Arabia

United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrein, Kuwait

February 2008


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The highlights of this trip were the emirates of Arabia.
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Itinerary


    Emirates
  1. Dubai See notes in the right column.
  2. Sharijah Sharija is an emirate of the United Arab Emirates. it is located just 30' outside Dubai. Unlike Dubai, that is radically westernized, Sharija maintains a more puritanical Islamic attitude. It is a city of many mosques. The airport itself looks like a mosque with minarets. Even foreigners are not allowed to sleep together if they are not married. Etc.
    It is a less wealthy city. The high-rise buildings are far less spectacular than in Dubai. Families shop in regular downtown shops. The percentage of Arab natives to foreigners is much higher than in Dubai. The main attractions are the mosques and a couple of places that are meant to represent the historical heritage of Sharija. Sharjia prides itself as the cultural capital of the Emirates, and boasts one of the largest universities in the world.
  3. Abu Dhabi Construction in Abu Dhabi is far less ambitious than in the sister city-state of Dubai, but this also gives it more of a feeling of a real city. The high-rise buildings tend to be concentrated on the Corniche, which also has the nicest gardens.
    Abu Dhabi's designers seem to have been aware of several architectural styles of the world. The new area built on top of the Old Souq is reminescent of downtown Manhattan. The two mosques in its middle, one facing the other, are reminescent of Roman squares. The capital gardens are reminescent of Central Park or the Golden Gate Park (replete with species of trees from all over the world). The mosques themselves come in many styles, from Romanesque to post-modernist to medieval fort.
    At the very end of the Corniche is the most spectacular of all buildings, the Emirates Palace Hotel, straight out of a fairy tale. It hosts an exhibition of the forthcoming Saadiyat Island's Cultural Center, besides other cultural events. The only historical building in town is the heavily restored fort Qasr Al Hosn.
    Abu Dhabi is turning its Saadiyat Island into a major cultural center. Some of the most famous architects of the century have been hired: Frank Gehry designed the Guggenheim; Zaha Hadid designed the Performing Arts CEnter; Jean Nouvel designed the Louvre; Tadao Ando designed the Maritime Museum; Pei-Zhu and others designed the Biennale Park.
    In 2008 Abu Dhabi announced construction of the world's first zero-carbon, car-free city, Masdar. Powered by solar energy, it will provide public transportation on magnetic tracks. The eight-year project is estimated to cost $22bn. When finished, it will provide houses for 50,000 people and offices for 1,500 businesses. This followed a similar announcement that Abu Dhabi is investing $15bn in a five-year project to develop clean-energy technologies, including the world's largest hydrogen power-plant.
    This is a city with no city buses. Buses only seem to run from the bus station to the suburbs. Tae a taxi to the bus station. Taxis do not use taximeters. Bargain before entering a taxi. Bus 901 goes between downtown and Terminals 1 and 2 for $1.
    To get to Abu Dhabi from Dubai take bus E1 for 15 dirhams ($5) from the Bur Dubai bus station. It takes about 1h 45'.
    Tourist information at the seventh floor of the Chamber Tower on the Corniche.
    Cheap hotels: Vendome, Claridge, Khalidia, Al Ain (hard to get below $40)
  4. Liwa Oasis. Camped in the desert and visited the Liwa oasis. The Liwa oasis is located at the border between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, about three hours by car. (By bus take the Abu Dhabi bus to Medinat Zayed and then 30 minutes to Mizairaha and then a minibsu to Hameem, but the best dunes are actually near Mizairaha). If driving, a new road runs from Hameem straight (really straight) to the coastal highway (almost at that junction there is a new car museum). This whole highway is flanked by palm trees (that are kept alive with a 190 km watering system). Camels can be seen moving alone the highway. Liwa is one of the largest oases on the Arabian Peninsula and the entry point to the so-called "Empty Quarter". It boasts some of the tallest dunes in the world and famous date plantations. The oasis is home to the Bani Yas tribe, the Bedouin ancestors of Abu Dhabi's emir. The palace is on a hill overlooking Mizairaha
    Qatar
  5. Doha Doha is quite a shock coming from wealthy Dubai. Much poorer. Just like in Dubai the population is mostly immigrants from poor Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. There will soon be two Dohas though. Old Doha has been restructured but basically remains a traditional Islamic town, mostly inhabited by workers. New Doha is being built on a strip of land in the middle of the sea, and, just like Dubai, is a huge construction project. There are literally dozens of skyscrapers sprouting up in that narrow kilometer.
    Qatar is also a land of contrast: it is the homeland of Al Jazeera, the main propaganda arm for the Islamic terrorists, but it also hosts a large USA military base.
    There is no international bus service to Qatar because Qatar is surrounded by fascist Saudi Arabia.
    A tourist visa is handed out at the airport to western citizens for 100 Riyals.
    After a 500m walk to the highway, one can take bus 49 to the center. The bus stops at the Public Bus Station, which is surrounded by hotels (Tower, Remal, GOlden, etc) that have rooms for $50 and up.
    The Public Bus Station is walking distance from the corniche. Bus #76 goes around the corniche, from the fishing port to the Sheraton.

    Bahrein
  6. Manama Compared with Dubai and even Qatar, that are colossal construction projects, Manama is far less intense. There are four main attractions: the Al Fatih mosque (very big but not very pretty), the Beit Al Quran museum, a collection of ancient copies of the Quran. I was pleasantly surprised to see on display a rare copy of the 7th century Quran in a script that is not the current Arabic script, a fact that made those copies very controversial when they were discovered. Also on display were suras sculpted on grains of rice and on seeds, as well as the first printed copy of the Quran (1694, printed in Germany because it was illegal to print the Quran in the Islamic world until not long ago), the World Trade Center towers, a spectacular skyscraper that looks like the wings of a plane or two sails facing each other, The BNP Paribas towers of the Financial Harbor, facing the sea. The rest of Manama is mostly a series of middle-class and lower-class neighborhoods.
    The tourist visa for Westerners is handed out upon arrival at the airport for 5 dinars ($15).
    Bus #1 and 6 go from the airport to Moharreq. Bus number 1 runs from this bus stand to downtown (Municipality and beyond). Note that this is the only place in the Gulf emirates where taxis don't use taximeters.
    Because of the exchange rate, Bahrein is an expensive emirate to sleep in. There are lots of cheap hotels south of the Beit Al Quran on the left side of Exhibition Rd but the cheapest (possibly the Mirage +973 17296888) is 15 dinars ($45). Even the Youth Hostel (south of town) is 14 dinars.

    Oman Oman is very different from the United Arab Emirates. There are absolutely no high-rise building. Wealth is no ostentated at all. The country is clean and safe as the emirates, but in a more traditional way. For example, roads are flanked by endless displays of flowers. The coastal highway is basically a 500 km flower garden. Most cities stick to the traditional architecture of the single-family home, even when they are brand new constructions. Muscat is a federation of towns, the real capital being the tiny area around the sultan's palace. The sultan's palace itself is a good example of Oman's different view of modernity: it is simple and harmonious despite the colossal size of the compound. Its square is one of the most beautiful in the world. The view from the harbor is spectacular: hills and forts surround the palace from all sides, including the sea side.
    The visa is handed out at the border and it is free. The currency is the ryal which is worth $3. One ryal is exactly 10 dirhams, so the dirham is also used. No need to change to ryals if you are coming from the United Arab Emirates.
  7. Muscat, a federation of towns, but notably the tiny palace area and Mutrah, the town next to the palace which is part of larger Muscat and has a Mediterranean feeling
  8. The huge Qaboos Mosque that is being built north of Muscat
  9. The Wadi Shab, that lies in Niyabat Tiwi, Wilayat of Sur, 76 km south of Qurayyat. The road was being rebuilt in several places, but overall it was a fairly nice trip along the coast. The wadi (dry river bed) starts from Tiwi and goes inland for 20-30 km. The landscape is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.
  10. The forts around Nizwa (Bahla, Jebrin, Nizwa itself)
    Kuwait
  11. Kuwait City Kuwait is no Dubai. While the numbers say that Kuwait is at least as wealthy as the United Arab Emirates, there is neither the frantic high-rise construction program nor the rich infrastructure. There are a few high-rise buildings, but nothing too spectacular. In between the skyscrapers there are lower-class residential areas that could be anywhere in India or Egypt. Buses are run-down, cafes are rather primitive. The kingdom's wealth has not trickled down, not even in terms of public works. Some neighborhoods look like ghost towns. The main attractions are the Kuwait Towers (located at the northern extreme of the peninsula, not really downtown) and the Fatma mosque (Abdullah Al Salem, technically speaking, located in the southern suburbs). The colossal royal palace is by far the main attraction of downtown, but it's more quantity than quality.
    The people are extremely friendly, at least with Westerners. I have rarely seen people who go out of their way to help a foreigner the way the Kuwaitis did.
    Like everywhere else in the region, Kuwaitis live under an Islamic dictatorship that forbids them to get an education in any other religion and even bans any discussion of Islam. Even the website of the Kuwait National Museum was blocked when i was there!
    A tourist visa costs $12 for USA and Europeans. It requires standing in line for one hour or so at the "Visa issuing" desk of the airport. The Kuwait currency is the Dinar (KWD) that is worth $4.
    The cheap airline Jazeera Airways flies to Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, Iran (Mashad and Shiraz), Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Dubai. From Dubai it flies to Mumbai, Delhi and Maldives.
    There are two bus terminals in the city: the main one by the Liberation Tower and the Sheraton one. Bus 501 goes from the airport to the city's main bus terminal for $1. Buses 17,22,23 go about 1km from the Fatma Mosque (you have to cross the highway on the footbridge and then ask the locals how to get there). Buses 51 and 103 go to the Kuwait Towers. You have to cross the square and turn around the construction to get to the seaside. Then you can walk almost to the base of the towers.

Notes

Trip difficulty: easy
Length: 18 days
Season: Year-round
Approximate cost: $2,000
  • Pictures of this trip
  • Map of this trip
  • These are among the safest and friendliest places in the world for tourists.
  • Timeline of the emirates 1820: British invasion of the area that is now the United Arab Emirates
    1839: British invasion of Aden (today's southern Yemen)
    1899: British protectorate on Kuwait
    1902: Saud launches a campaign to unify the Arabian peninsula
    1918: at the end of World War II the Ottoman Empire collapses and British influence on the Arabian peninsula increases
    1930: Collapse of world's pearl market
    1931: Oil is struck in Bahrein
    1936: Oil is struck in Kuwait
    1938: Oil is struck in Saudi Arabia
    1939: Oil in Qatar
    1958: Oil in Abu Dhabi
    1959: Said bin Taimur unites Oman with British help
    1961: Kuwait declares its independence
    1962: Civil war in Yemen
    1970: South Yemen becomes a Marxist state
    1970: Britain installs Qaboos in Oman
    1971: Bahrein, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, etc) declare their independence from Britain
    1973: OPEC oil embargo
    1990: Yemen is reunited
    1990: Iraq invades Kuwait
    1991: Kuwait is liberated by a coalition led by the USA
    1994: Pro-democracy riots in Bahrein
    2001: Saudi terrorists attack the USA
    2003: The USA and Britain invade Iraq using Kuwait as a launching pad
    2004: Dubai experiences a construction boom and boom in foreign investments
    2005: Kuwait grants women the right to vote and run in elections
  • The Persian Gulf is dotted with small emirates and sultanates: Kuwait, Bahrein, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (seven emirates united in a federation, notably Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjia), Oman. They were under Ottoman rule or pseudo-rule until the British took over. They became independent and, after the discovery of oil, more or less wealthy. Throughout their existence these people have been: caravan raiders/protectors, spice traders, pearl traders, oil sheiks. Since they have never been under the direct control of what is now Saudi Arabia, they have largely escape the more fundamentalist form of Islam. In fact, they have proven amazingly adept at appropriating the mindset of modern USA capitalism (and its taste for grandiose buildings).
  • They depend on a large population of immigrants from poor Islamic countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, India, North Africa, etc. Several emirates are neatly divided in two: the financial district, that boasts high-rise buildings and mainly serves Westerners and Arabs from this region, and ordinary bustling towns, that frequently resemble India.
  • The cost of living varies accordingly. In the town goods are extremely cheap. In the financial district they are extremely expensive.
  • The condition of women is generally better than in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. They can drive and they don't have to wear the veil (although in small towns almost all of them do). They are segregated on buses (the first 2-3 rows are for women only) but they are beginning to percolate into the workplace. Oman is by far the most conservative of these countries. I don't think i saw a woman without the veil. Many also wore the entire burqa. If the woman is dressed in traditional clothes, it is disrespectful for a stranger (whether Muslim or not) to talk to her. You are supposed to say "salam aleykum" ("hi") to men but not to their women. If you meet a man with several women including a wife and daughters (a common sight), you are supposed to greet only the man and to ask him any questions you may have. You are not supposed to look, smile or say anything to the women. It would be offensive to the man.
  • All in all, these emirates are a unique social experiment.
  • Religion is the sore note. These places live very much under an Islamic dictatorship. This is the only place in the world in which i found websites that were blocked not because of political commentary but because of religious statements. Basically, any webpage that discusses the Quran other than from an orthodox religious viewpoint is blocked. Ironically, when i was in Kuwait i realized that even the website of the Kuwait National Museum was blocked!
  • Notably missing from the landscape of the Arabian world (even the large shopping malls) are bookstores. It is very difficult to buy a book, and virtually impossible to buy any book that is not about religion (except at airports).
  • Weekends are friday and saturday. Most shops are closed between noon and 4pm. They are also closed on thursday afternoon.
  • English is the de facto official language of all emirates, because it's the only language that all ethnic groups share.
  • Traffic is always an issue. These places don't have many inhabitants, but they have many cars and few roads. Traffic jams are a constant.
  • Cost comparison: $0.30 for a can of soda, $1 for one hour of Internet.
  • Visas for USA and Western Europeans: Dubai (free), Qatar (100 riyals = $28 by credit card upon arrival), Bahrein (5 Bahrein Dinars = $15 upon arrival), Kuwait ($12 upon arrival), Oman (free). Yemen requires a visa that is usually handed in two days. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the region that makes it almost impossible to obtain a visa, and forbids visits to some of its cities even to visa holders.
  • Currency: $1 = 3.6 Dubai dirhams = 3.6 Qatar riyals; 1 Bahrein's dinar = $3; 1 Kuwaiti dinar = $4; 1 Oman riyal = $3 (10 dirhams).
  • Notes on Dubai:
      Economy. The Gulf countries of the Middle East rank among the fastest growing global financial markets. Driven by soaring oil revenues, these countries have collectively exported more than half a trillion dollars over 2002-06, mostly into the USA. Economists agree that their strategies have rarely been driven by profit: mostly they have been driven by the ego. The capital available for investment was over $1.5 trillion at the end of 2006, and still growing rapidly. If you think that the economy of mainland China is growing rapidly, think again: the GDP of the United Arab Emirates increased by 23.4% in 2006 (and the non-oil sector now accounts for 62.7% of the total GDP), with the trade surplus jumping 31.8%. Unlike mainland China, where the average person is still extremely poor, the Gulf countries boast a soaring GDP per capita (Qatar and Kuwait having one of the highest in the world, $63,000 in 2007). The Qatar Investment Authority, the Kuwait Investment Authority, the Government of Abu Dhabi and the Government of Dubai are among the big buyers of the 2000s. The Qatar Investment Authority has acquired a 20% stake in the London Stock Exchange. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has acquired a 4.9% stake in Citigroup, the largest USA bank, for $7.5 billion. Saudi Arabia has announced the join the race for buying Western assets with its intention to create the largest "sovereign wealth fund" in the region. An increasing number of family-owned companies are also beginning to join the foreign-asset rush. Total foreign asset holdings by the Gulf countries stood at $1.6 trillions at the end of 2006, i.e. a staggering 225% of GDP. USA equities represented 55% of the region's total investment offshore, while Europe attracted about 18% and Asia about 10%. Notably, Middle Eastern countries only invested 10% of their wealth to develop their own region. (The UAE leads the pack, having invested 713 billion dollars in Gulf projects, twice as much as Saudi Arabia). The Gulf's share of global merger and acquisitions increased to 44% in 2007 and therefore for the first time surpassed the Americas, whose share dropped to 39%. The Gulf states account for nearly half of the world's sovereign wealth fund assets: they control about $1.7 trillion, as much as all of the hedge funds in the world.
    • City layout. Dubai in 2008 is the largest construction project in the world. There is virtually no part of Dubai that does not have massive skyscraper in the making. Areas such as the Marina and Business Bay have dozens (if not hundreds of them). The scale of the development is simply breathtaking. It almost feels like Dubai gave a billion dollars to anyone who came up with a reasonable project to build a skyscraper somewhere within the city borders. The financial district is mostly aligned with Zayed Rd and resembles the Strip in Vegas rather than Manhattan. Most of the eye-catching buildings lie between the Fairmont Hotel and Dubis Dubai along Zayed Rd. Giant shopping malls are also sprouting up everywhere. All the builings are brand new or still in construction. It is claimed that one fourth of the world's cranes are in Dubai. The layout of the city is far from optimal. Zayed Rd literally splits the city in two because there is only one bridge crossing it and no footbridge at all. To cross the road you need a car because the nearest crossing can be kilometers away from where you are. Ramps to enter and exit Zayed Rd are erratic and rarely intuitive. It is rarely clear which exit one should take to a building that is clearly visible from the road. It is rarely easy to make a U-turn if you mistake a mistake. For this and other reasons, traffic congestions are colossal. An elevated train is being built that should reduce the amount of traffic. Luxury is visible everywhere. Dubai already built a "palm" of buildings in the ocean and is building two more. Its hotels in the Marina rank among the most expensive in the world. It is building the tallest skyscraper in the world (it has already surpassed the tallest one and it is not completed yet) and the largest mall in the world. Hydropolis is an underwater luxury hotel than can be reached only by diving (eventually it will have a reception on land and a train to connect to the rooms). It is building an artificial archipelago of islands that will form a picture of the continents of the world. This costs huge amounts of money but Dubai has plenty (all the investment authorities combined manage about $1.6 trillions). Dubai has the highest electricity consumption per capita in the world. When in 2008 USA president George W Bush visited Dubai recently, the sheik shut down all the roads leading to the center for security reasons. This cost Dubai $100 million. Plans for the future are even more ambitious than anything Dubai has done so far. For example, Dubailand is a colossal amusement park under development: 279 million square meters (twice the size of Disneyworld) for $814 million, containing 45 mega projects. One of them is City of Arabia ($1.96 billion, 1.86 million square meters), a dinosaur theme park, designed for 35,000 residents. Another one is Falcon City of Wonders, a 405 thousand square meter theme park containing life-size replicas of seven wonders of the world (the Great Pyramid in Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse at Alexandria, the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall of China). When it's completed, the Marina will boast 124 apartment towers and space for 150,000 people.
    • Society. Dubai is neatly divided in three social classes. At the top are the native Arabs, who basically don't need to work. They are about 20% of the population. Their benefits are fantastic. A law requires every company in the emirate to hire a percentage of them, regardless of whether they are qualified for the job or not. Some companies simply write them off as an expense and don't even try to make them work. Government jobs are strictly reserved to this class of citizens. Their salaries and benefits are generous even by Scandinavian standards. Government employees recently received a 75% salary increase, without even have to go on strike. The problem is that the native Dubai inhabitants have no motivation to get an education and to compete worldwide on skills and innovation. Then there are the highly-educated and experienced Europeans and USA citizens who run most of the business. They are mostly transient, spending one or two years in the emirate just to make a lot of money. They mostly work long hours and most weekends. The areas in which they live around the financial district have virtually no social life, no sense of community. Dubai has plenty of very nice European-style shops and coffee shops and restaurants that in theory cater to this crowd but there are always empty. Finally there are the masses of laborers, who are the modern equivalent of ancient slaves. Tens of thousands are employed in the construction industry. They come from poor countries in Asia, North Africa, Eastern Europe. These tend to stay longer and many of them plan to spend their entire life in Dubai. They run everything from small shops to taxis. Their communities are the only places where people walk around in the evening and congregate during weekends. Therefore the paradox of Dubai is that the only real city life is to be found among the third-class citizens who are treated like slaves. Most of Dubai looks like a ghost town except for districts such as Bur Dubai (the main quarter for immigrants). The cost of living is dramatically different. The shopping malls are among the most expensive in the world. Rent in these areas compares with London's or Tokyo's. The hotels have rooms for $600 a night. And they are often full. On the other hand, the souks of Bur Dubai (that are mainly inhabited by people of the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines) are extremely cheap, comparing with the cost of living in India. The people who live and shop here are the very people who work in the "ghost town" of the high-rise buildings and giant shopping malls. One of the most shocking views of Dubai is the long line of buses that transport the workers into the city before dawn. It is a surreal view, like the city being invaded by hords of barbarians in the dark. There is also a fourth class of ghost residents who own real estate but they are nowhere to be seen. Dubai has built and successful sold thousands of apartments. Many were sold to rich foreign families and speculators. Finally there are the tourists. They are the richest tourists in the world. And there are thousands all the time. The Jumeira Beach Hotel's all-you-can-eat buffet, that costs a hefty $70 per person, is always crowded. One night at the Burj Al Arab costs $1,000. At the end of the day, though, Dubai and the whole United Arab Emirates remain an Islamic state. There is only one tiny hindu temple in Bur Dubai. All other religious buildings are mosques. Citizenship is reserved to the native Arabs. Compared with Singapore, that has no religious or ethnic bias and offers a fast track to citizenship (see http://app.ica.gov.sg/serv_pr/per_res/app_for_pr.asp ). Dubai is a fake melting pot. It is importing people from all over the world, but only as temporary workers, not immigrants. Unlike the USA or the other successful city-state of Singapore, Dubai is not a nation of immigrants, nor does it want to be. Like all Arab countries, it is very jealous of its Arab and Islamic identity, that would be corrupted by immigrants.
    • Quarters. Dubai is a federation of towns. The skyscrapers are mostly located along Zayed Rd. Next to it an "Old Town" is being built (brand new) that will also feature the tallest skyscraper in the world (Burj Dubai). Further away are Jumeira and the Marina. This area is also becoming crowded with high-rise buildings, notably the Burj Al Arab (the sail-shaped hotel by the beach). Business Bay is another large development of high-rise buildings, almost all of them brand new. Of the regular towns, the two largest are Bur Dubai and Deira, situated on opposite banks of the Creek. Deira has another architectural showcase around the Municipality (Et Salat, Bank of Dubai, Chamber of Commerce are all masterpieces). It also has the area around Baniyas Sq, that is a normal residential area (lots of brothels too). Bur Dubai has several parts. There is the old souq, from which one can take waterbuses to Deira and shop the cheapest shops. There is Bastakia, a restored historical quarter. The Al Fahidi fort (oldest building in town, 19th c) is also located in Bur Dubai, walking distance from the Old Souq. There is a mostly Indian quarter, inland from the old souq. Dubai is a city of paradoxes. The financial district is one of the most expensive places in the world. But Bur Dubai is cheap, as cheap as India.
    • Transportation. There are two airports. Dubai Airport is a short distance from Deira. A taxi to Zayed Rd is about 40 dirhams. Several buses run from the airport to Deira. From Deira several buses run to other parts of Dubai. During the night there are non-stop buses to all major neighborhoods (N1-N5). Just walk outside past the taxi stand.
      Sharjia Airport (the airport of nearby emirate Sharjia) is 30' away. A taxi from Sharjia to its airport costs about 25 dirhams. The bus from Dubai to Sharjia leaves from the bus station 500m from Et Salta in Deira.
      Dubai is served by one of the best cheap airlines in the world: Jazeera Airways. Air Arabia is also cheap but tends to use the Sharjia airport, which is not easy to reach by public transportation. Like in most Arabia, travel to Israel is off limits.
      There is a large travel center in Deira near the clocktower, open 24 hours: DNATA. They make both air and hotel reservations.
      From DNATA several buses go to the airport in 15 minutes.
      Dubai has a decent network of city buses, except for Zayed Rd and the new construction areas. A city bus costs 1-2 dirhams. Waterbuses connect Bur Dubai and Deira across the creek for 1 dirham (open air boat) or 4 dirham (closed boat).
      There are night buses (N1-N5) that run the most popular routes all night long. The bus to Abu Dhabi leaves from Bur Dubai bus station, near the Old Souq. Bus to Muscate, Oman: six hours. It leaves at 6:30am and at 3pm from the DNATA parking lot in Deira. 90 dirhams round trip.
    • Tourist Information. Best is to go directly to Bank of Dubai in Deira (across from Et Salat), 11th floor.
  • Saudi Arabia, instead, is the most racist country in the world. To start with, non-Muslims are not allowed in Mecca and Medina (not a big loss, since they are two of the ugliest cities in the Middle East). Mecca was a model of religious tolerance before Mohammed. It is now the ultimate example of religious intolerance. Saudi Arabia is the worst possible advertisement for Islam.
  • TM, ®, Copyright © 2008 Ulysses-Travel all rights reserved.