Monday, June 23, 2008

The Unknown Dubai

Dubai offers all the glitz and glamour that a tourist is looking for. More than anything else, it has come to be known for its shopping festival and every year, thousands of shopping-hungry tourists flock to Dubai. I was there recently and was quite bowled over by what I saw. My wonderment was compounded by it being my first trip abroad. The infrastructure, disciplined traffic (although its currently chaotic due to metro work going on), sprawling malls jam-packed with goods waiting to be picked up, wide eyed tourists roaming everywhere...
No tourist will miss seeing the tallest building in the world being constructed (Burj Dubai), by now already more than 600 mt. high. Almost everyone will go and watch in awe the amazing structure of Burj-al-Arab, labeled as "World's best hotel". Some more enthusiastic ones will go and experience the thrill of riding up and down the crazy slopes of the sand dunes.
If there is a list of 'seven tourist wonders of the world' I am sure the mall that harbours the crazy place called "Ski Dubai" would safely secure a place in the list. Seeing all this, I thought Dubai was a monochrome city. As if it reflects only one colour - that of money. But then I was wrong.
Prakash Kelkar, my friend from college days has been in Dubai for more than a decade now.
It was not surprising that he took me around to see the 'standard Dubai sights and lights'. On the last evening, he said 'let me show you the Dubai that nobody cares too much about'. I was puzzled as to what was in store for me. Surely, he can't take me to a casino or a nightclub ? (As that's what many tourists care about anyway!) So we drove to the waterfront of 'old Dubai' and walked towards the creek. Water taxis were plying people across the creek, agents of luxurious dhows and yachts were trying to rope in customers, but ignoring them we walked right to the end. This is the old port of Dubai, and closing my eyes I could see dhows loaded with goods from India landing, traders shouting orders to deck hands, precious cargo being unloaded and carried to the port office. I thought the old port office has been illuminated rather garishly with too many coloured lights. But it looked pretty nevertheless. Then Prakash led me into a lane which was wide enough only for two people to walk side by side and then up an even narrower staircase. There I was, standing in a Shiva temple !! The narrow lane outside had all the usual shops that you can see outside any temple in India, selling the necessary prayer goodies. I couldn't believe my eyes - I almost expected an old lady in a typical 9-yard Marathi sari to walk up to a shop and haggle with the man there.... "what ? Two dirhams for this garland? You must be mad...." Thats not all, there is even a Krishna temple and a Gurdwara nearby. According to the information I could gather on the net. these are the only Hindu Temples in the entire UAE. Likewise, there is a Shiva temple in Muscat too. Anyone who says that most gulf countries are only occupied by hardcore Muslim fundamentalists should go and take a look at the temples in Dubai please.
Another thing that is a must see in Dubai are the numerous fountains and artificial waterfalls that are omnipresent in all the malls and hotels there. Each one more creative than the other. Just look at the sheer size of this one.....

1 comment:

Sachin said...

A nice travelogue, I always mention that expressing the reflections of any experience is an art. Pushkya you own that art. I would like to add to what you say about your Dubai experience may be its completely my way of looking.
Money can go both ways, money can kill money can create. The choice lies in the hands of the bearer. The similar amount of money was available with different communities but all have not used it the way Dubai or many of the Middle East countries have used it. We criticize Islamic community for their hardcore fundamentalism we hardly appreciate the utilization of the available wealth for the conversion of desert into a green land. Whereas the natural wealth of greenery and ampleness of resources we have are drained down the gutter to make our own life miserable. Let us now open our eyes and reorganize ourselves to relive.