What can you buy for 20p? A Freddo Bar? A cotton bud? A stick of celery? Bugger all.
Well. Not in Dubai. Here, you can purchase a BOAT RIDE!
For around 18 British pence you get an Abra across the creek. Yes, they look like shaky death-traps, and have all the suggestions of imminent drowning – but where’s your sense of adventure?
They seem to operate through a system of twine and rusty oars – your driver (if that’s what you can call him? He’s more a … rope puller?) will allow you 15 seconds to dock (jump the gap between the boat and the platform and hope you’ve survived) before veering you into the middle of the busy creek, where you will narrowly skim past other abras, and bump into a few for good measure.
The salt-water Creek separates Bur Dubai (Old Dubai) from Deira (Newer Dubai). Yes – in the UK you can’t buy half a second-class stamp for 20p, yet here you can deliver yourself between civilizations for less than it!
As adventures go, it’s not a long one – but the short trip will allow you a flavour of the Emirates which existed before the flashy cars and tallest buildings: before the oil they were sea-farers and pearl-traders.
The banks are lined with Souks – old Arabian markets that look like something out of Aladdin (with less monkeys thieving bread) everything you stereotypically imagined The Middle East to be – selling gold, spices, and an inordinate amount of contraband goods – every vendor you pass shouts the same thing: “GENUINE FAKES, THIS WAY!” I love an oxymoron on a Saturday afternoon.
I purchased a lamp (one with a light.. not a genie. Next time Souk, next time!), a cushion, a keffiyeh (because I’m slowly turning Emirati), and fabric to decorate my lounge …. basically several things to Arab-up my apartment and make it feel more like I’m living in the The Gulf States and less like a Western hotel … though I passed on the opportunity to procure Bay Ran’s Sunglasses or anything masquerading as a Mulberry bag … So I’ll definitely be back.