Here I am, on a deckchair overlooking the swimming pool. I just did 10 laps and I am now enjoying a café latte and the bestseller I bought at the beginning of the trip. I haven’t had time to read a single page so far, but now is the time.
Maarten left the hotel early this morning to take some pictures of Dubai from the Burj Khalifa. When I mentioned he already has taken hundreds of pictures taken from there, he answered: “You never have enough pictures taken from the highest building in the world. And this time I’m taking my new full-frame Canon EOS 5D,” he added.
“If you ask me,” I answered, “you’re better off by the pool.” That was three hours ago and just as I order my third café latte, I see Maarten arrive. “Great buildings, great architecture, everything is modern and everything is hi-tech,” he says. “I wonder whether we can find something authentic, something original. It would be nice to take some pictures of the authentic Dubai.” “I think I can help you,” I say. “I have a Facebook friend, Saleh Al Geziry, who is a director at the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. If you want some help in your quest for authenticity, he’s the man. I just saw he posted something on Facebook,” I say while I take out my iPad. “I will try to reach him on chat.”
A few minutes later I have an answer. “He wants to know whether we want to meet him at the old spice souk later this afternoon,” I shout to Maarten, who has just dived into the pool. “It’s on Sikkat Al Khail Road. I’ll tell him we’ll be there, okay?”
It is almost four o’clock as we get out of the taxi at the old souk in the eastern part of town. As we enter, we’re welcomed by the powerful fragrance of thousands of spices. We continue along the narrow, meandering alleys, filled with open and closed-roof spice shops.
“I feel as if I’ve been transported back in time,” I say. “Look at all these spices. Cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, cloves, henna…. They’re not just from the Middle Eastern region, they’re from Africa and Asia as well.” “And look at the colours and the sunlight coming through the roof,” Maarten says, observing the spice souk through his camera.
“Our meeting is set at the wind towers on the Deira side of the creek,” I say, while pointing in a random direction. “Let’s see whether we can find Saleh.” We walk along the winding streets and see traders and shoppers haggling with the shopkeepers. “Bargaining gets an entirely new meaning when you watch the professional hagglers in action,” Maarten says, pointing his camera at the scene.
We turn right, then left and right again, and leave the souk after 20 minutes. The sun is blinding and it takes several seconds before I can see clearly again. When my eyesight returns to normal I see Saleh standing in front of me.
“So how was your souk experience?” he asks. “Authentic enough?” “Saleh…” I say, still a bit blinded by his impeccable white kandoora. “It was great, we took some cool pics for the book, the aroma of the spices is tantalising and I even bought some saffron.” “Ha…I’m glad you liked it,” Saleh says. “Let’s have a mint tea in in one of the cafés. Then I’ll take you to the textile souk in Bur Dubai area. I’m sure you will like that as well.”
© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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