Nada's website says that on her tour you'll "hear some history and contemporary tidbits, have a charming adventure, and make a local friend."
This is exactly what happened. Nada has been living in Dubai for 20 years. She is passionate and knowledgeable about her adopted home. She brought the city alive for me.
As soon as she walked up to me at our meeting spot, I relaxed and knew that we were going to have a great day. Knowing that I'm a wannabe travel photographer, Nada made of point of showing me great photo opportunities as we explored. Our first stop was the famous Dubai Gold Souk.
We passed shop after shop full of glittering gold and precious stones. The price of each piece includes a regulated amount for the gold by weight plus an additional amount for the craftsmanship. Incredible craftsmanship was on full display.
Deira is the older part of Dubai and was once the major business area. This is where you will find several souks or open air markets. Dubai is very unusual in that more than 70% of the population are expatriates. Most come from Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Arabic is the official language of Dubai, but you'll hear a wide variety of others and English is very commonly used.
The next area that we explored was the Spice Souk. We passed shop after shop, baskets overflowing with cinnamon, cloves, saffron, turmeric, coriander and more.
This is frankincense which is used for medicinal purposes as well as aromatherapy. We were invited in by one shopkeeper and I experienced true Middle Eastern hospitality. After handing me a bottle of ice cold water, he gave me a chocolate covered date to try. I should have purchased a dozen, it was so good.
The shop was brimming with interesting bins and shelves. The shopkeeper was happy to show me everything and explain what it was all used for. He even brought out the saffron. Did you know that this crimson spice is more valuable by weight than gold? It takes over 150 flowers to produce just a gram of saffron.
I left the shop with a pocket full of pistachios, another gift from the smiling shopkeeper. If you visit the souk, be sure to stop in. It was the first shop at the entrance on the right hand side. He gave me his business card, but I've misplaced it unfortunately.
After crossing Dubai creek on a traditional abra (more on that in a future post), we walked through a textile soul full of colorful clothes, scarfs and souvenirs.
Unfortunately, I didn't do any shopping. I was planning on returning again with Matt so passed up so many interesting buys. We never actually made it back. I guess that means I'll just need to go back to Dubai soon.
Next time I'm coming home with some shoes. I'm also keen to have a desert adventure which we couldn't squeeze into this trip. So much to see and do and so little time.
Our tour also included two museum visits which I'll share in my next post. Thank you, Nada, for sharing such a great day with me! It was an absolute pleasure.