The Dubai Creek crossing were bustling and feeling a bit intimidated by it all, we approached a local (sitting on a bench with his son) for some advice. He told us that that the ferries operate 24/7 and we should pay no more that 50 fil each. A fil is the sub-division of 1 Dirham (the UAE currency) by 100. By the way, the exchange rate we got was approx. 3.6 Dirham to the Dollar at the time of writing. (It’s about 0,54 Dirham per Rand). For simplicity we averaged it to 1:2.
On to the “Abras” (crossing stations) - where we were promptly charged 10 Dirham each to cross. This seems like the standard “rip-off” charge to tourists for all things of very low value. (Not only for the ferries, but also for all other small object for sale. Even foodstuffs.)
In this case we offered the gut 1 Dirham which he accepted with a chuckle. (The exact same thing happened on the way back.)
On the Deira side of the Dubai Creek we ventured down some streets and by pure luck stumbled across the Spice Souk and found it almost impossible to walk through. Virtually all the shops have one or two “salesmen” who tries their hardest to convince you why exactly you need a green coloured piece of wood to wash between your toes with.
By the way, I’ve never been offered so many “good prices” from random guys approaching you on every street corner. Apparently they all stock up at the same spot, because they all offer the same stuff.
It normally goes something like this:
No thanks bro.
“Good prices on watches!”
No thanks, I'm good.
“Rolex, Seiko, Tag Hauer!”
Maybe next time.
“How about a nice handbag?”
No thanks, I'm good.
“Gucci, Armani, Dior!”
No thank you my man.
Another thing about Dubai is that even the people that live there don’t really seem to know where places are. To top it all, we popped in at the Deira-side Dubai Tourist Information Centre. We were desperately looking for a more detailed street map of Dubai. The maps we had were totally inadequate. It only shows every other street and most of the names were missing. The guy there was extremely friendly but he couldn’t speak English to save his life - but he was very friendly! No maps in sight.
Then it hit us. The GOLD SOUK!! Oh my.. Shiny stuff everywhere. It’s just impossible to “just look”. We left the 4th shop with a good idea of what we’re wanted. Two or three shops later we found a good selection and bargained like maniacs. A Nice guy called Hozni finally made a sale and I'm sure he was as relieved as I was! Still don’t know what exactly their profit margins are but in my mind we did very well at the gold markets.
You never know in Dubai. I recall one of our first run-ins with a street vendor. Asking 10 dirham for a power adapter. Very chuffed with ourselves we walked away 3 min later after parting with only 5 dirham. That evening we saw the same item for 2.50 in a shop! Nevertheless, one should keep in mind that even what we paid was still cheap.
The other odd thing about Dubai is that most street-side shops close around 13:30 and reopens again 16:30. So if you don’t watch yourself you could literally find yourself stranded with nothing to do. (Not so if you’re in a big mall though).
Leaving the gold markets we attempted to find the elusive Al-Manal Centre for a bite to eat. No luck. An absolute maze of alleys leading everywhere.
Dying of hunger we spotted a Dubai version of a sidewalk café and decided to have a break. A lot of locals were also sitting around having lunch. We each ordered a chicken shawarma. I had a Pepsi and Lisa decided on a mango juice. Now see if you can spot the imbalance here: After the meal we weren’t given a bill like at a restaurant; the guy just tells you what you owe. The shawarma were 3 dirham each, the Pepsi 1 dirham and the mango juice 10 dirham. I leave you with that one..
Afterwards we did manage to determine that 10 dirham is generally what is charged for a large, fresh fruit smoothie. In fact, it can easily go up to 18 dirham depending on where you are.
As it happened we were right across the street from Al-Manal Centre and also discovered a tightly packed clothing market called Naif Souk.
Almost getting lost in the labyrinth that is Deira, we made our way towards the Creek – waiting for sunset. Discovering that we ran out of drinking water (without any coins to feed the dozens of vending machines), we tried to get coins from a guy tending one of the boats. In broken English told us to wait and swiftly disappeared. We spotted him again 10 minutes later running back towards us along the Creek clutching a handful of coins. Amazingly he declined a tip showing our gratitude. Just another small example of the amazing friendliness of the people.
Sunset over the Dubai Creek was absolutely amazing.
An old guy walked up to us gesturing towards the camera. Assuming he’s offering to take a picture of the two of us we prepared a pose. Wanting nothing of it, he moves into a pose with Lisa, gesturing me to take a photograph!
The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful. We strolled down towards one of the bigger malls on the Deira side – City Centre. Really just looks like any mall we have at home. Clothing is expensive but food and electronics quite affordable. (Nothing like the prices on the streets thought.)
We hailed a taxi back to the Abras and crossed back to Bur Dubai side for a final stroll through Carrefour. It sort of became a ritual to grab an ice-cream there and enjoy it on the way back to our hotel. (And that’s at about 11:30pm in case you’re wondering!) Any excuse for an ice-cream…