Another take on Dubai

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As I wrote in my last web story, Dubai on the first time around did not impress me, but I was pleased to find it much better on the second.
On this occasion I flew in from New Zealand, while Mark drove up from Salalah. With a bit of luck and a lot of help from a taxi driver who we hired to lead him through the city, we found each other. Then together with the mobility afforded by a map and car, we were able to enjoy it much more completely!


Unlike my first visit which was in the midst of a dust storm, the air was clear, the sun out and it was hot, but not unbearable.
We found the cooler parts of town along the water, naturally, to look at boats…
From the traditional fishing craft and little ferries which ply the Dubai Creek in the centre of town
to the luxury motoryachts moored along its banks;
in the secure Dubai Creek Marina further up
and beneath the luxurious apartment blocks in the Dubai Marina just a few kilometres down the coast.
We were looking for places to berth should we need come this way, and although most of what we saw was prohitively expensive, already full, or because of bridges made inaccessible to ‘boats with sticks’;
we did find the friendly little Dubai Offshore Yacht Club, which although always overbooked, did offer us free anchorage in their turning basin nearby should we need it.
It’s right near to the city, but with a cooling seabreeze and with this stretch of sand over the breakwater it would not all be bad. I’m sure if we get there, we’ll be prevailing upon their hospitality!

Shopping is a major attraction of Dubai, but without a car, it’d not be easy as there is no central shopping precinct, it is all in malls scattered throughout the Emirate.
However, once inside the big, new, Dubai Mall, -and probably others, -there’s no need to go any further, it’s a city in itself;
many floors with hundreds of shops and its own cool microclimate,
-even indoor ice skating…
…such a relief when it’s 40 degrees outside…but how unforgivably un-green is that?

In all those shops and big name ‘label’ stores, just everything is available at almost any hour, but without East Asian haggling over deals, there aren’t the great bargains of Singapore’s Sim Lim Centre and Lucky Plaza.
But it is the Dubai architecture which for us is most mind-boggling…the skyline of distinctly different building profiles that stretches for kilometres along the foreshore from Sharjah to Abu Dabi
and there are many more still under construction.
They say the UAE is in recession and certainly work on some building sites was clearly slowed, in which case a prospering Dubai must be pure mania!
Unless the reason is so as to be viewed from a low-orbit space-craft, one has to question why land should be reclaimed and made into islands the shapes of palms, crabs and porpoises as are being planned. The outlines cannot be recognised at sea-level, riding on the monorail or driving along the network of roads, bridges and tunnels but even so,the scale of the undertaking has to be admired, and the photos from aloft of this area of apartment developments, the Palm Jumeirah, an island in the shape of a palm tree, are more impressive than we see from the roads!
But the building style is not to our taste and as a place to live, to us it would seem inconvenient, to say the least!

We continued our quest for friendly marinas in UAE and drove over the hills towards Oman to the nearby Emirate of Fujairah
In doing so, we left behind the Western-ness of Dubai, away from the corporations and expats and into ‘rural’ ordinary UAE.
Having first come to Dubai by bus from Muscat, I had been quite disappointed at the difference from Oman and how the desert along that road had been ‘trashed’ with industry and its rubbish. Coming here to Fujairah on this more northern route it wasn’t so. The area was clean, the town was pleasant and although very distinctly ‘arab’ in culture, like in Oman, the people were again quite delightful.
We found there too, another good marina. It was welcoming, helpful and may well prove worth the visit with Quo Vadis, an excellent base from which to cruise the interesting nearby Straits of Hormuz!

From Dubai we took the southern route to drive back to Salalah. Like the northern, -and unlike the one from Hatta in the middle from Oman, it was a good road and there was little despoilation of the desert…
It took us out of Dubai, through neighbouring Abu Dabi and the town of Al Ain.
This is a city within Abu Dabi built on a series of oases, the area has been inhabited for thousands of years because of its water and it remains a holiday destination now, all because of its comparative ‘green’.
It is also a centre for camel racing

with numerous training tracks and camel packs out preparing for the forthcoming derby.

Al Ain is also almost on the Omani border, an easy crossing to make with just a few formalities.
The border follows a natural line of hills and from here on Oman is rocky and mountainous, the northern range follows the coast all the way, even beyond Muscat.
We stopped at Nizwa. This is one of the oldest cities in Oman and it was once a centre of trade, religion, education and arts.
Surrounded by high hills, it is in an area with a little more rainfall and is situated on Falaj Daris. A falaj is a man-made irrigation channel dug into the hills to bring water to the surface and channel it out for irrigation. Falaj Daris is the largest in Oman and its purpose in Nizwa is to service the extensive date growing region of which it has been traditionally the centre. It is still the main market town for dates in Oman.
Now it is also very popular for tourists, the main attraction being the old fort, which is the most visited monument in Oman.
Built in the 1650’s it served as a strategic defense at the crossroads of major routes and to defend the wealthy date market town.

Next to the Grand mosque and the market place, together they form the city centre.

It contains a museum but otherwise has been extensively restored to the original
with attractive middle eastern decor
interesting ablutions; (there are wells, still with water, in many rooms as it is sited over an underground stream)
and dark, twisting stairs set with ‘bear traps’ leading onto the battlemented turret, where many of the original defences remain.
Not only were there cannons and the usual hand weapons of battle, but as a different take on the European way of pouring boiling oil or molten lead from the battlements onto the enemy, here and why not when there is so much of it around, -they used super-hot date syrup…
Bags of dates stored in the turret crushed one another and oozed juice, collected in clay jugs to be heated for the purpose! It could be pleasantly tasty being a marauder…

Nizwa is at the junction of the main road between Salalah and Muscat, from there for the next quite a few hundred kilometres is flat, hot desert, -almost featureless…
apart from the occasional land-forms created by shifting sand-dunes to keep it interesting.

As we approached the Indian Ocean coast, the cloud slowly increased and climbing the Dhofar Hill range just out of Salalah, there was light, wetting rain. This was the much talked of ‘khareef’, the rainy time of the year, when the hills go green and Salalah townsfolk move out of their houses to make way for visitors from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, they come all this way to experience green leaves.
It’s also the time when Salalah’s annual water supply is replenished.
The difference the rain makes is striking and even coming almost direct from New Zealand the green seemed more intense, more vivid than any I had seen before!
Not that it really is, but it is made to seem so by the incongruence of green vegetation in all that desert for hundreds of kilometres around

and the contrast as shown in a picture taken now in September and one of the same view, when I last saw it, back in March…

It had also rained in Salalah that day, there had been a small tropical ‘low’ pass overnight, but it was only a short-lived reprieve from the heat, the next day hot and sunny as usual.
This was a chance for some quality time on Quo Vadis; there was a couple of days of work to be done but it was most pleasing to find her still safe and well on her sticks.

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