Dubai Part X / by Deborah Clague

I wish I would have had more to write about regarding my holiday in Dubai but ... I've been struggling. Despite its showiness – despite its commitment to extreme opulence, grandeur and the biggest/tallest everything – I found the city lacking in practicality, culture and, ultimately, heart. 

I felt like I traveled half way around the world to visit things I could see in my backyard. Mind you, they were bigger, taller, SHINIER things than what are in my background, but still. I didn't depart with a positive lasting impression. I have no yearning to return. 

At the end of the day, it ranks near the bottom of the list when it comes to my favorite destinations. 

Maybe I'm just bitter I didn't get to drive a shiny, metallic green Ferrari. 


I spent my final days away from the towering, glittering skyscrapers of which the city wants to be known and instead strolled through the traditional markets of Deira, repeatedly riding the abra and feasting at the Arabian Tea House Café, my favorite restaurant in Dubai. It was a relaxing time spent wandering about at my leisure, observing and participating in the theatre of the streets of the Old City. 

At one of the market stalls, I was drawn in by a beautiful teal embroidered robe. I paused to admire it and ended up with an invitation by the owner to share chai and traditional sweets. I accepted the offer, fully aware it was a ploy to get me to buy but also an opportunity for me to gain insight on real life in the U.A.E. In between haggling on price, we talked. 

I learned that the owner moved to Dubai from northern India after graduating with a degree in Business. The market stall he operated was a venture he planned to operate for just a few years, earning enough profit to help his family with back home. He was eager to return to India though. The original allure of the big city had dissipated. Dubai was expensive. The promise of riches it teased with was not as forthcoming as originally believed. The hustle-and-bustle was not for him; nor was the fact that, despite contributing to the economy and development of the nation, he would forever be an outsider there. I told him of my experiences over the previous two weeks and, after listening intently, he welcomed me to visit his home province one day to be shown real hospitality.

After an hour in the shop, I eventually got the robe, and a second one, along with a beautiful cashmere scarf for the price I was seeking. 

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Iranian Mosque, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Iranian Mosque, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Detail of Iranian Mosque, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Detail of Iranian Mosque, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Tim Hortons in Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Tim Hortons in Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Old Souq, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Old Souq, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Owner of shop I had tea with (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Owner of shop I had tea with (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Arabic chicken dinner at the Arabian Tea House (©Deborah Clague, 2016) 

Arabic chicken dinner at the Arabian Tea House (©Deborah Clague, 2016) 

Stray cat in Deira (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Stray cat in Deira (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Billboards of Emirati leaders line the streets and highways (©Deborah Clague, 2016) 

Billboards of Emirati leaders line the streets and highways (©Deborah Clague, 2016) 

I couldn't escape camels. This smoking lounge was at my layover in Frankfurt Airport (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

I couldn't escape camels. This smoking lounge was at my layover in Frankfurt Airport (©Deborah Clague, 2016)