Changing tides in Dubai
The designers of the Burj Khalifa had to factor in something called the ‘chimney effect’ – the movement of air that results from temperature differences at the top and bottom of very tall towers. However, Dubai’s builders have a much longer history of designing buildings adapted to the climate, as a stroll in the Bastakia Quarter shows.
The area has become something of a hub for arty guesthouses, cultural centres and eateries – the XVA gallery, hotel and café is a stand-out.
The narrow lanes offer shade and a vision of the days before oil and globalisation. In a city where Emiratis make up less than 10 per cent of the population, heritage areas like this count for a lot.
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, a not-for-profit group, offers tours of the Bastakia Quarter (from £6).
As Dubai spreads to the southwest, ever closer to its fellow emirate Abu Dhabi, it moves further from its old centre of gravity and original raison d’être – Dubai Creek, called Khor Dubai in Arabic.
The days of pearl divers and Bedouin camps are long gone, but the nine-mile-long inlet that gave Dubai its low-key start still offers a daily spectacle, not least thanks to its fleet of abras. These jaunty wooden motorboats still ferry local workers and curious visitors between the Deira and Bur Dubai sides of the creek, even now that road bridges and Metro lines span the waterway.
The water taxis take up to 20 passengers, leaving when full, on two routes that go from Bur Dubai to stops near the Spice Souq and the less romantically monikered Electronics Souq.
A standard abra fare is 20p, which you pay to the driver halfway across the creek. Chartering your own abra costs £17 per hour.