Posted by: travelrat | July 1, 2011

Across the Creek

Dubai: 12th February 2011.

To tell the truth, I wasn’t much looking forward to the tour of Dubai. From what I’d read, there’s really nothing to do here except shop … if you can afford it … and marvel at the scale or opulence of the buildings.

But, the guide was keen to show us that there is another side to Dubai; that there was ‘life before oil’.

So, one of our first stops was at the museum, and here, I just have to paraphrase Bill Bryson:

‘Dubai Museum is outstanding, and I urge you to go there at once!’

It’s situated in the Al Fahidi fort, which is considered the oldest building in the city. It dates from 1799, and was once the seat of government and the residence of the ruler.

It’s not just, however, a display of artefacts. There are some here, as well as a reconstruction of a prehistoric burial site, but the main emphasis is a series of life-sized dioramas, which give an accurate representation of the times when Dubai was a pearling and fishing settlement, and only a minor trading post.

The costumes, furnishings and general way of life are all portrayed here.

Now, when you hear the words ‘city tour’, you get a picture of being bussed from place to place, allowed to marvel at, and photograph each for a short while, and really only hearing what the guide tells you. But, we just took a short ride, to the waterfront at Dubai Creek.

This is a ‘creek’ in the English sense; a narrow inlet of the sea, rather than the small stream suggested to an American or an Australian. The way to cross it is by a traditional water taxi called an ‘abra’, which is just one kind of craft which plies the creek. There’s everything here from luxurious cabin cruisers to traditional dhows, which still carry cargo of all kinds to all ports in the Gulf.

The ‘abra’ seats about ten passengers, sitting back to back on a central bench. I was a little concerned, at first, because there only seemed to be one lifebelt aboard. But, it’s constructed of stout, solid wooden planks … even, in some places, beams … so I would imagine it’s just about unsinkable.


  1. Hi Keith,
    What a fantastic idea to have a Museum in a Fort, it certainly does sound a bit different from the norm and well worth the visit.
    I love the photo of the water taxi, it seems like a unique way to get across the water.

    • They had a similar fort/museum at Fujairah, but the move was still in progress, and it wasn’t open.

  2. Hello. I live in Dubai and there are definitely things to do and visit that doesn’t involve shopping! LOL

    I love this side of Dubai – it’s so different from the “new Dubai” shown in guidebooks and glossy magazines.

    • Hi, Grace!

      I’m so glad to get input from someone who actually lives where I’m writing about.

      I wasn’t expecting great things from Dubai, and I was really pleased to find there is something to appeal beyond the glitz and gloss I’d been led to expect.

      I just wish I’d been able to take a picture of the battered pick-up truck loaded with geep (I couldn’t tell whether they were sheep or goats) weaving its way through all the LandCruisers and Mercs … it summed it up beautifully!

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