Dubai is situated on a creek that feeds into the Persian Gulf. Historically the city’s lifeblood it is still a great way to experience Dubai, especially if you want to see something a bit less contrived. I went to an abra (water taxi) station in the Bastakiya Quarter (in the Bur Dubai area) for a ride across to the Deria side. For 0.50-1.50 Dihrams (US $0.15-0.50) you can take one of the hundreds of boats that criss-cross the river.
Dubai looks different (and feels cooler) from the water. I liked watching the colorful dhows make up the creek to the Arabian Gulf so much that I decided to go to the Dhow Wharfage to see more. I didn’t have to walk very far. Hundreds of superb old Arabian dhows were moored along the creek, sometime 2 or 3 deep.
Dhows are long, flat, wooden boats, the area’s traditional vessels. Used in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, they’ve been in Dubai since the 1830’s when they established a free-trade port.
They trade with Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Oman, India, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. With laundry drying on deck and loaded with merchandise, they were an incongruous but mesmerizing sight. Made from from wood (except for a few of the new ones), they precariously loaded with everything from air-conditioners to cars to car tires. While much of Dubai appears to be locked away in elevators above the city or behind walls, they are loaded with signs of everyday life, color character and personality. Perhaps they are so appealing because they stand in stark contrast to the sterilized cleanliness of Dubai’s hotels, malls and skyscrapers.
Their crew members work very hard for astoundingly little and deal with the intense heat, the waters and even pirates (did you notice that they were going to Somalia and Yemen). When I rode up the river during the mid-day, I spied them trying to rest and keep cool.