theolynn

Touring Dubai: Graduate Student Adventures in the City of Merchants – Episode Three

In Arab World, Travel on June 10, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Our final day in Dubai began late. After sleeping in, we waited for a small bus to bring us to a Big Red Bus and we headed off to see the Atlantis Hotel on The Palm. While the Atlantis dominates the landscape, visiting The Palm is somewhat of a non-experience as really you need to be flying above it for effect. While genuinely fascinated by the concept, there seems to be a lot of building and few people on the beaches. The next hour of the tour really described architecture, malls and a series of car dealerships. Not ideal in over 40 degrees of heat.

The Atlantis Hotel on The Palm, Dubai, 5 June 2009

The Atlantis Hotel on The Palm, Dubai, 5 June 2009

The second half of the tour was more interesting and as we travelled around Dubai Creek, we could see that not everyone in Dubai lives in luxury and although the souks and environs add to the vibrancy, it felt more like India and the Far East than an Arabic country. 

Abra passing by on Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

Abra passing by on Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

 

We disembarked the bus at the Abra station and rather than take the scheduled Dhow cruise, we haggled with an Abra driver to take us down river to the Spice and Gold Souks. This  allowed a more unmoderated  experience of Dubai and was quite refreshing as the Students waved at workers travelling down the river in similar fashion.

Linda Kelly and Fiona Creedon travel by abra down Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

Linda Kelly and Fiona Creedon travel by abra down Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

The Spice and Gold Souks differed dramatically from the sanitised experience of the malls in Dubai and we were vastly outnumbered by Asian workers and buyers.

James Philbin and Eoin Healy stroll through the Gold Souk in Dubai Creek as watchers look on, Dubai, 5 June 2009

James Philbin and Eoin Healy stroll through the Gold Souk in Dubai Creek as watchers look on, Dubai, 5 June 2009

Hawkers walk buy quickly listing more than a dozen watch brands in seconds while at the same time looking for some connection with you, seemingly through the language of international football – “You Irish? Roy Keane, Robbie Keane, Mick McCarthy”…the watch brands and Irish footballers blurred after awhile.

Fiona Creedon concludes negotiation on some vanilla in the Spice Souk, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

Fiona Creedon concludes negotiation on some vanilla in the Spice Souk, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

Fiona successfully haggled our first purchase, vanilla, as we perused the spices and “natural herbal remedies” in the stores. I am not sure whether the FDA had jurisdiction here but it was an amusing experience – no need for cosmetic surgery, the Spice Souk merchants can cure everything with some powder! 

A merchant in the Spice Souk shows us his merchandise, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

A merchant in the Spice Souk shows us his merchandise, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

We continued our walk through the Gold Souk but didn’t buy any of the eponymous gold, it was nearly “over gold” – very yellow. Possibly a good investment but not really our “taste”. This is not to say that the group didn’t buy anything else. James did manage to get a 60% discount by haggling for a gutra but whether this was good value, we may never know. 

James Philbin looks interested but not that interested in buying a gutra from a merchant in the Spice Souk, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

James Philbin looks interested but not that interested in buying a gutra from a merchant in the Spice Souk, Dubai Creek, Dubai, 5 June 2009

 After lunch at yet another mall, we returned to relax at the hotel before our final dinner. It was Friday night, the International night for partying, and Dubai is no different. As we walked towards Dubai Marina, cruising is a sport there too…but only provided you have a sports car or SUV. No one was going anywhere fast and maybe that was the point. After some time, we settled on a mexican restaurant, celebrated Neil’s birthday and reflected on the trip.

Neil Bruton enjoys his birthday cake as the restaurant staff sing Happy Birthday in Mexican, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

Neil Bruton enjoys his birthday cake as the restaurant staff sing Happy Birthday in Mexican, Dubai, 5 June 2009.

Everyone agreed the trip was worthwhile. We all agreed the vision and ambition of policymakers in Dubai is to be admired but were unsure whether it was good just for doing business. While here, we all began to appreciate the breadth and depth of Dublin for tourists however also could see the limitations from a business and development perspective. And may be that’s a trade off Ireland can live with but maybe not.

Members of the DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class prepare to depart Abu Dhabi, 6 June 2009

Members of the DCU Business School MBS in Marketing class prepare to depart Abu Dhabi, 6 June 2009

 

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