A night in Dubai

I’m traveling to South Africa to document the impact of the FIFA World Cup on the local community. Please visit my Kickstarter page for all the details and consider pledging to the project. You’ll get great rewards, a feeling of self-satisfaction AND… you’ll get to see more photos than you will on this blog!
I had a hard time deciding what to do with my 20-hour layover in Dubai. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time and I knew I wasn’t going to see it all in the time I had. Since I wouldn’t get out of the airport until well after dark, I decided to skip the big buildings and other architectural feats, and take in the old town where the ‘locals’ live and work. That would be the international locals, the ones who come from seemingly all over the world to work. I grabbed a camera and my trusty 50mm lens and set out to be the non-touristy tourist. (It’s hard to find any part of Dubai that isn’t touristy, but I tried!)

Abras lined along the waterfront.

An Abra (traditional wooden boat), taxied me across Dubai Creek to the thriving souks. Even though I was out fairly late (10 pm – 3 am) it was coursing with people working, just getting off work, or relaxing with their friends. The sooks, or open-air markets stretch for blocks in every direction. They are nice and localized, so you’ll see store after store selling gold, spices and textiles. I even saw a full block of auto parts stores!  It was a nice contrast from the glitz we see attributed so much to Dubai.

I'm not sure what I was photographing here. It seemed like a good photo at the time.

Another one like that.

Construction still goes on. This guy was looking at me like I was the weirdo!

Gold is big in Dubai. For those who can afford it.

Two shops. Two happy customers.

If the real deal isn't your thing, there are always street side vendors.

When the sun came up, I headed out to Burj Khalifa. You may know it as Burj Dubai. Or, simply the tallest building ever. By a lot. I really wish I had a little more time to get a better photo. I think the best way to get an appreciation of how tall this building is is to step back and see it against the rest of the Dubai skyline. (Maybe next time.) I rarely get to say this, but I showed up WAY to early. The ticket counter to go up to the observation deck doesn’t open until 10a.m. I was there at 7:30.  So I was just left with trying to make interesting photos from the ground.

For roughly the same price, Jerry Jones could have build this instead of Cowboys Stadium.

Dubai is a city of superlatives. Everything, it seems, is the biggest, first, fastest, etc. The Dubai Mall (the largest mall in the world) is part of the Burj Khalifa complex. Inside is an aquariums (world’s largest acrylic panel), gold souk (world’s largest), the world’s largest candy store, and a California Pizza Kitchen. Again, since I was there so early, none of this really matters as it was all closed.
Well, I’ve got a plane to catch. Next stop, Johannesburg. Actually, next stop is lunch. Then, Johannesburg.
I’ve got more cool photos from Dubai that I’ll be posting as an update on my Kickstarter site in the next day or so. What? You can’t see the updates there? That’s because they are only for those people who have made a pledge. You should make a pledge, too. It’s only five bucks and it’ll give you access to more photos (and words) for the next couple of weeks. It’s what the experts call “feature-rich content.”
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82 responses

  1. fxnichol

    As a keen photographer and someone who has travelled to Dubai many times (and also moving there over the summer), I really enjoyed reading your post. I love the photos, they are great! Have fun in SA, a friend of mine has moved there recently and it seems delightful. I hope you like it too.

    June 4, 2010 at 7:34 am

  2. Pingback: A night in Dubai (via Blogography) « Freshly Pressed!

  3. Lulu

    Thanks for sharing the journey! And your photographs are really eye-catching.
    I think I’ll follow you
    Greetings

    June 4, 2010 at 8:24 am

  4. You sure saw a lot for being in Dubai for such a short amount of time!

    June 4, 2010 at 8:41 am

  5. Have fun in South Africa for the World Cup! And great photography, btw.

    June 4, 2010 at 8:45 am

  6. Congratulations on making the freshly pressed pages (:

    I live in Dubai, and my, you have captured it absolutely beautifully. I do love the Gold Souks and the traditional marketplaces more than the malls – and I find it sad when people don’t expect such wonderful cultural places in Dubai. We’re not all about buildings, and as I’ve been living here ever since I was born – I would know how it was before all the money came in (basically one big desert).

    Wonderful photos. Hope you have fun in Joberg!

    June 4, 2010 at 10:13 am

  7. I’ve always wanted to travel there. At any point in time did you not feel “safe?”

    Hopefully one day I’ll have the cash to be able to visit and do some upscale things, but who knows.

    Great pics!

    June 4, 2010 at 10:35 am

  8. A very cool photo journal of your experience – thanks for sharing. This town is awash with money, much of it coming from neighbouring Gulf states who are sitting on windfall revenue from high oil prices. We usually see photos of the giant buildings and the “sailboat island hotel”, so it was refreshing to see photos of how some of the ‘average people’ live. Dubai has been coined the “Vegas of the Middle East” – with everything done over the top and to excess – including the worlds first and largest indoor Ski Resort inside that ‘Worlds Largest Mall’ you mentioned. In light of the poverty and suffering throughout our world, it is disheartening [nauseating, really] to see money spent as an effigy to pride and power. Dubai not only attracts the selfish high-rollers, but also harbors and promotes the underworld. Shades of Babylon….
    – Congrats on making the Freshly Pressed page today – Best wishes for your work and service in Africa!

    June 4, 2010 at 11:01 am

  9. Nice one

    June 4, 2010 at 11:13 am

  10. Good work. Fluent article and nice photos. Thanks.
    Varol from Mississauga, ON

    June 4, 2010 at 11:35 am

  11. Shailendra Saxena"Sir"

    Beautiful…….
    I have no words to say any thing .I want to visit all places.
    Shailendra saxena “Sir”
    Ganj Basoda. India.
    09827249964.

    June 4, 2010 at 11:42 am

  12. Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing. Ive been curious about dubi for a few years now. I dont have the funds for travel but at least I can appreciate it through your blog. 🙂

    June 4, 2010 at 11:58 am

  13. Sash

    Hows the Oily Kingdom doing these days?

    June 4, 2010 at 12:07 pm

  14. Beautiful! Looks like an intriguing place to explore at night. I love the colors.

    June 4, 2010 at 12:11 pm

  15. I’m unsure about what you consider local and local community. In Dubai the immigrants that come to build the city live in some horrible slums, even worse than what you photographed(still probably better than the crapholes they’re from or they wouldn’t be there). The locals as in Emiratis are fairly well, just like the expats who actually have some skills.

    In South Africa things are going downhill and will go downhill from now on too. You can cover Malema’s singing the Kill the Boer song. Or well, you could just cover on how if Europeans acted like South African blacks, we’d be seen as racist oppressive bigots. I’m not even sure why the heck the WC is done there.

    June 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm

  16. sherri

    After living in Dubai for 2 years, watching this tower get built…your second to last image is FINALLY a fresh perspective on the monstrosity of a building. well done.

    June 4, 2010 at 12:34 pm

  17. Dubai architecture is stunning! Much more impressive that sports stadiums 😉

    June 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm

  18. Dubai is an amazing transforming city.
    at least you got to feel part of the energy as you continued on in your travels. .

    June 4, 2010 at 1:39 pm

  19. You’re photography is beautiful. Very crisp, clean, vibrant.
    I’ll be sure to check out your World Cup Photography. I grew up in a house that loved soccer (I’m sorry, “football”) so I’m quite looking forward to this year’s celebrations, even though I’m not an avid sports enthusiast.

    ps. The guy selling gold necklaces needs to take off his hat.

    June 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm

  20. D Williams

    Hey great pics and blog!!! I was in Dubai about 5 weeks ago and I got a chance to visit the sooks/souqs as well. I also got a couple of the same pics too. I hope you enjoyed Dubai’s beauty like I did. I would like to go back and stay a lil longer so I can venture around the old city/historical sites of Dubai more and drive to Abu Dhabi for a couple of days. Thanks for the post and pics!!! Safe travels!!!

    June 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm

  21. alpz2009

    Really so wonderful pics.

    June 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

  22. JC

    Great photos!!

    June 4, 2010 at 3:29 pm

  23. elizabeth

    love your photos

    June 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm

  24. Ah, brings back memories of being there when my ship was in port nearby. The last time I was there, the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall hadn’t been built yet. Wish I could see them. I did get a chance to ride an abra on more than one occasion (your photo looks quite familiar), and shopped in the various souks (gold, silver, and spice, being my favorites). Thank you for taking me back down memory lane. Safe travels.

    June 4, 2010 at 5:02 pm

  25. Caroline

    The second last image of the Burj Khalifa is awesome.

    June 4, 2010 at 5:16 pm

  26. Caroline

    PS. The reason gold is huge in Dubai is because gold is huge in India – it’s sort of a dowry and a savings account – and around 60% of the residents of Dubai are Indian.

    June 4, 2010 at 5:19 pm

  27. Cool night photos, so clean… Might I ask what lens you used and what AF + Shutter/ISO?

    June 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm

  28. Jia

    Hi, your photos are very nice
    I like your post. Take care!

    June 4, 2010 at 9:11 pm

  29. Dubai has a massive wow-factor, hey. I mean — WOW! 😮

    So I found it pretty gut-wrenching to read this

    June 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm

  30. It has been quite some time since feeling the sensation of being moved by a photograph. Your talents are breath taking. I really was able to go inside your photographs. Bravo to you! & Thank you. Simply stunning works of art. Each and every one! Can’t wait for what’s next! I invite you to please view my blog. http://www.memoirsofamastermind.com and also to keep in touch. Stunning. Stay blessed. xo

    June 4, 2010 at 11:28 pm

  31. KTC

    Your second photo of the tallest building (looking up through the railing) is awesome! Great job!

    June 4, 2010 at 11:54 pm

  32. Pingback: A night in Dubai (via Blogography) « Foobymine's Blog

  33. goldenpast

    my dream country to visit!
    Amazing photography!

    June 5, 2010 at 12:53 am

  34. I stumbled upon your blog from the wordpress home page.. And then – just got lost in it! I LOVED the Dubai pictures especially the picture of the tallest building in the world, the caption which said you didn’t know why you took the pictures but they seemed like a good idea then, and terribly simple style of writing.

    Thank you for helping feel nice for 5 minutes. 🙂

    Have an interesting World Cup trip.

    June 5, 2010 at 1:04 am

  35. Abhi

    voww…thats is something I always wanted to do. Grab camera and walk through unexplored streets at mid night ,clicking pics.

    Truly Awesome !! 🙂

    June 5, 2010 at 1:53 am

  36. Hi:
    It’s always great to bring something new…keep up the good work!!!
    Look at mine on:

    http://hellochichaoua.wordpress.com/

    June 5, 2010 at 3:40 am

  37. ikuegaga

    Wow! Amazing pics!!! I wanna go to Dubai sooooooo badly!!

    June 5, 2010 at 5:09 am

  38. Mahfooz Hasan

    Lovely pictures, nicely captured. I used to live in Abu Dhabi (capital of UAE) before we moved to the UK about 9 years ago, and it is staggering how much it has changed over the past years. I hope to go back and visit the country some time soon.
    It’s a shame that behind the glamour and beauty of a country so glorious, there are many dirty things that goes on namely the abuse and injustice suffered by the migrant workers that made the country what it is now. The level of racism is also rather disgraceful. Me and my siblings were not allowed to study in a public school because we were not Arabs, and therefore had to pay to attend a private school run by immigrants. Behind every success there are always an ugly truth.

    June 5, 2010 at 7:02 am

  39. dthanja

    …wow, what a great post! As a sometimes-photographer, your shots are superlative! I look forward to one day seeing Dubai in person. For now, I will be visiting your photos on a regular basis!

    June 5, 2010 at 7:41 am

  40. cool!

    June 5, 2010 at 8:02 am

  41. It IS hard to find a non-touristy place in Dubai, but you did well, great pics!

    June 5, 2010 at 8:07 am

  42. these are breathtaking- thank you for sharing

    June 5, 2010 at 10:24 am

  43. Aida

    Great photographs…

    June 5, 2010 at 11:07 am

  44. Pingback: MISSION TO RAISE AWARENESS OF ROAD SAFETY IN THE NORTHERN CORRIDOR | Ictsn's Blog

  45. 0hgosh

    Ive been 3 times now and everytime I see the biggest building in the world I smile.. Your pictures captured it perfectly! I love it sooo much!

    I took the same type of you have with the wee man walking down the street with his carrier bag 🙂

    a favourite place of dubai that is !

    June 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm

  46. amazing

    June 5, 2010 at 1:35 pm

  47. Joarder

    i am from Dubai. An amazing city to live in. Awesome pictures.

    June 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm

  48. deedeer

    Would love to visit someday.

    June 5, 2010 at 2:02 pm

  49. Armel

    Hey! great pictures! As a resident of Dubai I tend to forget how totally incredible the place is. It’s always nice, and a bit funny to see the views of the outsiders, reminding us of that. I guess the more superlatives you get, the more blase’ you grow of them. Next time you come, I recommend you go out to the desert, sun down or sun up. Great pics to be taken there!!!

    June 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm

  50. WOW! Great work! Keep posting more photos.

    June 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm

  51. shesmyhusband

    Wow!! This looks amazing!

    June 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm

  52. You seem to have seen quite a bit in the limited time you had.

    Burj Khalifa has been captured beautifully. Do you feel like going back to Dubai?

    June 5, 2010 at 7:05 pm

  53. These pictures are amazing. I’ve seen shows on TV about the extravagance in Dubai. These pictures show the culture first-hand. Looking forward to your Johannesburg photos. Peace.

    June 5, 2010 at 8:58 pm

  54. That is the most beautiful mall I’ve ever seen in my life. I love the picture you took at the gold store, and seeing the expression of the cashier’s face in the background. He looks like he has a story to tell. Also, it’s enriching to get snapshots of different cultures, seeing how they’re the same yet different to us in America.

    June 5, 2010 at 9:04 pm

  55. Great photos, really enjoyed ur post. And loved the way you showed the side of Dubai that people don’t usually see.

    June 6, 2010 at 1:21 am

  56. sayitinasong

    Love your photography!!

    June 6, 2010 at 1:25 am

  57. Pingback: A Night in Dubai « theolounge.org

  58. Great fotos ! I linked to your article on http://www.theolounge.org.
    Kind regards, Marc

    June 6, 2010 at 1:36 am

  59. excellent photographs, thanks for sharing.

    June 6, 2010 at 3:44 am

  60. Pingback: A night in Dubai (via Blogography) « Word Creates

  61. Dubai has always intrigued me, and your photos supply a nice look into a Dubai that’s not just a tourist attraction. Nice photos.

    June 6, 2010 at 7:08 am

  62. Amazing photos! Thank you.

    June 6, 2010 at 7:46 am

  63. I like the picture effect in your Blog. Its very creative.

    Regards,
    Soanli

    June 6, 2010 at 10:23 am

  64. I have never visited the middle east or Gulf countries. Most of the TV tavelogues focus on the tourist traps or the launch of some product. Your photos, particularly those taken late at night, gave a flavour of Dubai below the ‘radar’ of westerners.

    I throughly enjoyed your blog entry and wish you well at the World Cup; an event that does not interest me one jot. But there again Scotland isn’t in it!

    June 6, 2010 at 12:08 pm

  65. CC

    I love seeing other people’s pictures from their travels. It always inspires me to go and go often. You take such beautiful shots. Thanks for sharing. :0)

    June 6, 2010 at 1:01 pm

  66. tawhid1982

    Posted by Mahfooz Hasan: “The level of racism is also rather disgraceful. Me and my siblings were not allowed to study in a public school because we were not Arabs, and therefore had to pay to attend a private school run by immigrants. Behind every success there are always an ugly truth”

    Were you and your siblings citizens of the United Arab Emirates?

    If not, that is not racism rather “nationalism” at play. Since you live in the UK now as you said, you may want to inform us what racism is like in the UK and the western world. If you are a Muslim, let us know what “storm” has been brewing in the West against all sorts of Muslim sensitivities.

    The UK joined USA and other western countries to kill millions of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and many more places as late as a few years back.

    If you are a Pakistani, you should “fondly” remember how for centuries UK colonized and made servants out of your forefathers.

    From what I can gather, Dubai has abandoned many Islamic practises unfortunately due to its leaders pro-Western outlook. That is sad and totally unacceptable. At the same time, nobody faces any discrimination for being a Muslim that you face in the Western world.

    June 6, 2010 at 1:16 pm

  67. Excellent work. I like the nighttime images because of its high saturation.

    June 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm

  68. ermadear

    a nice photograph. is it the gold which they sold is 100% gold?? and is it soo dark at night at there?? or just for the light from camera not too clear??
    anyway, very good photo’s. from the view, the quality is great. you have an wonderfull travel…

    June 6, 2010 at 8:01 pm

  69. Christine

    Great shots!

    June 6, 2010 at 9:59 pm

  70. hi

    trust me, i am so jealous with u.
    I dunno why, but i keep thinking about sarah jessica parker and sex and the city 2..lol.

    anyway, i’m planning to go to Hong Kong this december but i’m considering Dubai now..haha

    June 6, 2010 at 11:34 pm

  71. Excellent pics, enjoy the worldcup at South Africa 🙂

    June 7, 2010 at 1:14 am

  72. Interesting post and lovely photos! I too would like to go to Dubai – having had a stop over some years ago! It certainly didn’t look like your photos then!!

    June 7, 2010 at 3:18 am

  73. thank you for sharing! Amazing experience!

    June 7, 2010 at 4:23 am

  74. Thanks, Night in Dubai very interesting, I like it! http://jendelakatatiti.wordpress.com.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:59 am

  75. rajeevelkunchwar

    I visited Dubai recently. But your pespective and therefore pix are totally different. Photo of Burj Khalifa from the grill is really nice.
    Some structures in Dubai are garish, but this is fortuately not.
    People still seem to have doubts if Dubai is Safe. It is indeed. No need to think about it if you are planning to visit.

    June 7, 2010 at 8:09 am

  76. wonian

    Gorgeous pictures – I can’t wait to visit Dubai myself. I’m curious to know, what kind of camera are you using?

    June 10, 2010 at 8:50 am

  77. Mahfooz Hasan

    @tawhid1982 We were born and raised in UAE, and my father’s salary was paid by the government. I think that classifies us as citizens? But on paper we were not citizens because they would not give citizenship to non-Arabs at that time.
    I think you have mistaken into thinking that I suggested that the western countries were better than an Arab country. It is perhaps understandable that the West would would commit such atrocious acts due to many reasons (this was also said by the Prophet), but it is even worse that a “Muslim” country such as the UAE does not even make a statement let alone take actions.
    Since coming to the UK, my father passed away, and the British government has supported our family financially and given us citizenship. My siblings have gotten jobs, and I am on my way to becoming a doctor. Now if that was UAE, they would’ve deported us back to our country of origin even though we were born in the UAE. Yes, we do face many harsh challenges being Muslims in a non-Muslim country. But one can lead a Muslim life, tell people of the country about Islam, do our duties as Muslims and as neighbours, make our voices heard against decisions that are against Islam and humanity. While the UAE over the decade has allowed alcohol, social morality has decreased and injustice towards the migrant population has remained the same.

    June 11, 2010 at 5:33 am

  78. kahve tamper, ıslak mendil makinası, tamper, makina, teksan, teksan makina, teksanmakina.net, özel tasarım makina, özel makina, bot şişirme pompası

    thans for great sharing

    June 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

  79. kahve tamper, ıslak mendil makinası, tamper, makina, teksan, teksan makina, teksanmakina.net, özel tasarım makina, özel makina, bot şişirme pompası, pnömatik ayna, makina üretimi, makina imalatı, ıslak mendi makinası üretimi

    thans for great sharing

    June 24, 2010 at 10:27 am

  80. Hiya Nice Pics Liked Them,
    Next Time On Such A Stopover try The Desert Safari Or Dhow Cruise.
    & Enjoy South Africa

    June 25, 2010 at 4:00 pm

  81. Pingback: Dubai, part Deaux « Blogography

  82. tawhid1982

    @Mahfooz Hassan:

    No, just by being born in the UAE does not qualify you to be a citizen of the UAE. You should check UAE’s legislation regarding this matter. The population of UAE already comprises of more than 80% foreigners which no nonmuslim country in the world allows or will ever tolerate.

    Your beloved UK colonized a quarter of the world, if it grants citizenship so easily like you said, why does not it grant citizenship to the billions of poor citizens of its former colonies?

    Are you saying that you just booked a ticket for the UK and immediately they granted you citizenship? If not, then do elaborate on what procedures you had to undergo in order to obtain that citizenship.

    It is obvious you are trying your utmost to “justify” your choice of nonmuslim UK over the UAE which is why you wrote:

    “Yes, we do face many harsh challenges being Muslims in a non-Muslim country. But one can lead a Muslim life, tell people of the country about Islam, do our duties as Muslims and as neighbours, make our voices heard against decisions that are against Islam and humanity. While the UAE over the decade has allowed alcohol, social morality has decreased and injustice towards the migrant population has remained the same.”

    If you can lead a “Muslim life” in nonmuslim UK then you can lead it much better in the UAE. Tell us how the UAE prevents you from leading a nonmuslim life. While the UAE has allowed alcohol, it’s western nonmuslims like UK which clamours over the lack of alcohol in muslim countries. You should know what level of alcoholism is seen in the UK. You should also know what level of unIslamic and anti-Islamic activities go on in the nonmuslim European countries.

    If you suffer from inferiority complex with respect to nonmuslim Europeans, it is just right that the UAE did not grant you citizenship and it’s perfect for everyone involved that you left the UAE.

    It’s a big mistake by the UAE to allow such ingrates to even live and grow up on its soil. UAE should conduct screening tests to only allow those Muslims who are devoted to the Muslim world first and foremost rather than backstabbers who are dedicated to trivializing the anti-Islamic nature of nonmuslim countries like UK while magnifying the mistakes made by UAE in allowing un-Islamic activities which are demanded by nonmuslims.

    January 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm

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