We leave the Old Dubai area and drive across a floating bridge to the Deira district. Oh this is cool, it has more of an old school Arabian vibe here. We get to the pier where you can rent boats to cross the river. The boats are called Abra. We sit on the bench until they call us on to the next available boat. There’s a colorful merch stand right beside it
The abra arrives and the shaded side fills up first, of course. But then we get going and the abra spins us right into the sun. The driver stands up and just uses his foot to steer. The ride only takes about 5 minutes. Definitely worth it just for the views onto the city from the water and to pass by some unique boats
We get off on the dock across the Dubai Creek and come around the corner to a market alley.
(n.b. – Don’t wear light grey shirts to hot and humid places, especially if you have a blazing sternum)
It’s a long and wide, covered alleyway full of colorful vendor shops. Oh shit here we go, I hate getting harassed by vendors selling junk. Since it’s so damned hot there is absolutely no one in the alley and all of the vendors are sitting lethargically on their stoops chatting and passing the time. As soon as we come into their periphery, everyone stands up and hustles straight towards us in full barter mode.
They all have the same approach:
- Touch your shoulder to draw your attention away from the other guy touching your shoulder
- Look you intently in the eyes, positioning themselves like a bobble-head to keep it locked
- Offer some lame, out-dated pop culture compliment
- “Ahhh Jack Sparrow, look, spices for you!”
- Throw shit right on you, like a scarf, and describe how great it looks
- Physically position themselves in your exit path when the above moves fail the stress test
- Disregard that you hate any and all of the above efforts, but proceed to repeat all of them ad infinitum
Does this shit ever work? Do they even make sales, I never quite understood the super pushy tourist trap sales people. Peter gets a scarf thrown on him, “Brad Pitt, you liiiiiiike?! Ahhhhnnn?” Crowding us, so much touching. We get swarmed the whole way down the alley. It actually looks like there are some decent spice stores and fabrics but I’m in such a whirlwind of avoidance spins that I just bypass them all like a wide receiver focused on the end zone.
I get called Jack Sparrow by every. single. vendor. The hair, I get it but I literally get called Jack Sparrow over a dozen times. The vendors keep hitting Peter with Brad Pitt, Kelvin gets hakuna matata a couple of times, and Micaelea lands a smoking hot Shakira reference.
We escape Heckle Alley and do a loop in the area but there isn’t much around that’s open except the tourist trap off of the Abra drop off. It’s pretty though. Potted green plants stand out against the sand colored walls. There’s a fabrics store with a dazzling mosaic entrance and a mosque with a long tall spire. We give a quick jaunt around and then head back to the pier.
We take an Abra back across the creek and get a good view from this side of the water. I’m glad we came down here, it has much more of an authentic Arabian feel than the towering skyscrapers surrounding the Burj Khalifa downtown.
Mission Accomplished: Where Dubai came from
We get back to the dock, disembark and walk the other direction away from the river. This area is called Deira, the commercial district, and it’s all spices, saffron and gold. Crazy gold shops and fancy watch joints line the covered boardwalk. Vendors aren’t so pushy here and just let their extravagant window displays speak for themselves.
It’s an interesting area but we’re not really shopping for swanky gold-plated shizmo.
Michaela asks a spice shop owner where the best shawarma in town is and he tells us to go all the way to the end and on the left. Just 5 minutes.
We get to the end of the strip and there it is. A small outdoor seating area with rotating meat shanks. The spicy chicken sounds good. Oh yessssh! it’s excellent. Comes with a plate of spicy pickled nummies and the shawarma is deadly with fries and bombshell tzatziki sauce. Wash it down with a mango lassi, perfecto! Yep, that dude was right. It’s so good we all opt for another round even though it may be more than necessary. It’s about half a shawarma too much but we put it all back and it’s so soooooo good.
While we’re sitting there I catch a scent blast of incense. A few minutes later clanging starts over speakers throughout the city. And then chanting begins. Ten to four exactly, interesting.
We shawarma waddle back to the car down some side alleys, definitely not the tourist side. One closed up shop says it’s besheafting down the street to a new location. That word definitely isn’t getting used enough. Besheafting. Don’t think I’ll be besheafting to Dubai any time soon, it’s too bloody hot.
Back at the car I burn my hand on the door handle Gaazzaaaaaaah! We open the doors and let it vent for a few. It’s really quite insanely hot here. We hop in and pound the 5 million waters immediately. We make our way through rush hour traffic to the highway again and back to the apartment. Time to get ready for the evening shenanigans: Drinks at McGettigans and then on to a massive club to watch the World Cup semi-finals match between England and Croatia.
We pass by the Burj again on the way back. See you tomorrow big guy