Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Dubai Part 1: The Old Town and Old Boats

We have broken the long haul back to England with a three-night stopover in Dubai (a mere 13 hours' flying time from Brisbane, which is about 11 hours too long, according to Graham). If we're honest, it's not a location that would have naturally appealed to us but we are very fortunate that Lucy and Anthony, who live here, were generous enough to welcome us to stay. Graham grew up with Lucy during summer and Easter holidays in Galloway, south-west Scotland, but, since we haven't seen them for nearly 20 years, we were stretching the rather tenuous 'old friends' link rather. However they have been wonderfully welcoming, have shown us some of the sights of the city and even managed to get an extended invitation for us to join them at a house party on the super-smart Palm artificial island.

In the 14 or so years that they have been here, Dubai has changed beyond all recognition with huge clusters of sky-scrapers, including the world's tallest building, built on what was desert when they first arrived. However, some of the old town near The Creek still remains so Anthony took us to see it (in temperatures of about 36 degrees!) on Friday and it was truly fascinating. A few photos follow:

Dianne with Lucy and Anthony on the promenade walkway at the Family Beach....

... which has some unusual rules for those used to Australian beaches

The Creek, with a sea-going cargo dhow
Many of the buildings on this side of the Creek are relatively new, but built along traditional lines. Not something that can be said for most of Dubai's architecture

Some of the big fleet of abra boats - heavily-built wooden ferries which take locals and tourists across the Creek for the sum of 1 dirham (about 20p). The close-quarters boat handling is very entertaining!
The surprisingly large fleet of wooden dhows unloading at the quay carry about 1.7 million tonnes of cargo every year, linking the city to ports in Iran, Iraq, Oman, India, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. Mostly built of heavy teak planks, the larger boats can weigh up to 500 tonnes and all are loaded by hand; the cargoes we saw included refrigerators, air conditioners, truck tyres and even jet-skis but the boats themselves look as though they haven't changed in centuries, apart from the diesel engines which have replaced the traditional lateen sailing rigs.

air conditioning units unloaded

truck tyres and unidentified sacks

Detail of the superstructure. The toilet is just a seat at the very aft end of the top deck!
A short walk from the quay took us to the Spice and Gold Souks - rabbit-warren streets lined with tiny shops whose traders all wanted to persuade us to come inside for their 'best prices'. Meanwhile on the streets there were more men showing us their 'Rolex' and other fake-brand watches.

The smell in the Spice Souk was wonderful
Crossing the Creek in an abra we walked up to the house that once belonged to Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al-Maktoum, who was the leader of Dubai until his death in 1958. The courtyard building was constructed in 1896 and is dominated by four 'barjeels' - wind-towers that directed the cooling sea breezes through the house long before electric air-conditioners, without which Dubai city could not now survive. It's now a museum, containing some wonderful photographs from the mid 1900's when Dubai city was no more than a tiny port town of traditional buildings constructed of stone and date-palm wood.

Entrance to one of the wings, with the wind-tower above
Up on the roof

We drove back along the beach-front as Anthony was keen for us to see the racing dhows that had just returned from the first days of a two-day regatta. These beautiful boats are 22ft, 43ft and 60ft long, with two masts and professional crews; it's a fiercely-contested sport of the very wealthy and is open only to locals. We passed a boatyard where one of the 60ft monsters was being rigged:

Here's a link to a photo of one of these amazing boats under sail: http://www.adsyc.ae/en/pic_gallery.php?aid=113#prettyPhoto[gallery1]/21/

So this was a great day to introduce us to 'old' Dubai as a primer for our explorations the following day into the new parts of town. Photos of that to follow soon!

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