Transiting Dubai: Dates and Abayas


Our first visit to Dubai and we want only two things: Dates and Abayas

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…to skip to the Dates section, scroll all the way down peeps.

To be honest, Dubai wasn’t exactly the genre you’d associate Eudaimoniacs Singapore with. It was rather a decision on our part to extend our 5 hour transit to a 2 days 1 night ‘transit’ just to give it a benefit of a doubt. In our minds, Dubai was just another city just like Singapore (but without the desert) where we believed all the best scenes have already been reflected by Hollywood.

Arriving at the immigration, we were mentally prepared to be greeted by rude officers as mentioned by several sources we googled. Much to our surprise, we went past without much hassle with a handsome middle eastern smile to boot. Sometimes we wondered what those people who gave negative reviews were doing to get treated badly.

Navigating Dubai International Airport and into the City

Navigating through Dubai Airport was a simple affair with good signage. It reminded us of Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Unfortunately, we landed at Terminal 2, the only terminal which does not have a direct Metro Link and surprisingly for a well-organized airport, doesn’t offer any shuttle to either Terminal 1 or 3.

After asking around, we bought a NOL card (kinda like their transportation top-up card) from a convenience store outside the immigration clearance and got on a bus which stops about 15 mins away (walking distance) from our hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Al-Muraqabat at Al-Rigga.

Tips:

  1. NOL card costs AED25 and has a credit of AED19. Having a NOL card gives you 10% discount compared to paying cash for all buses and metros provided by RTA (Roads & Transport Authority). Public transport in Dubai is excellent and reliable, very much like Singapore.
  2. Download the Careem app. Taxi and Careem (Middle East version of Uber) are very cheap in comparison with first world countries. You don’t have to haggle as it’s metered.

Best hotel location for all the aunties and uncles out there…

Our hotel was located opposite a major wholesaler selling everything from kitchen appliances, pottery to discounted food items (pretty much like Mustafa Centre in Singapore). Money changers with reasonable rates were very easy to find and the roads and walkways were that of first world countries.

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Tip: Wedding items are plenty here!
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This mall has some of the best money changers with great currency exchange rates and it is just beside our hotel.

What surprised me though was I could barely see any Arabs in my area. They were predominantly Indians, Pakistanis, Filipino, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankans. We were very impressed how these nations could co-exist perfectly in harmony creating a dynamic workforce which became the main catalytic transformation of Dubai from an unknown desert to one of the most sought-after cities on Earth. What impressed me more was that everyone seemed to follow the road rules be it the drivers or pedestrians, whereas at home, their road discipline was a mess.

We spent the evening wandering around the Old Souks (Spice, Textile and Gold) Dubai had to offer near the Dubai Creek. It was vast, loud and exciting, similar to the colourful experiences we had in The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Pricing wise, it was competitive to that of other Middle Eastern countries (which is one of the lowest in the world).

We ended our first day in Dubai with a dinner at an Afghan restaurant where we feasted our hearts out for only AED100 (SGD33 based on 2018 rates). In Singapore, a similar feast would cost us SGD70. We made conversations with Omanis dining beside us and realized that the culture here is truly multi­ racial and that of mutual respect. It was a country where being a foreigner feels like you belong to the ecosystem.

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Day 2

The next day started with exploring the iconic Burj Khalifa. Other than the magnificent structure, everything else was much expected of what you’ll find in a first world city so we didn’t spend too much time there. We wanted to go all the way up to the top of this magnificent building to see the view of Dubai, but we decided to hold our horses and wait for a return, where we will skydive above the Palm Jumeirah.

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Next time, Dubai.
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Burj Park is a perfect leisure attraction in Downtown Dubai, contained on a little island along Burj Lake/Dubai Fountain Lake. Accessible by bridges from the mainland or from Dubai Mall, the park provides unparalleled views of the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain.
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The majestic Burj Khalifa in the background

Dates and Abayas

We were on the hunt for dates for the Ramadhan. We were like vultures hunting for fresh wholesome dates. We were advised to check out the Bateel outlets and the Spice Souk but after looking at the price, nah. The price is marked up three times! We know that there’s ready-packed dates in the supermarkets but we also know that we can get a wholesale price for fresh dates. There are three types of dates we were looking for which are sold expensively in Singapore: Premium Ajwa, Safawi and Mejdool

Dates are native to the Middle East and have been a part of the region’s cuisine for thousands of years. It plays a prominent role during Ramadan where it is given as gifts and eaten at the end of the fast. Dates are also sources of fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium, among others.

Where to buy Dates:

  • Dates souk at Deira Waterfront Market for fresh dates (*Highly Recommended)
  • Supermarkets for ready-packed dates
  • Bateel outlets at: Burjuman Centre, Dubai City Centre, Dubai Marina Mall, Festival City, The Avenues Atlantis, Dubai Mall, Old Town, The Walk JBR, Town Centre Jumeirah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Al Naeem Mall. The dates here are beautifully packed in gift boxes. Perfect to bring home for souvenirs. The price is also ‘beautiful‘.

Deira Waterfront Market is THE place to get fresh dates with wholesale price.

We went to the Deira Waterfront Market next to where a very well organized, air-conditioned version of the traditional old souks became a convenient place for us to get our textiles, dates and other merchandises for the upcoming Ramadhan. The market is divided into parts. Once in the market, look for the directory. Find the DRY FOODS AND SPICES section and look for this humble shop…

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We bought three cartons of dates at wholesale prices, two times cheaper than Bateel or the Spice Souk.
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The shop also sells Saffrons and chocolate dates
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When we arrived at the shop that morning, the Egyptian owner was actually just unboxing cartons of fresh dates which was delivered to him.

Tips:

  1. Deira Waterfront Market is highly recommended as it’s more organized if you already know what you want to buy. Example would be big-sized Ajwa dates going for AED40 per kg compared to AED150 per kg in Singapore or AED100 per kg for normal sized Ajwa in Malaysia.
  2. Other than the Jumeirah area, pretty much the whole of Dubai is relatively cheap.
  3. Go to the Dubai Old Souk (Spice Souk) in Deira for sightseeing experience.
  4. Remember to haggle.

psst……If you’re into smoothies, here’s our favourite recipe to making a Vanilla Date Smoothie. So so yummy!

As for the Abayas, well, the best place to purchase cheap but really gorgeous Abayas is none other than the Naif Souk. 

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There were so many things we have planned to do in Dubai and we are definitely coming back for skydiving and dune bashing. Dubai is definitely a preferred stopover for long haul flights from Singapore to Europe, Middle East or the Americas. It is a place for everyone. A playground for the elite rich but also a convenient home for those on a tight budget.

Till next time, مع السلامة (maʿa s-salamah). Goodbye Dubai!