Deira is a suburb of Dubai which is located near the International Airport, in the U.A.E. Historically, Deira has been the commercial center of Dubai, but has been losing its dominance on account of the rapid development seen further along the coast towards Abu Dhabi. However, Deira has witnessed increased development of its own since its early days with underground metro tracks, shopping malls and modern buildings being constructed along Dubai Creek.
Port Saeed is a small port along Deira's shore of Dubai Creek and is popular with the Dhow; the traditional small trading vessel that calls at ports around the Arabian coast and the Arabian Sea. Dubai Creek, incidentally, was where Michael Palin caught a dhow to India as part of his Around the World in 80 Days trip. I had hoped to do the same, but would learn it is now illegal in the world of modern terrorism and people movement etc. Regardless, the dhow trade with the rest of Arabia is still alive and well. You can see this for yourself as you wander the Dubai Creek dockside, where dozens of dhows unload and pack themselves for their respective journeys. It’s like stepping back in time as the scene hasn’t changed much I’m sure.
While wandering the docks, photographing the picturesque scenes, I was lucky to make friends with a crew of curious Iranian dhowman, even helping them load, albeit briefly. I visited them several times over the coming days, even enjoying their hospitality aboard for tea and biscuits where simple, but memorable, conversations were had. The setting was quaint and their means simple, but they were generous and amazingly friendly. An intrepid experience I won’t soon forget. It seems nothing I’d heard about Iranians seems to be true, except for the fact they think “George Bush bad”, which, when I agreed, made me even more popular. I would meet them again in the future, but next time in their country when I visited Iran; wanting to see for myself what the “axis of evil” looked like. If these Iranian seamen are anything to go by, it would be a trip of a lifetime.
The local immigrant workers and dhow crews are so friendly it’s difficult not to strike up conversations and make friends with them. I would start more conversations with a crew from India; there next voyage would be to Somalia with a load of cargo. The dhow could be in port as long as 20 days, as they unloaded then loaded again, all by hand. They seemed in no real hurry to hit the high seas again.
Deira is well known for its Spice and Gold Souq (market); I wasn’t in the market but it was interesting to explore. The sights, colours, craftsmanship, goods and aroma of the spices were ‘otherworldly’. The next day I spent with Gemma (my sister’s friend I’d met in Abu Dhabi), where we would visit Heritage House on the southern shore of Dubai Creek. It’s an interesting place to visit, complete with a traditional Bedouin (desert nomads) house, sail boat, Arabic architecture, and coffee museum. There are a number of cultural attractions close by.
Dubai started out as a small trading and fishing village, and somehow the original Deria Fish Market survives today. From early in the morning the market is a hive or activity as fisherman land their mornings catch of fish, gut and sell to their customers. It maybe smelly with the loud clatter and yells of the sellers, but this all combines to give a chaotic and tremendously lively feel about the market. Make sure you get yourself down there with camera drawn! You may even meet some curious local fisherman, like I did, who will invite you to lunch with them! And what was on the menu you ask?? Some of their unsold fish from the day’s catch of course – dig in!