We drove to Dubai from Ras Al Khaimah and picked up the guide and the people from Dubai by about 10.40 outside the Hyatt Hotel. They had been brought there in a mini bus to join us. Unfortunately at the end of the trip our large bus was going to have to go around dropping them the end we had a very short hour at the Dubai Mall and we lost our booking for the Burj Khalifa and our friend had to get back home before we got there.
Our first stop on the city tour was the Gold Souk in Dubai which is not really that exciting unless you want to buy some jewellery. In reality it is an area of shops all selling jewellery and we had 20 minutes here. We had a very quick look but spent most of the time trying to rearrange our meeting with our friend as the guide had said we would get to the Dubai Mall by 2 o’ clock. One shop in the souk had a huge gold ring that is in the Guinness book of records as it weighs something like 80kg.
From the Gold Souk we walked to the Spice Souk which was much more interesting and affordable. The shop owners were so friendly inviting you in to try stuff and we ended up buying just a couple of items at reasonable prices but there really was no pressure to buy and no nasty looks when you didn’t buy which made it pleasant to look. We had 10 minutes here.
We then took a water taxi called an ‘abra ‘ across Dubai Creek which was a highlight of the trip as we sat on small wooden boats and chugged up the creek looking at the other boats and dhows on the river. The crossing took about 10 minutes at the most but it was good fun and gave us a chance to see Dubai from a different view point. I am not sure how much the river taxi was but I suspect it was pretty cheap as it wasn’t a long ride but this was included in the price of the tour.
We then walked through the textile souk at speed unable to stop at all and made our way to the Dubai Museum. The entrance fee was AED 3 which is 50p which was included in our tour price. The museum was originally a fort and was a baked mud looking building. The exhibits were well set out and the labels clearly explained in English and Arabic what the exhibit showed.
In the courtyard there was a traditional house made of mud bricks and palm matting. Inside was a very clever fan system made of sacking under a tall chimney which was open at the top but shaded with a cover above the opening. Somehow the air was drawn down the chimney and come through the sacking. If it was very hot and dry then they would wet the sacking and this made the area cool. Other exhibits in this outside area were different wooden boats. As Dubai was originally a fishing village their history is very much based on the sea and boats.
Inside the museum which was down underground so quite cool and actually rather too dark in my view, The first exhibit was a slide show taking you through Dubai from the 1800s to today. Dubai really has a very recent history because oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in the 1950s and then in Dubai in the late 50s or even early 60s and prior to that the place was still a very small fishing town. Dubai as it is seen toady has grown since the 1960s with most of the growth and huge building bonanza taking place in the last 25 years really.
The museum has real life figures in exhibits showing traditional crafts, dress, and the way of life of the Arab people before the vast changes. It was well presented and interesting but in my view would have been better with a little more light as it was really hard to see where you were going and people were bumping in to each other.
The toilets were okay but there were only three ladies cubicles and as they are catering for large numbers of visitors at times I do feel that this was a trifle inadequate and so the 20 minutes we had in the museum was actually half an hour and most people spent at least 5 minutes of that queuing in the toilet,
Once we had gathered everyone together we made our way back to the bus and drove to Jumeirah Beach Road and drove past the mosque too quickly to get any photo at all and then on past the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, and the Burj al Arab to the Souk Medinat from where you can take a lovely photo of the Burj al Arab. This souk is a modern recreation of a traditional souk. It has been nicely done and has some interesting shops but things are that bit more expensive here as it is next to the most expensive hotels in Dubai. We had 20 minutes here and our guide suggested we had a cup of coffee but we would have had to be very speedy so we grabbed a couple of ice cream cones instead. It was now about 1.30 and we were beginning to realize that we were not going to be at the Dubai Mall as promised for 2pm as our guide had said but rather nearer 3pm so we had to phone our friend to change arrangements yet again. My mobile phone bill will be interesting this month!
Back on the bus we were finally given our very small bottles of water and we made our way to the Palm resort and the famous Atlantis hotel. We drove up the palm frond centre and then under the sea through a tunnel onto the crescent island where the Atlantis hotel sits looking out over the Indian Ocean.
The Atlantis hotel is enormous and has over 1000 rooms. It is an amazing looking place in a dull pink hue. We were only able to ogle from outside so I have no idea what treasures lay behind the pink walls. So back on the bus and we were on our way to the Dubai Mall. By this time our friend had given up on us and gone home and we had lost our booked tickets for the Burj Khalifa. We actually arrived at the mall at about 3pm but we only had an hour there. We just managed to get in the queue to book more tickets for the day we are back in Dubai after our cruise and then grab a bite to eat before our hour was up and we were back on the bus again.
We then drove back to Jumeirah to drop the people who were staying in Dubai at their hotels and as the traffic was really busy we had a good look at Dubai getting busier in the evening. We finally arrived back at our hotel at 7.10 so we had spent over three hours at the end of the trip on the bus instead of enjoying time in the Dubai mall looking around which is what we thought we would be doing.
Would I recommend the tour? Well if you are staying out in Ras Al Khaimah and you want to see something of the city then you don’t have a lot of options really so yes you do get a very quick look at Dubai for a reasonable price. You have to be prepared for spending a lot of time sitting wasted on the coach and there is also a fair bit of walking which I heard some of the more elderly folk complaining about. I suppose you can’t please everybody as we enjoyed the walking and could have spent longer in the souks. However we did get to see a lot of the city very briefly and we have a good idea of where things are. We know what we want to do when we come back at the end of the cruise and have booked our tickets ready for the Burj Khalifa and also afternoon tea at the Burj al Arab and I think we might just use taxis for getting there!