Monday, July 17, 2006

Beginnings

Beginnings can be fun, or at least interesting, especially when considered from the perspective of nostalgia. Most of us who call ourselves residents of the UAE have a beginning that we can refer to, which represents the start of our lives here.

For some I’m sure, there are things to laugh or smile about, for others perhaps there are things better forgotten. For everyone, there must be at least one thing that can be recalled and looked upon fondly--even if it were 10 or 20 years in the past.

Today’s post is about my beginning in the UAE. There are a few frist impressions that I still recall, which linger in my conscious as pleasant thoughts.

Deira--the Rougher Side of Dubai

I had prepared for my first visit to the UAE as best I could, with the latest edition of the Lonely Planet. It pointed me to a cheap hotel that I could afford for two weeks: the Mirage Hotel, not to be confused with the Royal Mirage.

I had already travelled to quite a few other places. Dubai would be one more exotic location to tick off my list.

The first and most lasting impressions I would have were of Deira--that was in March 2000.

The great thing about Deira was the Creek. Taking the abra made it seem like something out of the past. It was romantic, kind of Venice-like, even for a guy travelling alone. There were also the crowds along Sabkha and Naif Roads. I had never seen so many people in different constumes on the streets. In other places I had lived or travelled some of the women could be seen in exotic dress like the kimono, ao dai or sari, but only in the UAE had I seen men wearing all manner of outfit and head piece.

The Hinterland

Beyond Deira the rest of Dubai seemed distant and sparse. I wondered why the famous City Center shopping mall was so far from the center of the city. As for Jumierah Beach and the Burj Al Arab hotel--are you kidding--these weren't even in Dubai anymore. I remember passing the Hard Rock Cafe on my way to Abu Dhabi. How crazy it was to build a popular restaurant, I thought, way out in the middle of the desert!

I visited Abu Dhabi a few days after my arrival in the UAE. It was with some trepidation as I was trying to line up a job there. The roads were certainly nice and wide, tree-lined, with wide median strips. But all there was, were boulevards. My particular destination didn't take me into the center of the city, so I didn't see much more than that. Abu Dhabi didn't make a very strong impression on me, nor did Al Ain, which I also visited.

Home Away From Dubai

By the time my first trip to the UAE had ended, I was fascinated with Dubai. I would always head for the Creek whenever I visited thereafter and I always stayed at the same cheap hotel. My job search in Abu Dhabi, however, was successful. So home for me in the UAE would be there, not in Dubai.

Six years later I am still enamored of the city by the Creek. But it has changed so much that it is no longer Deira that comes to mind when I think of Dubai. Deira now is neglected and decrepit. For me the new place of intrigue is the Dubai Marina and the zone that surrounds the Hard Rock Cafe. It is now much more city center than hinterland. What a difference six years can make!

I must remind myself, now and again, that the Creek is still there in aging Deira. Even if out of the way, I must go there sometimes to recall the romantic, Venice-like experience I once had.

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1 comment:

blogrosh said...

Yes you are correct - to me Deira and the creek and its connection with Bur Dubai will always be the heart of Dubai. As a child, I remember the abras which commute local population from Deira to Dubai - it's my first recollection of Dubai. I strongly feel the Deira creek is something Dubai should always always value and preserve - it's sort of the place where all trade and commute truly started out .