Is this a river or a canal? In the days of yore, it used to be called the Zara River and it went upto Al Ain. Nowadays it’s a salt water creek and part of the new Dubai Canal which joins the Persian Gulf. In the olden days, Dhows (traditional sailing vessels) used to carry cargo and items of trade through this creek. They were also of course used for fishing.
It divides the city into two areas – Bur Dubai and Deira. It’s fun to take the ferry or Abra across the creek. It connects the water stations of Al Shindagha and Al Sabhka. Approx 14 kms in length, this creek vends it way to end at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife sanctuary – a wetland that attracts many migratory birds. Birds that go there are the flamingos, Caspian tern, Cormorant, Osprey, Spotted Eagle and others.
If you take an Abra or a Dhow ride along the canal, you can do many a touristy thing. Visit the Dubai Museum inside the Al Fahidi Fort or gambol with some dolphins at the Dolphinarium which also offers some live shows. Take a selfie and post it in your social media! You can traverse some part of the creek park suspended some metres above in a cable car.
Late in the evening, when the sun is down, you can walk along the wharf. Chat with the friendly fishermen and sailors around there. You can shop for spices (very aromatic) or some gold – depends on how deep your pocket is!! The creek side also plays host to live shows, music bands and firework displays through the year.
Coming back to the creek, in the evenings it teems with people. With many restaurants around, it’s a good place to socialize. You can listen to good foot tapping Arabic music, eat good local food and puff away on a hookah aka shisha. Green apple and Vanilla are hot favorites. As you walk along, these flavours will assail your senses.
You must try the gelato made from camel milk at the Arabic shop near the Deira Abra station. Mint tea or Suleiman chai, shawarma (a roti like roll stuffed with fries, onion, chicken or beef with a garlic sauce), hummus (chick pea paste) with Khubus (a flatbread), Zaátar on bread, tahini (sesame paste), Falafels (bit like the Indian masala vada). Wash it all down with Labaneh (a thin yogurt). For you dessert lovers try Kanafeh (cheese pastry soaked in sugar syrup), Baklava (filo layers stuffed with nuts and honey), Basbousa (a semolina cake) etc.
Used to be a favourite hang out for me and my cousins whenever I visited – we used to wander along the wharf and then duck into one of the many restaurants there. Order some food, drink some juice or labaneh, listen to lilting Arabic music, breathe in the air (be it green apple of vanilla) and the listen to the sounds of people enjoying the ambience. What better way to spend an evening albeit in a balmy kinda way! You can end your evening with an abra ride under the moonlit Arabic skies!
Mavis Mendonca Smith