Clock Tower Roundabout
On my first visit to Dubai, the unmistakeable Clock Tower Roundabout was the landmark that I used to get my bearings!
It is located on Airport Road, where it meets Al-Maktoum Road, and I was staying in a hotel a two minute walk from there on one of the many unnamed side-roads.
It was useful to be able to ask taxi drivers to drop me off near Clock Tower Roundabout and I could find my own way from there...
As is typical in Dubai, even the roundabouts have grand designs - this one has fountains and, at night, dancing spotlights!
Things to bring...
Wear something light but bring a jacket in winter (December – February). A pair of sunglasses and a cap would also be good as the sun can be very strong. Bring a pair of nice walking shoes – you’ll need them to explore the shopping districts of Deira and the heritage areas along the creek. Bring lots of water anytime. In winter, you’ll need it because the dry weather will take its toll on you. In the summer – need I say more? Bring along some lip balm as lips tend to crack because of the dry weather. Bring some skin moisturizer too (but you won’t need this much in the summer months!) Bring a camera and snap it all the way. However avoid using it during a sandstorm or a dusty day, because sand may get trapped in the lense! Bring lots of the local currency – cost of living is high. Taxi and food are expensive and you’ll need them a lot when you are here!
Fly! Buy! Dubai!
Dubai Duty Free is arguably the best airport duty free shop in the world; it's only rivals are Singapore and Hong Kong, Amsterdam having lost out because of price levels. Located in one of the world's most impressive airport terminals and extending the length of the building on the ground floor, this is an impressive undertaking.
For the past 15 years, Dubai Duty Free has been raffling off luxury cars. Limited to 1,000 tickets each (at US $278 a pop), all passengers are eligible. Right now they've got draws going for a Porsche Carrera and a Mercedes S500. I've seen Maseratis on the floor, too, as a matter of fact. But craziest of all is a $1,000,000 draw. The tickets for it cost the same, but there are 5,000 of them, limiting one's chances somewhat. Even so, who knows? You might be lucky! You name it, you can find it. The selection is enormous. There are shops offering 19 different product categories, among which are: cameras, electronics, women's clothing, men's clothing, wine & liquor, cigarettes, etc., et.c., etc. Prices for electronic and photographic items are among the best anywhere in the world, far cheaper than those available in Europe, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. American shoppers may not be quite so impressed, but even we can find bargains here. The sky's the limit!
HEADING FOR THE BEAUTIFUL OUTDOORS
Barasti had always been a staple on the city’s al fresco radar for many a year. Its stunning outdoor location by the ocean’s edge proving an irresistible draw. Also, the fact that though a part of Le Meridien, it was a stand-alone bar refreshingly removed from by-the-lobby confines, was a rarity for Dubai. So when it downed its shutters for a massive refurbishment, there were fears that the newer version would be a distilled version of the old Barasti spirit.
Thankfully, and rather amazingly, the new Barasti - about 3 times the size of the original - still manages to retain the intimate warmth of the Barsati of old. There’s now an upper deck with lovely views over the sea, the main extended middle deck where the bands come out to play, and a smaller lower level. Each with acres of space, where log chairs and wooden divans all help to perpetuate the sea-shanty vibe.
The food’s decidedly hit-and-miss, the cocktails aren’t much to write home about, and the music swings between excellent acoustic rock to decidedly cheesy ska and 80s howlers. But when it comes to relaxed al fresco atmosphere, Barasti is a nip and tuck prettier than pretty much any bar in town. Nice 'n casual :)
My favourite mode of transport that we used in Dubai was an Abra. An Abra is a small, traditional motorboat made from wood, that transports people from one side of Dubai Creek to the other. Kind of like a shared taxi, the abras don't operate to any sort of timetable, they depart when all the seats are full. They seat around 20 passengers, and they seemed to only take a few minutes to full up.
At the time of our visit there were 3 abra stations on each side of the Creek, with abras from each station following a specific (individual) route. When you arrive at the station checked the sign to see which part of the dock for departures or arrivals, and head straight onto one of the boats in the departures area. You pay the fare direct to the driver - and at only 1 dirham (around 14 pence) it was a bargain.
Getting out on the water gives you a good feel for day-to-day life in old Dubai, and offers great views along the Creek. You can also hire abras for private trips up and down the Creek.
On the Deira side, the two main abra stations are up towards the Spice and Gold Souqs, with boats travelling across to Bur Dubai, stopping near to the Bur Dubai souq and the Dubai Museum.