I had left out in my first 3 days of Dubai stay. So for me Big Bus was the best alternative.
Big Bus Tours offer both day tours and night tours in Dubai. The Day Tour has two routes, the City Tour and the Beach Tour. The City Tour (also called red route) takes you across Dubai Creek to see and experience the traditional side of Dubai, whilst explaining the city’s dramatic transformation from a small trading outpost to an international tourism destination and business center. The Beach Tour (also called blue route) takes you along Jumeirah Beach towards the iconic Burj Al Arab and then crosses the world famous Palm Island to the Atlantis Resort, stopping off at Jumeirah Mosque and Dubai’s best shopping malls en route. In the evening, the two-hour panoramic Night Tour – with live commentary from a fully qualified guide – will showcase the best of Dubai’s architecture, beautifully illuminated as night falls. As I had already visited the beach tour destinations I took the City Tour or the red route.
Big Bus Tours is a London-based open top double-decker bus sightseeing company, with burgundy and cream-coloured buses. It is a family-owned company, founded by Richard, Eleanor and Desmond Maybury. It started in central London in June 1991 with 4 buses and now it operates over 150 buses worldwide. It later expanded to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Philadelphia. Big Bus Tours Dubai was established in 2002 and takes place on a traditional open-top double-decker bus. The tour visits include Wafi Mall, Dubai Creek and Creekside Park, Dubai Fort and Museum, The Old Souk, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s House, Heritage & Diving Village, The Gold Souk, Deira City Centre Mall, The Jumeirah Mosque and Beach, Souq Madinat Jumeirah, Burj al Arab, The Palm Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa. Every 20 minutes there is a bus at these stations. Inside the bus you get a commentary of the interesting places as you move around in 10 languages using the headphones which are provided free of cost along with the tickets. This is a hop on and hop off service so you can get on to any of the big bus stops and spend any amount of time and hop on to another bus and go to next destination.
Their charge for 24 hour ticket Adult AED 220, Child AED 100, Family AED 540. Even though it looks expensive they also provide several free inclusions with your ticket: an Arabian Dhow Cruise on Dubai Creek; entry to Dubai Museum; entry to Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s House; a ticket for the RTA Water Bus; Walking Tour (October to April); Big Bus Rewards booklet offering substantial retail, leisure and dining discounts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. On an open-top tour you can get above the crowds and discover fantastic views of the city’s landmarks. The on-board commentary will give you the background to fully enjoy the sights. In addition to great photo opportunities, a tour on an open-top bus will also reveal the best places to experience the culture of the city, leaving you perfectly placed.
The Night Tour is a once round 2.45 hour tour of Dubai with a live commentary from a qualified guide who will point out the highlights of this sparkling city. The thrilling Wafi light and sound show is also included in the tour. The warm evening air provides perfect conditions in which to enjoy the illumination of Dubai’s finest buildings, and the live commentary delivers superb insight into the city’s fascinating history. The Night Tour’s ‘once round’ format is an excellent option when time is precious, enabling you to sit back, relax and take in the spectacular skyline as the sun sets and Dubai comes to life. The Night Tour operates every night of the week. You can start the Night Tour from either of the five locations: Deira City Centre at 7.15pm, Burjuman at 7.15pm, Dubai Mall at 7.30pm, Mall of the Emirates at 7.45pm or Souk Madinat at 8pm. Unfortunately that day we were so tired we did not go to this night tour.
Wafi City is a mixed-use development in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The complex includes a mall, hotel, restaurants, residences, and a nightclub. The “city” is styled after Ancient Egypt. This themed environment includes columns reminiscent of Karnak, small pyramids, and images of pharaohs. All the walls are the color of the light brown stone that can be found on all structures in Ancient Egypt. The main feature of Wafi City is the mall, called Wafi Mall. Opened in 2001, the mall includes over 200 stores, and has a small 80,000 square metre theme park called Encounter Zone. Raffles opened its first property in the Middle East. Raffles Dubai is a 5-star hotel in a pyramidal shape that contains 248 rooms on 18 floors. The standard room sizes, 70 square metres, are the largest in Dubai. The Pyramids is a complex that contains several restaurants, cafés, and spas, including Cleopatra’s Spa and Pharaoh’s Club.
Established in 2002 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Dubai healthcare city was created to meet the region’s demand for high-quality, patient-centered healthcare. Today Dubai healthcare city, the world’s first healthcare free-zone, is home to two hospitals and more than 100 outpatient medical centers and diagnostic laboratories, and offers services in 86+ specialties. DHCC is also planning the development of a 19-million-square-foot Wellness Community, which will serve as the regional center for preventive and integrative medicine.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an impressive building in Bur Dubai in the Bastakiya area, near the Omani and Jordanian consulates.
Along with our Big Bus Tour we get a free one hour ride on an Arabian Dhow Cruise on Dubai Creek. So when we reached the Dubai Creek we went to board one. There was considerable delay as they wanted to fill their Dhow before starting to sail around Dubai Creek.
I was able to take inbuilt panorama offered by Panasonic Lumix Fz-200. All it needs is to set to scene mode and choose panorama and keep shutter pressed and rotate in one axis slowly, camera takes burst of pictures stitches them and presents as a pano JPEG file. The panorama here is almost 180 degree view of the Deira side of the Dubai creek as seen from Bur Dubai side.
Dubai Creek or Khor Dubai is a saltwater creek located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). It ends at Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. Some sources say that the creek extended as far inland as Al Ain, and that the Ancient Greeks called it River Zara. The most remarkable buildings alongside the Deira side of the Creek are the Deira Twin Towers, Dubai Creek Tower, Sheraton Dubai Creek, National Bank, and Chamber of Commerce.
In the picture above you can see the old souk of Dubai along with Minaret of the Grand mosque. Just next to it is a Hindu temple complex consisting of Shiva, Krishna and several other Hindu gods in a small temple complex. The upper floor of the Shiva temple formerly also housed a gurudwara; the gurudwara has now moved to new premises near Jebel Ali. The Shiva and Krishna Mandir temple complex in Al Bastakiya was built back in 1958.
Historically, the creek divided the city into two main sections – Deira and Bur Dubai. It was along the Bur Dubai creek area that members of the Bani Yas tribe first settled in the 19th century, establishing the Al Maktoum dynasty in the city. In the early 20th century, the creek, though incapable then of supporting large scale transportation, served as a minor port for dhows coming as far away as India or time, was also based along the creek, whose warm and shallow waters supported a wide variety of marine life. Dhows used for purposes of fishing were also built on the foreshore of the creek.
The importance of the creek as a site of commercial activity was a justification to introduce improvements to allow larger vessels to transit, as well as to facilitate loading and unloading activities. This led, in 1955, to a plan to develop the creek, which involved dredging shallow areas, building of breakwaters, and developing its beach to become a quay suitable for loading and unloading of cargo. The creek was first dredged in 1961 to permit 2.1 m draft vessels to cross through the creek at all times. The creek was dredged again in the 1960s and 1970s so that it could offer anchorage for local and coastal shipping of up to about 500 tons
Al Maktoum Bridge, the first bridge connecting Bur Dubai and Deira was constructed in 1963. Although the importance of the creek as a port has diminished with the development of the Jebel Ali Port, smaller facilities, such as Port Saeed, continue to exist along the creek, providing porting to traders from the region and the subcontinent.
The modes of transport in Dubai Creek can vary. There are the Arabian Dhows whic are mainly used for fancy tourist cruise. Most popular mode of transport are the traditional Abra. An abra is a traditional boat made of wood; it is used to transport people in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, across the Dubai Creek. They travel between the water station at Shindagha/Al Ghubaiba on the Bur Dubai side, and the water station at Al Sabkha on the Deira side. The Abras depart every few minutes, and the fare of 1 Dirham and is paid to the ferry driver.
This wonder bus is a modified water bus which is amphibious, it can run on land as well as in water. This is another tour operator who innovated dual mode of transport using a enclosed air conditioned amphibious bus as their selling point.
You can take these air-conditioned Water Bus launched by Marine Agency at Roads & Transport Authority provides a smooth and safe transit service across Dubai Creek. These boats have luxurious seats with ample space and features that make passengers, including special needs persons, enjoy their traveling experience. It normally costs AED 4 per round trip, AED 2 per trip per person, but as Big bus passengers we get one trip free of cost.
Our next stop was Dubai Museum. Dubai Museum is the main museum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is located in the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai. The museum was opened by the ruler of Dubai in 1971, with the aim of presenting the traditional way of life in the Emirate of Dubai. It includes local antiquities as well as artifacts from African and Asian countries that traded with Dubai. It also includes several dioramas showing life in the emirate before the advent of oil. In addition to artifacts from recent discoveries as old as 3000 B.C. We saw plenty of Common Swifts (Apus apus) Flying around the Dubai Museum.
Al Fahidi Fort was built in several phases. The oldest tower was built around 1787 and believed to be the oldest building in Dubai that still exists today. The fort was used to guard the landward approaches to the town from the raids of neighbouring tribes. It has also served, at various times throughout history as the ruler’s palace, a garrison, and a prison. In 1969 Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum issued a letter to Sheikh Badr Mohammad Al Sabah, head of the office of state in Kuwait, asking for a museum expert to be sent to Dubai to help establish the museum. Work on renovating the fort commenced in 1970, and opened as the Dubai Museum on 12 May 1971 by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, then ruler of Dubai. Additional galleries were built and opened in 1995.
The Coral Stone structure was a great place for bird nesting, Swifts mainly Common and Pallid swifts along with house Sparrows were seen nesting in the cracks and crevices of the fort which has been converted now to museum. Al Fahidi Fort is square-shaped with towers occupying three of its corners. It was built of coral rock and mortar in several phases. Just off the southern wall lie the remains of the city walls. Next to them stands a tall dhow (traditional boat) in the middle of a large courtyard that covers the underground galleries. Two cannons guard the main gate to the fort on the eastern wall, adorned by flags of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Internal halls line three of the fort walls. One hall is at the main gate and houses the ticket office, while the others contain a collection of old weapons and arms from different historical periods along with a model of the city in 1820 AD. Traditional musical instruments are also displayed next to a video of folkloric music. The halls surround a central courtyard. Here you’ll find a bronze canon with canon balls, a well, and various types of boats. In the corner stands a traditional summer house called Arish. The Arish is made entirely from weaved palm fronds. It comprises seating and sleeping areas as well as a kitchen, filled with household furnishings and objects used by the locals in past times. The Arish features the distinct wind tower design, used for air conditioning in the pre-electricity days.
Entrance to the galleries is located at the tower on the south-western corner of the fort. After descending the spiral stairs visitors enter the first gallery, where old maps of Dubai are displayed. Next is the video room, showing a video, updated in 2007, that depicts Dubai from before the discovery of oil in the 1960s to the current day. Below it there is a map that shows the urban scape of the city growing in sync with the timeline of the video. Life-size dioramas of the pre-oil era await behind the next door. Once they enter, visitors will set foot on the deck of a dhow unloading at the model creek-side souk. Moving ahead they will see the shops filled with craftsmen, vendors and buyers. A tailor, a carpenter, an iron smith, a textile vendor and others line the street. Realistic sounds and life-size videos of craftsmen at work give the impression of a bustling souk.
The street leads to a model mosque, house and family, then turns to the right where it is surrounded by depictions of desert life. A date farm, a camel, wild animals, and a Bedouin tent filled with jewelry, trinkets and objects from the daily life of Bedouins. The walls tell about their knowledge of the stars and how they used it to guide their activities. Next is the largest diorama which is all about the sea, with a huge scene of the building of a dhow, scenes of marine life detailing local species, in addition to a collection of seafaring equipment. The last diorama features an archaeological site in Al Qusais area that goes back to 3000 BC. There are tombs, an excavated skeleton, and an archaeologist. All the way sounds, visual effects and electronic guides accompany the dioramas. Cabinets filled with archaeological finds from Al Qusais site line the walls next to the excavation scene. Finally, the winding track leads to a gallery displaying finds from other sites and historical eras, like the Umayyad site at Jumeirah. The gift shop is the last stop before a spiral ramp takes you up to the museum’s southern exit.
The Classical Architecture Museum is located in the historical district of Al Shindagha on the banks of Dubai Creek next to Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's House. It is open from Sunday to Thursday – 8:00 am to 2:00 pm Unfortunately we reached there little after 2PM, So we had to see the place without the help of the guide who was posted there.
Admission is free. This house was built in 1927 to be the residence of Sheikh Juma bin Maktoum, in Al Shindagha area at the banks of Dubai Creek, near the house of Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum. Due to its historic, social, creative and artistic characteristics in terms of distribution, design and other factors it was selected to become a museum for Classical Architecture to elucidate the story and history of the traditional Architecture.
The house is an educational, cultural and artistic museum as well as historical landmark that tell the story of a civilization and renewed history. It encompasses a number of main halls, among them one that demonstrates the classical architecture in Emirates in general, and Dubai in particular, and another hall for the classical architecture and the material and tools used in the traditional construction and traditional ornaments. Additionally, there is a hall that explains the customary and old construction styles.
The official residence ofSheikhs Saeed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai (1912-1958)and grandfather of the present Ruler, Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has been restored to stand proud again on the Shindagha end of Dubai Creek. The house, which dates from 1896, today houses a rare Collection of historic photographs, coins, stamps and documents that record Dubai’s history. Sheikh Saeed’s House overlooking the mouth of the Creek at Shindagha is a listed national monument that showcases the history of the development of Dubai. Dating back to 1896, this imposing building was once the seat of local government, the nucleus for political and social organizations of the day and the official residence of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, the father of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the architect of modern Dubai, and the grandfather of the present Ruler, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
One of the oldest residences in the city, Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum’s House dates back to the late 19th century. The home was constructed using traditional preparation techniques, coral from the Gulf was treated with lime and plaster and used to form the walls and a large windrower was constructed, which helped keep the home remarkably cool even on the hottest days. When the Al-Maktoum family first lived in the home, it boasted unparalleled panoramic views of the Persian Gulf, and the Dubai patriarch could monitor the day’s shipbuilding progress; however the significant development along the shoreline in recent years has diminished the views. Today, as visitors tour the home and see how the Sheikh and his family once lived, they can also find several historical photographs and exhibits that chronicle the history of the Emirate of Dubai.
The ambitious restoration project, begun in 1986 won a coveted award from the Arab Cities Organization for the conservation of heritage buildings. Today, fully restored to its former glory, the building houses an impressive exhibition of photographs, paintings, lithographs and art objects that vividly portray the early development of the emirate. For those with interests in Arabian history, culture, and architecture, Sheikh Saeed’s House is well worth a visit.
Typical of late nineteenth century Arabian architecture, Sheikh Saeed’s House is a fine example of Islamic art and building design. Vaulted, high beamed ceilings, arched doorways, sculpted windows overhangs and exquisite trellis screens, which were fashionable in the late 1800s, characterize this historic two storey building. On the ground floor, a large meeting room (majlis), spacious living rooms, storerooms and kitchen open onto a central courtyard that was shielded from the hot desert winds by high perimeter walls.
The upper floor, with its many bedrooms and balconies which overlook the Creek, provide a spectacular view of the city’s skyline. The facade of the house is dominated by what is, perhaps, the world’s earliest form of air conditioning – four elegant wind towers (Barjeel) that were the traditional means of cooling the interior during the sultry months of summer.
Dubai Gold Souk or Gold Souk, is a traditional market (or souk) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The souk is located in the heart of Dubai’s commercial business district in Deira, in the locality of Al Dhagaya. The souk consists of over 300 retailers that trade almost exclusively in jewellery. Retailers in the souk include both well established stores like Damas, ARY Jewellery, Shyam Jewellery and Joy Alukkas as well as smaller stores that operate mainly in the gold souk. By some estimates, approximately 10 tons of gold is present at any given time in the souk It is bordered to the north by the Dubai Fish and Vegetable Market and the Deira Corniche near Baniyas Square at Sikkat al-Khali Street which is walking distance from Deira Bus Stand. Dubai Gold Souk can also be reached by taking the Dubai Metro to Al Ghubaiba and a regular Abra (boat) from nearby Bur Dubai across the creek. The Dubai Gold Souk is 5 minutes walk from the Old Souk marine station.
Dubai Spice Souk or the Old Souk is a traditional market (or souk) in Dubai,The Spice Souk is located in eastern Dubai, in Deira and is adjacent to the Dubai Gold Souk. The Spice Souk, situated on Sikkat Al Khail Road, is in the locality of Al Ras. The souk comprises several narrow lanes which are lined with open and closed-roof stores. Stores in the Spice Souk sell a variety of fragrances and spices from frankincense and shisha to the many herbs used in Arabic and South Asian food. In addition, several textitles, incense, rugs and artefacts are also sold in the Spice Souk. A majority of the trading occurs through haggling. The quantity of trade as well as the number of stores trading spices in the Spice Souk have been significantly reduced in recent years due to the growth larger stores and supermarkets.
Wind towers are still prominent in pockets of the Middle East, and in Dubai a whole area of the structures stands in cool contrast to the city’s skyscraper-crazy skyline. Conceived in medieval Persia around five hundred years ago – but based on two thousand year-old wind scoops – these ingenious towers feature windows for capturing prevailing winds, with internal vanes used to funnel cooler air into the buildings below and suck warm air out. Wind towers worked as effective natural air-conditioning in desert climates where average summer temperatures exceed 45 degree C In some cases, water was added to the equation via pools of collected rainwater that further cooled the air flowing over them as they evaporated. Wealthy Persian merchants later built splendid wind towers across the Gulf – and credit where it’s due for aesthetic appeal plus zero environmental footprint.
After all these travel I was pretty tired, but the city scape was so interesting we just sat in the bus and went around all it’s destinations till late in the evening. Once we reached Burjuman Center we got down went to our hotel to freshen up and join the night tour on the Big Bus at 7:30PM. But our tired legs refused to wake us up and we thought skipping the night journey which would have taken us on the same route except that it was lit by the night lights. Daughter wanted to try out some continental dinner so we went to a nearby Burjuman Center and slept dreaming of our last day’s journey to Capital city Abu Dhabi on the next Day. To Catch this last part of the Dubai travelogue You have to wait for another week.
2 thoughts on “Dubai – Mirage on Desert – Part 4”
Once again krishi- i almost had a tour of Dubai city reading your such detailed blog. Very sad that you couldnt do your night tour. Will be waiting for your last part in the series. This blog particularly has motivated me to take my wife and children for a tour to Dubai.
Thanks Dr. Krishi for taking us on a virtual tour. We saw Dubai again … in detail. We had been to Dubai a few months ago, but never saw so many places nor did we know they existed.