Monday, February 04, 2008

Old Dubai today

Something I read over at the blog Liminal Lounge a while ago prompted me to get back to posting about old Dubai.

Not 'old' meaning decades ago that I've talked about in my previous posts, but the 'old' Dubai that exists today.

The LL post said: "Malls are the only place to go. Unlike in the US, where malls are one option for retail — and then only certain kinds of retail — here you go to the mall to do your grocery shopping, go to the movies, go out to eat, hang out, do your banking, go to the gym, get a coffee — it’s all in one place: the mall."

It's something I talk about often. We do have an alternative to malls, for shopping or just for just wandering around. We have real, traditional local shopping districts.

People who don't live here are shown only the new developments and so they think Dubai is nothing but new & opulent. Even many residents are not aware of the older areas because they simply don't go to them.

I enjoy them so much more - I don't like malls in general anyway but the older shopping strips are much more atmospheric, less clinical, more fun - the real Dubai as far as I'm concerned. And you can get just about anything you need, including stuff not available in the malls.

Three particular areas that I like are the old shopping/residential suburb of Satwa, the area in Bur Dubai from Al Faheidi Street down to the Creek and over in Deira the area around Naif Road & the souks on the Creek. There's also Karama but I don't like that area I'm afraid. Plenty of bargains but I think it's a bit of a soul-less concrete jungle.

Satwa is today's subject.

Running from Beach Road, by the giant UAE flag, towards Trade Centre roundabout is Al Diyafah Street, which these days is dominated by restaurants. Plenty of fast-food franchise outlets but there are also individual one-off restaurants.

From the burgers and pizzas to Lebanese, Thai, Chinese, Indian, international, Arabic sweets, ice cream parlours - there really is something to suit everyone's taste.

These days of course a lot of the restaurants have outside dining areas and the outdoor tables all along the footpaths add to the atmosphere, particularly in the evening.

At the end opposite Rydges hotel roundabout there are the two main shopping streets running off to the right.

That's where you'll find traditional strip shopping, a couple of kilometres or so of mainly small shops side-by-side.

You can find an amazing variety of things to buy in Satwa. There are some good nurseries, for example, alongside aquariums, fruit and vegetable shops and a couple of large supermarkets.

You'll find a row of perfume shops, selling the raw basic materials plus all the accessories you need to burn the perfumes to waft the scent through the house.

There's a mini gold souk too, a cluster of nearly thirty gold jewellery shops selling mainly the traditional Arabic and Indian gold designs but also offering a good European selection.

If you need something and you're not sure where to get it - try Satwa. Glass cut, tyres repaired, typing done, plumbing supplies, mobile phones, clothing...

There's also traditional cooking going on all around, and some inexpensive little places to eat it.

One that we like to eat in is back in Al Diyafah Street, called Ruan Thai. A wonderful speciality is the complimentary starter, small dishes of finely chopped lime, ginger, onion, toasted coconut, red chilli and peanuts. Spread some of the sweet chilli sauce on the fresh leaves, add a small amount from each dish, fold the leaf and eat. Delicious.

I'll try not to leave it too long before I talk about the other two areas that I particularly like to visit.


Anonymous said...

carefour, geant & etc stuffs are cheapers and they give attractive offers!

Anonymous said...

Nothing beats Satwa - the only place where I can get a decent haircut at a good price!

CG said...

Here we go again, can't stay away from the 'old' Dubai..hehe

Satwa is still good, but not as good as it once was. I used to go and buy my material and plants there, but now all these 'new-dubaians' go there and the prices have shot up...beyond belief.

I still use the fruit & veg market and shun Spinneys overpriced organic mush from faraway lands.

I buy my samosas from the same old guy in Bur Dubai (near the abra stand) that my father used to go to when I was little (same price too).

I love Meena Bazaar and can spend hours down there, but if I have to go to a mall then I run in and out in seconds. I have actually banned Ibn Battutta and MOE for anyone in my house. They are obscene words and must never be uttered.

Festival City was nice-ish, but it has been exposed to the trillions and is close to becoming an f-word also.

City Centre has to be the filthiest mall I know of, mostly because of the people. It is fresh in my mind since I HAD to go there today. I used half a bottle of dial hand sanitizer once I got in the car.
On my way out I had a quick look in Brantano (or whatever it is called), the shoe shop, and on the aisle in front of the one I was browsing there were 2 shelf-stockers chatting about how many women they had 'pulled' the night before....and discussing the large quantities of Moroccons on the prowl these days. I popped my head up just to let them know I was there. One of them winked at me. Under other circumstances I could have perhaps, just maybe, been flattered. Today was not one of those days.
Today I was reminded of what it has become and left to wonder what I will become in this totally confused city.

liminallounge said...

Can't wait to try the Thai place you mentioned. Will have to find Satwa first. I'm sure I've been there, but didn't know what it was called yet.

And as I've had more chance to explore, I've noticed some of what you've mentioned -- haven't gotten around to posting about it yet, though.

Anonymous said...

does Ruan Thai also serve some Vietnamese dishes. I met a Vietnamese girl at the Nail Spa and she couldn't remember the name of a Thai Restaurant that serves authentic Vietnamese food, she said it was near Pizza Hut, KFC, Chilli's somewhere in the area....I'd love any feedback on my search for this place...Thanks

Seabee said...

Anon@5.01 sadly, Ruan Thai has closed. It's now an Indian restaurant.