Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dubai Diary III

Did I say Dubai shopping was done??? I did say I was saving the best for the last - the most valuable thing that can be bought in Dubai is, of course - wait for it - gold!! An endless stream of 70s Bollywood films have depicted smugglers bringing in 'Dubai ka sona' - and though the situation has changed somewhat, gold still remains the number one purchase of most Indians traveling to Dubai! An entire marketplace is dedicated to this glittering metal - the Gold Souk located in the historic, ancient Deira region of Dubai. The Gold Souk is not a mall, but rather a market with a vast number of shops selling gold jewellery. The jewellery is typically in the Arabic fashion, although there are quite a few stores that sell Indian designs. 18 karat gold is usually used for the ornaments - for pure gold, look for the 24 karat gold bars! The sheer amount of gold on display is good reason to make the trip to the Gold Souk!! The pictures speak volumes - all that glitters, is most assuredly gold here in Dubai!

If it is diamonds rather than gold that makes your heart beat a little faster, head to the Gold and Diamond Park, conveniently located on Sheik Zayed Road. Certainly more upscale than the Gold Souk, but with probably just as many stores specializing in diamonds and other precious stones. What a mind-boggling variety of jewellery to choose from! Workshops for all the jewellers are located right in the premises, so sizing for rings or anything else is not a problem - customer service at its best!! I didn't think that the price of diamonds was any lower than anywhere else, but the lower price of gold might just drop the price of the jewellery. Besides, this was the best selection of designs in diamond I have ever seen - impossible to resist! Of course, just like in the Gold Souk, it is customary to bargain - and while there won't be any dramatic discounts, a good deal will be found by those who seek!

Atlantis the Palm
As I previously mentioned in Dubai Diary I, we spent 3 days of our vacation at the Atlantis. Besides being the only hotel/resort on the Palm Jumeirah, the Atlantis is a famous tourist destination and landmark in its own right! The Aquaventure Waterpark is probably the biggest in Dubai, and is definitely worth spending a day here enjoying the adrenalin rush of the thrilling rides, or just meander lazily along the River that winds its way across the park.

The highlight of our stay - hands down - was the visit to to Dolphin Bay! Talk of once-in-lifetime opportunities - getting a chance to swim with dolphins ranks way up there for me! With a group of 6 other people, Manasi and I, suitably wet-suited, spent about half hour in the lagoon with a very well-trained dolphin! Fascinating creatures these - ours had a scarred back, souvenirs from a shark attack and a boat propeller, before he was rescued! And I got to kiss the dolphin too - nothing like the doggy and kitty kisses I'm used to - this was, well, like kissing a fish - cold and clammy! Yes, I know, dolphins are not fish - but still! The jury is still out on whether the whole experience was worth the exorbitant charge we paid - but hey, dolphins, is that amazing or what??!!

The one thing we whole-heartedly enjoyed in Dubai was the food! Rajasthani food at Maanwar, chikoo milkshakes at Haji-Ali, sev-puri at Bikanerwala - I could go on forever! The best, in my opinion, was this Arabian restaurant, Arabiska - on the Dubai Marina, outdoor seating, great food and atmosphere! Perfect way to spend an afternoon! Interestingly, none of the restaurants in Dubai serve alcohol - unless they are part of a residential hotel. Good thing, too - considering the zero-tolerance policy on drinking and driving!! The bar scene is pretty active, though - take a cab, or assign someone to be the designated driver!And of course, no drinking in public places!

 What really elevated this vacation for us was the company of great friends - and not just any friends! SB is probably Ajey's first ever friend - they've known each other since before kindergarten! As SB so appropriately said - "I don't remember a time when I didn't know Ajey!"!! How many of us have that - that easy familiarity, the amazing comfort level, the years of shared memories??!! And what incredible hosts SB and his wife PB were - they were with us almost every evening, spending as much time as possible with us, driving us places, taking us out to eat! Truly, the best times in Dubai were the ones we spent together, just chilling at their place, Manasi and A playing together, Ajey and SB cooking breakfast while the ladies enjoyed a cup of tea!! So if you're reading this, SB and PB, start planning your China trip - can't wait to see you again!

The best mirror is an old friend...

So that's it then, our time in Dubai is up! As with most places, I felt we barely scratched the surface - and I left with a 'for-next-time' list longer than my arm!! And as if Dubai weren't enough, there's Abu Dhabi and Sharjah barely an hour's drive away - both with their own unique attractions! I will say this, though - Dubai is an extremely easy place for a vacation! The usual impediments of language and food don't exist here, the public transport is good, and there's plenty of ways to spend your time (and money)!! One thing to keep in mind - behind the very Western facade and cosmopolitan air, beats a heart of strong Middle Eastern sensibilities!! So what are you waiting for - go ahead, book your tickets - the ever glittering Dubai awaits you!

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