x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Teen life: Trip back in time saves dimes and leaves room for shopping spree

With school over and nothing to do all day, a friend suggested a visit to Heritage Village.

It’s a delicious feeling to be able to do nothing all day; it makes you almost – but not quite – miss the drudgery of school. A group of us had been toying with unseen places to visit when Louise suggested Heritage Village, which houses rows of shops and restaurants in an open-air souq.

We were feeling quite proud of having performed the Herculean feat of waking up at seven and spending ages squeezing into the new, cable-knit pullovers we’d bought for university. On reaching our destination, the realisation dawned that this was unwise because the car sensor showed a temperature of 42°C outside; the nearby creek was white from the glare. The heat was making us lethargic and lines from the The Walrus and the Carpenter kept running through my head: “The sun was shining on the sea / Shining with all its might.”

As superbly intelligent creatures, we appreciated that an off-peak time would allow us to avoid the crowds. Unfortunately, the proprietors of the shops and restaurants were equally aware that there would be no one around. “How odd,” said Ryan. “Everything’s closed.”

“And this was odd because it was the middle of the night,” I quoted soulfully.

“It’s not the middle of the night, it’s 10 in the morning,” said Zara, looking at me strangely. “Maybe you’re getting a touch of sun, let’s go into that building.” This turned out to be Juma and Obaid Bin Thani House, a historical fort that is now open to the public.

As we wandered in and out of a stunning calligraphy exhibition, a kind-looking employee in a kandura,
Milan, came up to us. “Please come into the office,” he said, bowing, and we followed, wondering what this was about. I could get used to having a workplace like “the office” – a lantern-illuminated room filled with books and Arabian daggers, where Arshad, the exhi-bition curator, invited us to sit on the majlis-style sofa. Over qahwa coffee in silver cups and dates bursting with sweetness, he gave us a brief introduction to the fort’s history and its treasures and showed us traditional calligraphy pens.

The adjoining building warranted a visit, too – the Saeed Al Maktoum House, the former residence of the ruler of Dubai. A philatelic display housed fascinating stamps; one that seemed to be celebrating the anopheles mosquito was labelled “The world against malaria”, while another had a man lying comatose on a stretcher with the words “Anti-tuberculose”. It didn’t matter that Dubai hasn’t hosted the Olympics yet – a stamp extolled the virtues of the Innsbruck winter games instead. A UAE coin collection featured the Indian anna and rupees with British rulers etched on them – no one can say we’re not multicultural here.

That, we thought, was more than enough of a history lesson; the day was increasingly feeling like a primary school field trip. All that was left to do was stock up on the delicious qahwa coffee, bound to come in handy for late nights as a student, and return to the Heritage Village in the evening – we hadn’t even made a dent in our shopping quota.

Lavanya Malhotra is an 18-year-old student in Dubai

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