Thursday, 27 April 2006

Old Dubai - by the Creek

So far I have shown pictures from the new Dubai. All the newest high rises are being built on strips extending westwards from the city centre along the beach. However, humans have lived in the area for millennia and there is an older side to Dubai - although nothing ancient by Indian or European Standards.

The oldest parts of Dubai are placed around the freshwater Dubai Creek. What you see here is the skyline of the very oldest part known today as Bur Dubai. After seeing all the modern skyscrapers and experiencing the liberal attitudes west of the city centre it is easy to forget, but the United Arab Emirates including Dubai are Islamic entities. Standing by the creek there are plenty of mosque minarets and onion domes to remind you of that.

A bit further down the creek the buildings get quite a bit more modern in their appearance. It is however still much more on the quiet and idyllic side, than the extreme architecture of the western strips.

Native Emiratis and visiting westerners are exceptionally wealthy, but obviously there has to be someone to do all the dirty work. This is where guest workers from India, Pakistan, Africa and other Arabic states come into the picture. These people often send most of their money home to support their families, so they don't drive around in Ferraris and Porsches. No, they (and yours truly) take the bus and cross the creek using these little motorised boats, called Abras. The creek is so filled with these, that riding them is very much like driving the bumper cars in amusement parks - with the added risk of falling in the water. Constantly do they sail into each other and the docks. Riding these things is not recommendable for pregnant ladies or people with bad hearts. But it is extremely cheap, AED 0.5 (DKK 0.3, USD 0.05).

Opposite from Bur Dubai, Deira (where I stayed) on the other side of the creek is a bit more dingy, but also the centre of the gold trade in Dubai. This is one store window in the Deira Gold Souq, the largest gold trading area in the world. Everything you see in the windows is made of pure gold, and there are probably hundreds of stores like this one.

I wrote that Bur Dubai is the oldest part of Dubai, but this does not make it all that old. Until about 100 years ago, Dubai was a tiny, sleepy fishing village. Not much remains from those days and this 200-year old fort is by far the city's oldest building. In the background you can see the minaret and a couple of domes form the city's impressive Grand Mosque.

On of the oldest and most intriguing architectural features of Dubai are these so called wind towers that you see many places in Old Dubai. These are ingenious air condition system that worked long before electricity made modern air cooling available. These things suck down cooling winds into the houses below and lower temperatures by several degrees celcius. And they are also very beautiful addition to Old Dubai's skyline.

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