Ramadan in Dubai – epic fail or nailed it?

Of Souks and Sheiks

 

Dubai has never been right at the top of my bucket list for traveling, but I certainly wanted to at least have a glimpse of it at some stage in my life. Shopaholics rave about it and although I do enjoy the odd bit of shopping, it’s not a top priority for me. A few years ago we had the opportunity to stop over in Dubai on our way back from our holiday in Phuket.

 

Cheap Flights to Dubai

 

After visiting one son who flew the nest many years ago, it was time to visit another who did the same. This time it was to Dubai. We were warned that it was Ramadan, but we were flying home from Thailand where we'd spent a two week holiday. Our stopover was in Dubai and considering it was en route, it would be worthwhile spending a few days with him.

 

 Skyscrapers Dubai Jumeirah Lakes Towers

Skyscrapers Dubai Jumeirah Lakes Towers

 

Dismal disaster during Ramadan in Dubai or how to nail it?

(Disclaimer: This is not intended to offend anyone who observes Ramadan.)

 

Some facts and fables about Dubai, Ramadan and how tourists cope in the heat.

 

1.       It is not a good idea to run around Dubai in their summer heat, in the middle of the day. This does not apply to Ramadan alone.

 

July is extremely hot. Let me reiterate: July is frigging hot! It’s as if a scorching bubble has sucked you up and squished you with a flaming electric blanket. We thought we’d be acclimatized after the heat and humidity of Thailand. Not a chance!

 

In the four days we were there, we walked about 50 kilometres. This was not at a relaxed pace. If you were there about four years ago, you might have spotted me – the giveaway would be the face that matched a red tomato. Even the bus shelters have air conditioning, but you can’t spend your whole day there just to cool down.

 

 Air conditioned bus shelters in Dubai

Air conditioned bus shelters in Dubai

 

2.       Eating and drinking is prohibited in communal areas.

 

We knew some restaurants would be closed but we didn’t realize how many. Being a cosmopolitan city, with many expats living there, one would have thought there would be a few more open. We’ve since discovered most expats go way during that period.

 

There were places you could purchase some food and drink, but you weren’t allowed to consume them in public places. Carting it all back to the hotel wasn’t always practical either, because we didn’t have a vehicle and trying to be our usual thrifty selves, didn’t consider taxis. In hindsight, it would have been worth spending money on a taxicab.

 

Not even being able to consume water in public places was difficult for us. At times it was unbearable, and we had to resort to chewing a few dates and slugging a bottle of water behind closed doors in the public restrooms where no one could see us.

 

 At least we didn't have to pick our own dates - we could buy at the supermarkets.

At least we didn't have to pick our own dates - we could buy at the supermarkets.

 

3.       If you enjoy alcoholic beverages, don't expect them to be readily available during Ramadan; even after sundown.

 

You may have an issue finding bars and restaurants that sell alcoholic drinks if you like your tipple. We were aware of it, and it didn’t bother us so much.

 

4.       There are only limited restaurants or coffee shops open throughout the day.

 

The limited restaurants that were open were cordoned off with screens and their windows were covered too. We ate our breakfasts in those coffee shops, but there weren’t many available. We had no idea there would be so few open and ended up frequenting the same one most of the time.

 

5.       Profanities, arguments and procrastinating are frowned upon. Be respectful, compassionate and generous to people.

 

We spent our last day walking through the Souks. By then I was worn-out and emotional. The heat was getting to me, and I normally love the summer heat. I’m ashamed to admit that just a tiny (OK, maybe not that tiny) bit of blasphemy slipped out. I must add, it very seldom happens. Blame it on the menopausal hormones! At least it was only in front of my family.

 

 Textile Souk

Textile Souk

 Merchandise at Textile Souk

Merchandise at Textile Souk

 

6.       Even in 50+ degree Celsius heat, there will be a time that you could get cold. I’m sure you’ll be convinced I’m a batty fox!

 

Did you know you can freeze during Ramadan in Dubai? Not kidding.

 

No-one can describe that heat, until you’ve experienced it. Air conditioning in the buildings is a great respite, but that too can be short lived. When you’re dressed for heat and you spend some time in a cold building, you end up feeling chilly. My solution was to carry a pashmina with me, to cover my shoulders.

 

I bet you were thinking of Ski Dubai when I mentioned freezing! We did however peer through glass windows looking at it though.

 

 

 Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

My initial and inadequate impressions of Dubai:  

The contemporary cosmopolitan metropolis of Dubai is clean and seems well maintained although there is so much construction taking place. It is a city of excessive extremities: tallest building, largest shopping mall, the most dazzle and probably the most expensive too. I’m convinced it probably has the most blistering climate too. I could be wrong though.

 
Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up UAE.
 
 Contemporary architecture and boats with wooden Dhow Dubai Creek

Contemporary architecture and boats with wooden Dhow Dubai Creek

 
 
Iconic waterfeature Dubai Mall.JPG

It is obligatory for adult Muslims to fast during Ramadan. There are exceptions though: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those who are suffering from an illness, such as diabetes...I didn’t notice an exemption for women going through the anguish of menopause. They really need to add that one too!

 

 One of the beaches in Dubai

One of the beaches in Dubai

 
One of the earliest industries in Dubai was trading and exporting pearls.
 

Big Bus Dubai

We used the Big Bus Dubai Hop On Hop Off Tours to see as much of Dubai as we possibly could. Although it was worth every cent, it is a good idea to plan your route and tour. Consider the time you would spend at each stop and what you are keen on seeing. You could spend far too long at one sight and miss seeing the rest. It is expensive but there are some free extras which makes it worthwhile if you have the time.  

 

 Hopping on and off the Bigbus Tours

Hopping on and off the Bigbus Tours

 Wooden dhows, a bit of a tourist trap

Wooden dhows, a bit of a tourist trap

 Arabian Wooden Dhow and contemporary architecture, Dubai creek

Arabian Wooden Dhow and contemporary architecture, Dubai creek

 

Fountains and Burj Khalifa

The fountains at Dubai mall are a must to see at night. It is a short freebie worth seeing.  We incorporated a spur of the moment tour up to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa on the 124th floor. Initially the plan was to see it at daytime, but we were running short of time. Seeing the city lights from that height gave us a different perspective.  I must admit I’m sorry I didn’t see it during the day though.

 Spectacular fountains

Spectacular fountains

 A Dubai freebie worth seeing

A Dubai freebie worth seeing

 Captivating choreographed dancing fountains

Captivating choreographed dancing fountains

 View over parts of Dubai from Burj Khalifa

View over parts of Dubai from Burj Khalifa

 124 stories high! The other skyscrapers look quite small

124 stories high! The other skyscrapers look quite small

 View of the fountains below from Burj Khalifa

View of the fountains below from Burj Khalifa

 The fountains look like a centipede from above

The fountains look like a centipede from above

Dubai Metro is the first kind of rail transport in UAE. All trains run without a driver and are based on automatic navigation.
 

Metro

The Metro is cost-effective and efficient – when you want to stay parallel to the main highway which is Sheikh Zayed road. It is the longest road in the Emirates. Taxis are also quite reasonable, but it is quite confusing driving around Dubai. Roads and distances are misleading with the confusing practice of driving in the opposite direction to your destination in order for you to cross the freeway.

 

 Metro rail running parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road

Metro rail running parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road

 
Although Dubai’s development was accelerated by oil trade, their reserves are limited and accounts for less than 5% of their revenue.
 

Dubai Creek

The Dubai creek is part of the older historical Dubai. Here you can pick up some of the Emirate culture. The museum is in the oldest existing building in Dubai, portraying Dubai’s history and culture day living. How could they survive without air-conditioning in the past? Quite ingenious actually. The air flow through their thick-walled houses and wind-towers kept them cooler.

A strange sight to see was the huge mobile air-conditioning units outside restaurants on the sidewalk. It’s certainly not Eco-friendly but trust me, when you’ve experienced the heat you would appreciate it.

 

A disappointment was that many of the displays of craftsmen and women at work aren’t active during Ramadan.  The exhibitions at the Sheikh Saeed al Maktoum House were open though.

 

 Abra - a water taxi on Dubai Creek

Abra - a water taxi on Dubai Creek

 Abras awaiting passengers

Abras awaiting passengers

 Courtyard in Dubai Museum

Courtyard in Dubai Museum

 Heritage Shindagha Village

Heritage Shindagha Village

 Old Toyota at Heritage Shindagha Village

Old Toyota at Heritage Shindagha Village

 Pearl diving in the UAE

Pearl diving in the UAE

 Dubai Museum

Dubai Museum

 
 Sheikh Saeed al Maktoum House with a wind cooled tower

Sheikh Saeed al Maktoum House with a wind cooled tower

 Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House and Museum

Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House and Museum

 More traditional style buildings at Dubai Creek

More traditional style buildings at Dubai Creek

 Air conditioning units - could have done with one of those while walking around

Air conditioning units - could have done with one of those while walking around

 It could take a while to cool the air

It could take a while to cool the air

 Ornate wooden Arabian dhow

Ornate wooden Arabian dhow

 

A fascinating scene along the banks of the creek is the traditional Arabian dhows used for trade to transport goods to other countries as far as India and East Africa. Ostensibly unguarded cargo in piles even at night, ready to be carried on board. It’s not something that we could do in South Africa. It wouldn’t take long for our thieves to remove them.

 Cargo to be loaded on traditional Arabian dhows

Cargo to be loaded on traditional Arabian dhows

 Valuable cargo

Valuable cargo

 Endless cargo

Endless cargo

 Dhows and cargo

Dhows and cargo

 Dhow loaded with cargo

Dhow loaded with cargo

 Dhows waiting to be loaded with cargo

Dhows waiting to be loaded with cargo

 

Souks

Tip: If you want to visit the Souks, arrive without being flustered, cool, calm and eager to browse with plenty of time in hand. Have the patience to chat to the traders while they lure you with a silk scarf thrown over your shoulder. If you’re hot and bothered, like I was, that extra layer of silk in that heat, even if it is flimsy and sheer, could push you over the edge!

If you’re looking for gold, you’ll find it at the Gold Souk. Flashy, ornate necklaces that looked like they weighed a ton. Thinking of that makes me break out in sweat already, and while I write this, I’m sitting in a cool 20 degrees C.

Textile Souk Dubai.jpg
 Nothing is small in Dubai

Nothing is small in Dubai

 Ornate gold necklaces

Ornate gold necklaces

 Unlimited choices of gold bangles

Unlimited choices of gold bangles

 

Desert or Tropics?

We couldn’t get over the greenery, essentially in a sandy desert. Admittedly it was all brought in and planted after the buildings were complete. I didn’t get to see the Miracle garden, but it is closed during the scorching summer. I’m not surprised, seeing that I wilted in that heat.   

 More greenery than I thought

More greenery than I thought

 Construction everywhere

Construction everywhere

 Architecture on the banks of Dubai Creek

Architecture on the banks of Dubai Creek

 Abra on Dubai Creek

Abra on Dubai Creek

 Dubai Skyline

Dubai Skyline

 Dubai skyline - puts the Burj Khalifa into perspective

Dubai skyline - puts the Burj Khalifa into perspective

 Mist over skyscrapers

Mist over skyscrapers

 Traffic on Sheikh Zayed road

Traffic on Sheikh Zayed road

 The Palm Atlantis Jumeirah

The Palm Atlantis Jumeirah

 Driving through the tunnels

Driving through the tunnels

 
 

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