Monday, January 4, 2010

FIRST DAY IN DUBAI, Nov. 20th, 2009


The "Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers" was lovely. It had several restaurants. The breakfast buffet was in the main restaurant and we chose to eat outside overlooking Dubai Creek. Although it was good, it didn’t have the selection or the ambience that our African lodges had. I missed having the separate bars for juices, breads, cheese, and pastries. Oh well! I needed to lose the six pounds that I gained anyhow.

After breakfast we met our tour guide, Tony. He was nothing like our African guide, Tony. He was not the most social man I had ever met. In fact, his personality left a lot to be desired. My heart longed to see Tony, Muli, Samson, and Joseph. I will never forget those guys. We had so much fun with them.

The first place our friendly guide took us to was the "Diera Gold Souk." We crossed Dubai Creek in a dhow to get to the most happening Gold Souk (market) in Dubai. A dhow is a small boat that people sit on each side facing the water. There were many dhows on the water that day with people going back and forth to the souk. The Souks are open-air markets common in the Arabic world. It is unlikely to find any such place in Europe or the Americas. Diera Gold Souk offers a wide variety of jewelry items, emeralds, rubies, rings, bracelets, anklets and much more. Many of the modern malls in Dubai also have lots of gold jewelry. By some estimates, approximately 10 tons of gold is present at any given time in the souk. It is one of the largest retail markets for gold in the world. There were more than 700 shops, crammed with all types of jewelry, from Western to traditional Indian. It is also cheaper to buy gold at the souks than anywhere else. The taxes are less or none at all.
Located in Deir adjacent to "The Dubai Gold Souk" is the "The Spice Souk." The Spice Souk, have several narrow lanes which are lined with open and closed-roof stores. Stores in the Spice Souk sell a variety of fragrances and spices from frankincense to many herbs used in Arabic and South Asian food. In addition, several textitles, incense, rugs and artefacts are also sold in the Spice Souk A majority of the trading occurs through haggling. The quantity of trade as well as the number of stores trading spices in the Spice Souk have been significantly reduced in recent years due to the growth of larger stores and supermarkets. Our guid told us that the Iranians owned and ran the Spice Souk in Dubai. We did not spend much time there because no one in our group was interested in buying any gold.
Next we went to see the Burg Dubai, the worlds tallest building. It is 160 stories high at 2,685 feet, (800 meters). “Burg” is the Arabic word meaning tower. On January 4th the world's tallest building had its unveiling so we did not get to see the inside, but the outside and the surrounding grounds were very, very impressive.
We also visited “The Grand Mosque”, which is considered one of the largest in Dubai. It has the capacity to accommodate 1200 worshipers. Of course, we were not allowed to enter, but we were allowed to take photos of the building. The Grand Mosque is also known as Al-Jumeriah Mosque and is the most attractive mosque in Dubai. It is also the most photographed mosque. There seemed to be a Mosque on every corner!
Our guide said that Dubai had Christian churches, and Buddhist temples, but no Synagogues. I really didn’t stop to think about that. I was to busy looking for the Christian churches and Buddhist temples, but I didn’t see any of them anywhere in Dubai. My friend, Betsy asked our guide why they had no Synagogues. He seemed annoyed at the question and said “Jews are allowed into Dubai.” Then my friend made him more upset by asking, “Is it because Jews don’t want to come here or just because they are not allowed?” Seeming more annoyed he said that it was a very difficult subject to talk about, and he would not discuss it. I can’t imagine why an Israeli Jew would want to go there in the first place. But I couldn’t help wonder if American Jews were also not allowed to enter Dubai, and if they did how they would know if they were Jewish. Our guide was so annoyed with my friend’s question that I didn’t dare ask anymore. I probably wouldn’t have gone to Dubai if I knew they did not allow Jews to enter their country. It is ironic, indeed, that Dubai is such a modern city but maintains such an ancient prejudice. It is sad, indeed. MOORE TO FOLLOW...

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