Dubai – the cultured desert city

accreditation
Dumisane Lubisi

It wasn’t until the last day of a four-day trip to Dubai, the city built on sand, that I saw its other side.

For the previous three days, we had toured the newer parts of Dubai and its tourist attractions, including the Marina, Ras al-Khaimah and Palm Jumeirah. The water in the Marina was so clear and clean that you could see the white sand below.

Dubai was so clean – in fact, too clean – that I began to miss Jozi’s littered streets. Even the construction sites in Dubai – and believe me, there are a lot of them (the city is being developed 24/7) – are clean and well covered to avoid any safety risk to the public.

During my trip, we went to the top of the world – the 125-storey Burj Khalifa, where anything below it is dwarfed. It only takes a minute in the lift to get to the 124th floor, and then a single flight of stairs to the 125th floor.

On the fourth day, we visited the original city. This is basically the heart of Dubai, where one can experience the old part of the city and the way people used to, and still, live.

Unlike the fast-growing newer part of the city, where skyscrapers are literally stacked next to each other, this is where buildings show the signs of a previous era in the Arab nation.

Every country has a unique culture. It is here in the old city where you can visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, where tourists are taken back to the history of the sheikhs who have ruled Dubai.

There is also a cultural village, where houses were built in the old style to show the contrast of the old and the new. If you are not religious, the centre’s managing director, Nasif Kayed, could easily convert you to Islam. I heard one of my travelling colleagues say they were ready to convert on the spot after a visit to the mosque.

A walk to the Gold Souk is a worthwhile experience. After all, Dubai is known for selling inexpensive gold, but always be aware of the fake dealers who dangle cheap or fake watches in your face all the time. It is worth checking if it is the real deal or not, but a bargain can be found.

History has always been very thin on the role Arab women have played in this nation, but a visit to the Women’s Museum supplies unrivalled information about the role of women in society.

Started by Professor Rafia Obaid Ghubash, the museum is unique in the Arab world, and is seen as a space to explore and celebrate the lives of women of the United Arab Emirates.

This is the history that is seldom found in newer cities, but can only be learnt when one visits an older city. I will definitely visit the Arab city again, but not in summer, when temperatures can easily go up to 50°C.

. Lubisi visited Dubai courtesyof the Hilton Group

Depending on your budget, accommodation in Dubai is not in short supply. Hilton Worldwide is a major player in this Arab city.

It owns or runs some of its famous brands like the Hilton, DoubleTree, Conrad and the luxurious Waldorf Astoria, among others. The DoubleTree by Hilton Al Barsha, where we stayed, is a hotel apartment mainly made for travelling businesspeople and for families who visit Dubai to stay for a longer period of time, but still want to feel like they are at home.

The water in the Marina was so clear and clean that you could see white sand underneath. Dubai was so clean – in fact too clean – that I began to miss Jozi, where it is common to see papers or an empty Coke can lying on the side of the road.

There was none of that here. Even the construction sites – and believe me, there are a lot of them as the city is being developed 24/7 – are clean and well covered to avoid exposure to the public.

During my trip we went to the top of the world – the 125-floor Burj Khalifa where anything below it is dwarfed. It only takes a minute in a lift to get to the 124th floor, and then a single flight of stairs to the 125th floor.

On the fourth day we visited the old Dubai city. This is basically the heart of Dubai, where one can experience the old part of the city and the way people used to, and still, live.

Unlike the fast-growing newer part of the city where skyscrapers are literally stacked next to each other, this is where buildings show the signs a previous era and the way life was for the Arab nation.

Just like most nations, culture is the one thing that identifies a nation for who it is. It is here in the old city where you can visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, where tourist are taken back to the history of the sheikhs that have ruled Dubai.

There is also a cultural village where yesteryear houses were built to show the contrast of the old and the new. If you are not religious, the centre’s managing director Nasif Kayed could easily convince you to convert to Islam – I heard one of my travelling colleagues say they were ready to convert on the spot after a visit to the mosque.

A walk to the Gold Souk is a worthwhile experience. After all, Dubai is known for selling inexpensive gold, but always beware of the fake dealers who dangle cheap or fake watches in your face all the time. It is worth checking if it is the real deal or not, but a bargain could be found here.

History has always been very thin on the role Arab women have played to this nation, but a visit to the Women’s Museum could give unrivalled information to women’s role in society.

Started by Professor Rafia Obaid Ghubash, the museum is unique in the Arab World and is seen as a space to explore and celebrate the lives of women of the United Arab Emirates. .

This is the history that is seldom found in newer cities, but can only be learned when one visits an older city. I will definitely visit the Arab city again, but not in summer – as temperatures can easily reach up to 50°C.

Lubisi was in Dubai courtesy of the Hilton Group

Where to stay

Depending on your price range, accommodation in Dubai is not in short supply. And clearly Hilton Worldwide is a major player in this Arab city.

It owns or runs some of its famous brands like the Hilton, Double Tree, Conrad and the luxurious Waldorf Astoria among other facilities.

The Double Tree by Hilton Al Barsha, where we stayed is a hotel apartment mainly made for travelling business people and families who visit Dubai to stay for a longer period of time but still want to feel like they are at home

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24

E-Editions

Read the digital editions of City Press here.
Read now
Voting Booth
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that SA’s vaccine passport plans are coming on. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
We cannot be forced
31% - 82 votes
It’s critical
23% - 62 votes
Vaccines save lives
46% - 123 votes
Vote