In the early 20th century, Dubai was a small coastal village inhabited by a tribe—who came from the neighboring emirate, Abu Dhabi—led by the Al Maktoum family. Unlike its neighboring emirate, Dubai lacked the fertile oasis, so its inhabitants settled along the banks of the creek and involved themselves with fishing, herding sheep and goats, pearling, and trade.
Soon, Dubai became a sufficiently prosperous port attracting settlers from Iran, India and Baluchistan. The facilities for trade and free enterprise were enough to make Dubai a natural haven for merchants who left Lingah, on the Persian coast, after the introduction of high customs dues there in 1902. These people were mostly of distant Arab origin and looked across to the Arab shore of the Gulf finally making their homes in Dubai.
The creek divides Dubai into Bur Dubai and Deira …
Image courtesy of Google Maps
Crossing the creek during those times meant a long and arduous journey around the end of the creek or a ride in an abra, a small wooden boat that ferries passengers to this day. Today, the city is connected via modern bridges and a tunnel that runs underwater.
A stroll down the wharf on Dubai’s Creek amidst the hustle and bustle of business evokes memories of the city’s trading past. One can see trucks laden with goods and laborers hurriedly loading the dhows with cargo ranging from car tires and batteries, to soft drinks, fabrics, bags of rice to electronics and other consumer goods destined for the markets in the neighboring countries of Africa and the middle east and beyond.
And besides the traditional abra that I absolutely love to ride (it only costs 1 dirham to cross the creek!), there are also the modern Water Taxis …
But nothing beats the traditional abra ride …
Oh, and I was deeply fascinated by the way they load a jeep onto the old, wooden ships. One moment the Land Cruiser was driving past me, the next moment it was being pulled up in onto the ship.
If you ever visit Dubai and not see this place, I’d feel sorry for you. You have to see this part of the creek where you can experience the old Dubai as you face the setting sun, watch the abras float by, and bite into a piece of warm shawarma and a sip of hot chai.