Do Buy at Dubai: Part 1


A trip to the city of sun, steel, shopping, and sand

Picture by Anu Anniah

A couple of years ago, we decided to visit Dubai with a friend’s family. Most people visit Dubai for 2–3 days. ‘What is there to see beyond 3 days’, is the common statement.

We planned a 7-day trip. We went out every day from dawn to 11 pm. We want to return to see a few more places.

Contrary to what most people think, we had a lot to see and do in Dubai.
Pro tip: Go with a family that has done its research. Our friends had figured out where to go, what to see, and what to do each day. We just had to go along like bleating sheep. And that was perfectly fine by us 🙂

Dubai is an amazing city. With its towers of gleaming steel, opulent malls, fancy cars, and a billion theme parks, it seems to be beating its chest in pride. And with good reason. It is as if the powers that be in Dubai said to themselves:

Let us make a list of things that are impossible to achieve in Dubai. And then build it!

And then they went away and built it all.

How else can you explain a thriving garden (Miracle garden), a snow park (Ski Dubai), a man-made island (Palm Jumeirah) and so many other wondrous things in what is primarily desert country!

Bird’s eye view while approaching Dubai by air. Picture by Anu Anniah

Day 1 — Ski Dubai

Per the planned itinerary, we were supposed to check in to our hotel, freshen up, and head out to the Ski Dubai snow park in the Mall of Emirates, one of the biggest malls in the world.

If someone had told me it can snow in the desert, I would have said, ‘what c***’!

If someone had said that one can shake hands with a penguin in the middle of a desert, I would have asked them to take a walk.

After Dubai though, I will blindly believe anything.

In the middle of a desert is an unbelievably huge mall. In a corner of the mall is a full-fledged snow park where is actually snows. My brain took a while to understand and accept this phenomenon.

We had to change into custom clothes including snow gloves and boots before we entered the park. Once inside, it was freezing. I could barely keep my teeth from chattering. But we could have easily been in the Alps or the Whistler ski slope! There was a ski slope, a chair lift ride, kids were making snowmen, and the kids in our group made snowballs and threw them at each other.

Picture by Anu Anniah

It was weird and exhilarating at the same time. We spent time hobnobbing with the penguins, sliding down on tiny snow slopes sitting inside rubber tubes, and posing for pictures.

We came out of the park soon because some of us delicate folks were in danger of turning blue due to the intense cold! The kids were pretty happy living in there.

We found some vegetarian food somewhere and made our way back to our rooms. It was almost 11 pm. But the night didn’t end. We all sat around a table and made sure we had noted all the expenses. Splitwise is a lovely app that helps record all expenses, splits it as needed, and gives us the final ‘who owes who’ easily. We used it very effectively during this trip.

Day 2 — Spice Souk and Desert Safari

We rose and shone, ordered breakfast to the room to save time, and headed out. Day 2 was all about the famous souks in Dubai. We were heading to the spice souk. I was really looking forward to this. Had heard and read so much about it.

We crossed the Dubai creek on the old-fashioned abra boat. The boat dropped us off at the entrance of the spice souk. The ride was short and was over before we could say abra-cadabra.

Crossing the Dubai creek in an abra. Picture by Anu Anniah

We got off and were guided pretty ably by our noses. The smell from all the exotic spices was thick in the air, and we took in deep breaths to fill ourselves with the spices! It was heady.

In addition to the smells, we were equally enthralled by the sheer variety of spices — shapes, colors, textures. The spice souk is one place I’d want to go back to on my next trip. It is worth spending a few hours more soaking in the atmosphere of the spice souk.

This was naturally a great place to begin our ‘Do Buy’ spree. In a place like the spice souk, a very critical skill is the fine art of bargaining.

One must not hesitate to name a price that is less than half quoted by the shopkeeper.

The fine art of bargaining

I cannot bargain to save my life. But my friends..aah. They are so adept at it that watching them in action is itself worth paying the extra money for.

We walked into one of the spice shops and came out armed with several beautiful bottles of saffron after my friend managed to slash the price in half.

We turned a corner around the spice shops and ran into row upon row of such beautiful pottery. It was mind-boggling. It was also impossible not to shop.

Picture by Anu Anniah

Here again, those bargaining skills came in very handy. Our friends chatted up nicely with the shopkeeper and told him that there were at least 5 more families waiting to come to Dubai from India. Since our friend was going to accompany those families, he promised to bring them to the same shop for their purchases. My husband and I just pointed out what we wanted to buy and stood quietly in a corner. It is best to watch such negotiation shows from a safe distance. You don’t want to say something stupid and unravel the whole plot.

After this hectic bout of shopping, we finished our vegetarian lunch, and flagged a biggish 7–8 seater cab to drive us around major sites. We managed to spot the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel and the very very famous Atlantis, The Palm. Obviously, we hopped off the cab and clicked tons of selfies, and changed our WhatsApp Display Picture (DP) at once.

Pictures by Anu Anniah

We had booked ourselves for a desert safari in the evening. We were absolutely looking forward to it, the highlight being a death-defying ride on the sand dunes.

There is so much more to narrate, and this post has already crossed the 5-minute mark.

So I’ll save the desert safari and other interesting events for the next post. Ok?

What’s a story about Dubai without a photo of a palm tree!

Picture by Anu Anniah

This story is published in Writers on the Run. If you’re interested in submitting your travel stories please visit our submission guidelines.

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