Postcards from Dubai

Colorful coffee pots in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Colorful coffee pots in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

A destination with the chaos of contrast is not nearly as soothing to the brain as, say, going from one neat, tidy, and well-ordered New England village to another, but the jumble is certainly stimulating and the images stick in your mind long after a visit.

Here are a few impressions from my time in Dubai at a government social media conference (yes, plenty of government organizations there use social media – one of the best speakers was the guy who handles social for the local police department.)

Most people think of the region’s upscale hotels like the famous Burj Al Arab, but on my next trip I’d rather stay at the XVA Art Hotel and Gallery in the older Deira section of town – the Al Fahidi, or Bastakiya, neighborhood.

The rooms are arranged around pretty shaded courtyards behind high, thick walls, with traditional architectural elements like this door….

Door to one of the rooms at XVA Art Hotel in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Door to one of the rooms at XVA Art Hotel in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I will say that swank hotels have their place. Somehow I found myself upgraded to an “Opera Suite” at the Sofitel hotel near the Burj Khalifa tower, and I was blinded by the chrome fittings in this cavernous bathroom….

Opera Suite bathroom at Sofitel Downtown Dubai near Burj Khalifa (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Opera Suite bathroom at Sofitel Downtown Dubai near Burj Khalifa. Yes, the bathtub is next to the window. (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Soaring towers and extraordinary buildings are part of the visual scenery in Dubai, including of course the world’s tallest building….

Burj Khalifa in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, as seen from between the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Metro station and the Sofitel Downtown (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

But there are still places to see more traditional architecture, like this wind tower or barjeel in the Al Fahidi historic district….

Wind tower barjeel traditional Arab architecture, Al Fahidi or Bastakiya neighborhood in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Wind tower barjeel traditional Arab architecture, Al Fahidi or Bastakiya neighborhood in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

We’ve all heard about the gargantuan malls in the UAE (United Arab Emirates,) and I spent time in three of them: City Centre Deira, Dubai Mall, and Mall of the Emirates. The fact is, when it is boiling hot outside most of the year, people really like congregating where it is air-conditioned.

Malls in this part of the world are the community gathering spots that they used to be in the U.S. I didn’t do any shopping there, but the people-watching was excellent, especially late at night when everyone comes out to socialize. They’re also very easy to reach on the Metro.

City Centre Mall Deira in the older part of Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

City Centre Mall Deira in the older part of Dubai. All the malls have very diverse crowds and stay open until late at night. (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Eye candy includes watching people play in snow at Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates, or finding a spot away from the selfie-takers to enjoy the giant aquarium at Dubai Mall….

People watching at the giant aquarium in Dubai Mall (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

People watching at the giant aquarium in Dubai Mall (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Mall food court offerings were mind-bogglingly diverse to match the palates and preferences of the many nationalities that live and work in this region. Bombay Chowpatty is next to Tim Horton’s is next to Just Falafel is next to KFC is next to Al Farooj Fresh is next to Pinkberry is next to Fujiyama.

If you miss a food brand from back home, rest assured that you can probably find it here…

Dunkin Donuts at City Centre Deira mall in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Dunkin Donuts at City Centre Deira mall in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

If you dig around in the older Deira section of town, there are shops that are crammed with inexpensive items for the multi-ethnic workforce that makes up most of the population in the UAE.

Sometimes retail item positioning makes no sense, resulting in hookah displays jammed up next to the back to school promotions….

Hookah for back to school? In a Dubai shop (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Hookah for back to school? In a Dubai shop (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

In contrast to the big malls, Souk Madinat Jumeirah (fairly close to Mall of the Emirates but closer to the beach) is a picturesque re-creation of a more traditional souk shopping experience, minus the aggressive hawkers. My local friend Grace who blogs at Sandier Pastures took me there with her family.

It’s part of a luxury resort complex, so the parking garage includes roving car wash vendors who will clean your Maserati while you shop.

Souk Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Souk Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The filtered sunlight through wooden carved archways overhead is a nice change from fluorescent mall lighting….

Overhead wooden carved archways at Souk Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Overhead wooden carved archways at Souk Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

This caught my eye in the airport on my way home; I should have bought two just to make my kids’ Easter baskets more entertaining….

Camel milk chocolate camel by Al Nassma at Dubai airport (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Camel milk chocolate camel by Al Nassma, for sale at the Dubai airport (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

And finally, apparently in the fall there is nowhere in the world where you can escape the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte….

It is everywhere in the fall; Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

It is everywhere in the fall; Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte in Dubai (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

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