Desert city

While trav­el­ling through the man-made marvel that is Dubai, Du­misane Lu­bisi found where its cul­ture lies – in the heart of the city

CityPress - - T# - 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. T

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 cour­tesy

of the Hil­ton Group

PHOTO: DU­MISANE LU­BISI

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