I am not new to Solo travel. Most of my travels in the last decade have been all by myself, either my personal or work trips.
This trip was just one of them, however it was a significant solo trip for me. It happened just a week after I closed a chapter of my life and said goodbye to a relationship which was special to me. I wasn’t really suffering from a heartache or heat of loss, however this was my own little celebration of coming back to my own individual life and maybe a kind of liberation which i cannot really pen down. So here i was, to unite back with my travel spirit and continue to discover the beautiful world and myself.
Dubai was not really a chosen planned trip. While i was travelling from India to UK in November 2014, I had a weekend to spend, so what can be better than to halt at world’s most happening city.
I have wandered around the magnificent Dubai airport on couple of occasions in the past in transit however never stepped into the city so this was my maiden visit.
|Glittering Dubai at Night!|
As read, seen and experienced in media, Dubai truly lives up to its much hyped ‘Glamour Quotient’. Every place on this earth has its own character, its DNA and so has Dubai. If cities had Zodiac signs, to me Dubai would be ‘Leo’ : Chic, Exuberant and Feline.
|‘We swear by the Yellow Metal’…Golden Stallions in the driveway entrance to Hotel Al Qasr.|
I had quite a few apprehensions in my mind of travelling alone in a Middle East Nation; I chose to stay in Ibis Hotel, which was a safe bet in a place called ‘Deira’. However my two days stay proved me wrong completely as I could cruise with the same ease as anywhere in UK or India, rather it was way safer there with stringent laws and world class infrastructure.
|Burj Al Arab Hotel. Clicked from the entrance next to Wadi Adventures.|
Dubai is a modern architecture marvel. I was taken aback when i crossed the Sheikh Zayed Road flanked by steely neck straining sky scrapers; they were in all shapes and sizes, some had snouts, some were weirdly curved, some had glassy Gothic domes; the prides of Canary Wharfs, Downtown Cores and Manhattans would surely take a beating here. This road is an arterial connect and the longest road, so you cant miss it.
|Sheikh Al Zayeed arterial Road.|
I strongly believe that the true spirit and beauty of any city comes alive after dusk. As a traveler I ensure to experience every city or town after dark, maybe not a very safe proposition but certainly worth it. Dubai glitters at night. Its an absolute delight to drive the smooth roads with the lighted towering buildings.
|The Atlantis Palm Hotel at Night. Clicked from a train.|
The only structure which i was searching right from the time the aircraft was descending till i actually saw it; Blown and Bowled completely! Honorable Burj Khalifa!!My personal recommendation would be to view Burj Khalifa at night. There are tours operating daily to climb on top of the tower. I saw it from Dubai City Mall at 9pm midst the beautiful musical fountain and an eager jostling swarm of people all around.
|Burj Al Khalifa at Night. Clicked from Dubai City Mall next to the Musical Fountains|
|Opposite to Burj Al Khaifa. Clicked from dubai City Mall|
Not to miss in Dubai as its a haven for shopping would be the Dubai City Mall. Brands galore; Glittering shops; Luxury unlimited.
To explore the authentic Dubai i decided to explore the Souks. There are many Souks, Spice Souk, Carpet Souk, Camel Souk, Gold Souk, however with the paucity of time and my own interest i decided to settle with Spice and Gold!
Not far from where i was staying in Deira, a 20 minutes drive took me to The Deira Spice Souk , behind this was the Gold Souk.
From the first look it resembled an Indian bazaar with sacks, encroachments, excited and loud shopkeepers trying to woo the foreign customers. Woo! Sultry weather and not a place to step in, this Souk was bursting with the aromas of Arabic spices(and even sweat). I got my small pack of assorted spices of ‘Zatar’,’Saffron’ and ‘Ras el Hanout’ and many boxes of Arabian Dates.
|Shops displaying Spices at The Deira Spice Souk|
|Spices at Spice Souk|
|Also in Spice Souk one can find the Moroccon and Turkish lamps, traditional Arabic footwear and dresses.|
Adjacent to the Spice Souk is a completely covered Gold Souk which has shops galore, glittering with gold and precious ornaments.
|The Gold Souk|
Coming from South India, it wasn’t a huge surprise to see ostentatious, rather obnoxiously extravagant gold jewelry, however its a unique experience to visit the Gold Souk for its affordable and abundant choice, however you need quite strong necks, arms, ears to bear their weight.
|Gigantic neck pieces displayed at a shop in The Gold Souk. You need a strong neck to bear their weight 🙂|
|Another one, if you can dare!|
|When gold is in abundance, we find ways to use it, like using as a embellishment on our chappals ~ The Dubaites 🙂|
Phew! Golden Overhang! I came out of the Gold Souk albeit empty handed, but the gold ornaments were flashing before my eyes for next many days, whether in office or at home, so i did have some takeaways from the visit.
There werent many places to eat and I was quite starved. Only saving grace was some icecream. Well for those who thought, like Me, that Gelato was only Italiano, wake up guys, its very much Arabiano; and you cant beat this one…Camel Milk Gelato!! And that too Worlds’ First Ever! This City couldnt stop surprising me enough!
|Camel Milk Gelato :O|
It was sunset and time for me to head back to my hotel. Before moving ahead i stood for a while admiring the stretch of Dubai Creek and the view of Mosques and buildings on its banks; so serene; so tranquil amidst the glitz and panache of luxury. A city has so much to give to its people; it becomes our home, our life, it dwells inside us. One of my friend once said, a City grows on us, and when we leave it, it leaves a void in our heart. As i viewed the lazily setting sun, I thought about the city I too left behind me in India; A city which gave me lot of happiness and finally a sunset!
Pensive thoughts! Some pain! Life in retrospect! And what to do next!
Well not for long, i had a Desert Safari waiting as an evening Bonanza for me at the Magical Dubai.
(My next post on The Desert Safari)
|Dubai Creek as viewed from the road opposite the Spice Souk.|
***Some pointers if you are a traveler like Me***
Safety : 9/10 : That 1 mark is left as ‘it can happen anywhere’. Its a place where everything is organised and under strict control. So yes a safe location if that worries you.
Language : English is a safe bet. Other than your co-passengers (like i was in a group of Germans and Russians who couldnt speak or understand English), you can manage with English.
Stay : Any good 2-3 star hotel for Budget travelers. For luxury seekers, Burj Al Arab is the limit. I stayed in Deira which is a hustling bustling area full of hotels, students and facilities. It has good hotels to fit anyone’s pocket. I stayed at Ibis Al Rigga Hotel.
On the move : Unfortunately i couldn’t explore too may ways of commuting. I traveled in taxi only as i found them to be cheap. The Dubai taxi meters start from around 3.00 AED. They are all AC sedans and the Drivers I met were utmost courteous and disciplined, I traveled as late as 10:30 PM alone so it was safe too. However there are metros as well that operate almost everywhere across the city.
Currency : Everywhere UAE Dirhams(AED). I didnt step into the high street brand shops, I assume they would accept Euros and Dollars in Cash. However all merchandise on Dubai Airport, display prices in AED and USD and accept all cards, so its quite easy.
Food : Not to miss the Sherbets, Kebabs, Biryanis, the meat curries, Baklava and various other Arabic cuisines. Vegetarians will also find decent options. For those who want to go Budget way, there are the Mc Donalds, Burger Kings, Subways of the world everywhere and also cheap local food outlets serving Doner Kebabs, Biryanis and Maqlooba.