Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Old Dubai; Open Minds, Open Doors and Old Charm

Feel Dubai´s cultural style and offer, start with a walk into Al Fahidi Historical district

DUBAI: It might sounds like a joke, but at the same time it´s spot-on; You´ll probably only meet one local when you are for holiday in Dubai. I mean, when you get your passport stamped at the airport. For the reason that Emiratis tend to keep to themselves and away from hordes of tourists and not on the beach. To meet real locals and to know cultures, customs and daily life, head on to the Sheikh Mohammed Museum of Cultural Understanding. Despite the stretched name, SMMCU is a brilliant place to start a local exploration. The Old Cultural Dubai is about Open doors and Open minds.

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A Guide and visitors at Sheikh Mohammed Museum of Cultural Understanding

Eat with your hands

To get a feel of Dubai´s cultural style and offer, start with a walk into Al Fahidi Historical neighbourhood to explore the city´s old world charm. Then join a guided tour through the narrow streets and wind tower along the Dubai Creek to learn about the history of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

“You may eat this food with hands, we even do so at home”, our engaging guide Ruqaya Al Hamiri described while we all were sitting on some colourful pillows on the floor inside the historical house having authentic Emirati meal. Raqaya in her twenties talking about old Dubai but also how it´s to grow up and having personal freedom in this city. Still locals can have up to four wives, but a husband has to treat all four equally and should be wealthy to keep up with all expenses.

Ruqaya Al Hamiri is a guide. She was very open about her life in Dubai

Welcome to leave

Ruqaya also told a story stated why Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai is known for following up his work and connection with it´s people. An ex-pat called a local radio station and live on radio complained over too many foreigners had entering this Emirate. “Suddenly we could hear the voice of Sheik Mohammed. His message to the ex-pat was clear; In Dubai, we have seven airports and if you don´t like to stay here you are welcome to leave”.

Shadow art on display at Alserkal Cultural Foundation

Art, Design and Creativity

This is a tour to discover traditional Emirati culture and art, to see the mud-brick towers and courtyards, visit art galleries and the beautiful Diwan Mosque, the only mosque in Dubai open for non-muslims. Make sure you have space of time to visit Alserkal Cultural Foundation, a cultural space for art, design and creativity. Here they put on show traditional and some cutting-age works. Most of the art is for sale. There is also a gift-shop, fashion boutique, workshop space and a cafè.

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The Spice Souq in all the colors and tast

All that glitters and aroma

A trip to Dubai isn´t complete without a visit to the Gold Souk and the aromatic Spice Souk on Deira side of the Creek. Just walk through the glittering  Gold Souk and watch people and the biggest selection of gold jewellery and gemstones in a variety of carats. The Spice Souk is all chefs favourite and a true  galaxy of flavours to spice up your life. Smell the armosphere and be introduced to herbs and spices spilling from large baskets at every turn. Plus a great selection of nuts, oils and saffron. Among an array of heady spices, I found giant cinnamon sticks, whole Sichuan peppercorns, cardamom, cumin and curry powders. If you’re buying in bulk quantities, vendors expect you to haggle.

The scent of Dubai

Say the world Oud – or oudh in Arabic – and both men and women tend to get potent stars in their eyes. The perfume produced by trees of Oud,  has a distinctive, appealing scent that visitors associate with Dubai. Oud is one of the most expensive natural resources in the world, raising 1.5 times the price of gold. Sounds as a great souvenir to take home from your visit.

Important for tourists

As culture is rooted in Islamic traditions, it is important to note that when tourists visit Dubai they must respect the culture and behave accordingly, as Emiratis are very protective of the culture and traditions.
The style of dressing in Dubai is also traditional. Older men prefer wearing the kandura, an ankle-length white shirt from wool or cotton. Local women wear an abaya and headscarf.
When in public places, always wear pants that reach to at least your knees and make sure shoulders are covered. These rules also apply in the many malls. Topless sunbathing is forbidden and highly disrespectful. The Metro also has a separate train carriage for women only.

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Visitors at the Sheikh Mohammed Museum of Cultural Understanding

Women in charge

It might come as a surprise that women own half of small- to medium-size businesses across the UAE. In fact, Dubai is liberalizing and women enjoy some of the best working conditions in the Middle East. And, with free education and more women with university degrees, many want to own their own business. In almost 50 years, Dubai has gone from a fishing village to a world metropole. At the same time, Emirati women have moved from few opportunities outside home and family to be an important workforce. Soon, women of Dubai will stamp your passport after arriving with Emirates or another airline at Dubai International Airport.

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Happy expats and tourists our for Friday Brunch at a five-star hotel

Important days

Tuesday is the Ladies Night. Every Tuesday. A day and night so important that it has an exclusive website. Ladies Night means sands between your toes, lots of free drinks and great offers from spa treatments to discounted meals and complimentary shisha.

Friday is the day off; banks and offices are closed but restaurants and the Malls are all open. Dubai`s Friday Brunch is the classic feast Dubai has taken to new heights. Lots of food and drinks included in a sizeable price tag. My advice: Join a Brunch and never leave Dubai on a Friday.

Meet Nasif Kayed in Dubai: The Arab Culturalist

Make it Happen!

Touch Down: Travel with Emirates (emirates.com), the Dubai based airline from London Heathrow to Dubai on a Boing 777 - and return by Airbus A380 on Economy Class I was served drinks and meals and choose over 1,500 movies and free Wi-Fi. Listen to a Podcast about events. Dubai’s airport can be reached on the city’s Metro (rta.ae) between 5.50am and midnight. Trains stop in the downtown area and along the coast near most hotels.

Stay: I stayed at two excellent 5-star hotels, both located near Metro stations. From my bed at the new Address Sky View I had view to the soaring spire and glossy glass façade at Burj Khalifa at 1 Emaar Boulevard. The building stands at 828m, the world´s tallest when it opened in 2010. My room had all what needed and there´s spa and rooftop pool at 50-something floor with views across the city. Doubles from USD 250. V Hotel Dubai, Curio Collection by Hilton, overlooks the canal and designed to reflect the spirit of the city. Home to restaurants, bars and the stage show La Perle. Doubles from USD 180.

Eat: Stuffed Camel. Stuffed Camel is one of the very amazing dishes of UAE. Al Harees. Al Harees is a famous dish of UAE with highly exotic taste. Shawarma. Shawarma is the most eaten food across this country. Al Machboos. It is also a very famous traditional dish of UAE. Hummus.

Play: From rooftop bars, trendy beach clubs to chic restaurants, the night life is ecstatic. Learn the code and unlock the door to local Happy hours and a night out.

Mini Guide: Morning: Watch the sun rise and run along the track at The Beach, Jumeirah Beach Road. Stop at outdoor gym stations and exercise machines. Several tourist information centres are dotted across the city including one at the airport and one on Baniyas Square; dubaitourism.ae. Beach clubs are big business in Dubai. Try White Beach & Restaurants at The Palm, Atlantis for relaxation with food and music. Spend afternoon at Dubai Creek, jump on a traditional wooden abra and visit the main souks. The boat ride is the cheapest sightseeing tour in Dubai. Budget stay: With a downtown location, Rove Downtown Dubai, sets a new standard for affordable hotels. It´s hip and it is homely and has outdoor pool, restaurant, fitness center and service. Double from USD 45. Address: 312 Al Saada Street. Male-Female: Of Dubai´s 3,5 million population, 2,5 million are male. Females account for just over 30 per cent. Lost and found: Some residents are rich, but forgetful. According to Police, two diamond rings worth 33,ooo pounds were found and a taxi driver handed in a gold ingot left in his cab. It was worth stunning 840,000 Euro. Less luxurious; Dubai Police has its own band of bagpipers who perform at state events. If you ask nicely, they might play you “Auld Lang Syne” Next big in Dubai: Expo 2020 opens in October.

Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya online travel magazine. Meeting people for engaging stories. I´m off to uncover the best strategies for long life living. This is part of my venture “Around the World in 80 Lanes” – about travel, run sprint, staying fit! I just want a tiny slice of adventures to feel alive, and then excited to return home.


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