Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A walk in Dubai

Determined as I am to enjoy the mild winter sunshine in Dubai, I decide to head for (possibly) the only places one can walk in this city: the souqs.

Dubai is designed for driving, with no sidewalks and few pedestrian crossings. I’ve insisted on walking before and found myself sinking knee deep into the desert sand while cars swoosh past dangerously.

No, today I will head for a souq area where there are indeed some sidewalks and markets to stroll through. Since I find cheap electronics and fake designer handbags somewhat uninspiring by now, I figure that it is time for me to visit the spice souq.

I get out of the taxi next to the creek where traditional dhows float lazily, but the otherworldly aromas quickly steal me away from the sight.

One whiff of a dried lime and I am all eyes and nose and ears.

“Taste this, its dried figs from Iran. And these are the best dates in the region. Good, aren’t they? Oh, you have to have some of these cashews too…”

The shopkeepers are so enthusiastic about their produce and my senses fill up with bags of tiny dried lavender, rose and chamomile flowers, giant slabs of frankincense from Oman, saffron from Iran and just about any spice I can think of.

“That’s too expensive. I live here, if you give me a good price I will come back” I say when one shopkeeper tries to cheat me out of cash.

“In that case I will give it to you for a kiss,” he dares me, quite seriously too.

I stuff the money I was willing to pay into his hand with an equally serious ‘no’ and he nods in acceptance. As I walk away I suddenly become aware of the fact that I am a woman alone amidst curious stares.

If I keep lagging behind the groups of tourists I should be fine. I make it past two museums, linger through the gold and perfume souqs and then head back to the creek where I catch a taxi at dusk.

Ah, I am thrilled with the cinnamon, coffee, cashmere and sapphires I touched, tasted and eyed today. What’s more, I went for a walk in Dubai (yes, really) all by myself and it was great.

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