Sunday, September 01, 2013

In Deira, Dubai: Spice - Herbs Souk, Utensils Souk, Grand Bazaar and the first Dubai Municipal Council

The title of this entry is quite long, and you might ask – where shall I begin?

After my quick visit to the Gold Souk, I asked for directions to the Spice Souk, which is called the ‘Herbs Market’ here in Dubai. It’s located a few hundred metres from the Gold Souk but with the roasting weather, the mere 300 metres walk was already gruelling for me. I do not think I am the prima donna type. I may be picky with certain stuff but when things needs to get done, I get my hands dirty. However, I must admit that it was quite agonising to walk the 300 metres with 45C+ sun and weather clawing at my whole body and hoping that the Arabic guy I spoke to earlier gave me the correct direction. I guess it takes time getting used to this kind of weather, huh?

Spice Souk (Herbs Market) and the Utensils Market

The market sellers here are more assertive than their brothers at the Gold Souk. I love though the narrow alleyways, and how the spices and herbs and other raw materials they were selling were all laid out in sacks, on the floor and along the side streets. It is very old-style, transporting me back to the market scene in the past.

I was not sure what to buy so I just walked around surveying what they have on stash. At the end of the small lane that I entered, which is jam packed with stalls huddled after each other and overflowing with inventory stocks in plastic sacks, I struck a conversation with one of the herb sellers. I forgot his name but he said he came from Pakistan. I bought from him frankincense (which I will try burning tonight!) and some dried lemons (for cooking). I also almost bought saffron but decided otherwise last minute.

Dubai Municipal Council Museum

Hidden between the Herbs Market and Utensils Market is the first ever Dubai Municipal Council (or city hall as we commonly know), responsible for urban planning and the maintenance of public facilities. It is now a museum. As you might know, the area Deira, together with Bur Dubai are the oldest part of the city. This is the heart and soul of old Dubai.

Now in this City Hall is where all the development of Dubai began. The signing of the contract to develop Dubai’s infrastructure took place in this little room. I even watched a short film about the first assembly and contract signing. Dubai Municipality was established in 1954 by Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai (the father).

The above picture is the same conference room where the agreement was made and contracts have been signed for the expansion of Dubai. In 1954, it started with 6 employees, while in 2002 the total number of departments reached 20, with more than 10,865 employees and workers. (source: from the museum)

Dubai has indeed gone a long way. It used to be just a fishing village, didn't you know? It took a visionary leader to bring the city (and country) to where it is now.

Because the City Hall Museum is located on the first floor (second floor for all you non-Europeans), I got a bit of a vantage point and was able to winess the goings-on of the market place below me. I managed to snapped a few interesting shots.

The caretaker told me that I should take a picture of the wind tower (see picture above at my back), the earliest form of natural air conditioning developed by the Egyptians. I have seen them before in Morocco when I went to Ouarzazate and Ait Ben Haddou.

I don't think I stood outside in the balcony for 5 minutes and this is what I already look like... steamy, sweaty face, haha! Okay, a few more pictures of the traffic below and Bur Dubai across the river (called Dubai Creek) before I am done with this little museum.

The little museum is free to enter, although as a form of goodwill, I gave a few Dirhams to the caretaker. He invited me to come up in the first place. Shukran!

Dubai Grand Bazaar

Happy with my purchase and my visit to the Dubai City Hall Museum, I further went around the market looking for other stuff that I may buy. This is what I like about visiting local markets in another country, you do not know what to expect and what you will end up buying. I remember when Blondine and I were in Marrakech, I bought a silver tea pot, a leather bag and amber. Blondine bought the same except that she opted for a tajine in place for a tea pot.

Nevertheless, I ended up in the Grand Bazaar just beside the Herbs and Utensils Market. They sell anything here. I really wanted to buy a camel stuffed toy for my smart aleck nephew but the touts here were more assertive than ever so I changed my mind. I just wandered around and took pictures instead.

Waterpipes... I tried them when I was in Wadi Musa, Jordan (they call them there Hubbly Bubbly) and they are not really my type although I would not mind trying them again.

I’ve had a very fulfilling morning at the souks here in Deira so I think it’s time to cross over the Dubai Creek to Bur Dubai historical district and see what’s in store there for me. But first, I need to find where the traditional wooden boats are anchored. Uh, not really looking forward to walking on the oven streets. I know its nearby, just across, but... *sigh*

Travel Period: July 2013
Destination: Deira – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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