#11 “Are You Chinese?” (你是中国人吗)? – Dubai, UAE

Travel Date: 10 Dec 2009

I had a 26-hour stopover in Dubai on an Emirates flight on my way to visit my boyfriend in France, and I planned to spend some time to see this city of gold rather than sitting around in the airport terminal which really resembled a classy shopping mall more than anything else.

After a grimy afternoon traipsing along the creek and having sand and dust blown in my face every now and then, I decided to explore the ethnic enclaves near Al Satwa and Al Rigga, upstream of the creek from the more popular Deira area. For people who are more familiar with the sparkling skyscapers and beautiful manmade islands of Dubai, these urban neighbourhoods where the locals make merry and pick up cheap haberdasheries are probably very much unheard of.

I didn’t want to spend a bomb on dinner in this notoriously expensive city, especially having known that there are a lot of delicious local Arabian food to be had in this vibrant area. In the day, the stifling heat sent everyone scurrying for respite, but at night, it was an oasis brimming of colorful lights, street vendors hawking affordable wares and people, mostly men, hurrying along the streets, running errands and doing some evening shopping. I only planned to stay in the area for an hour or so, just to get a quick bite and a feel of the place before heading off to more familiar landscapes like the Dubai Mall, and also knowing that it wouldn’t be entirely appropriate for a young foreign girl to be wandering the streets in a rather complicated neighbourhood where the population consists of a complex mishmash of workers from Africa and South Asia and low-income families. Continue reading