x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Travelling with Kids: Deira in a day

Christine Iyer takes her nine-year-old son, Calvin, to Dubai to enjoy the area's low-key attractions.

Destination Deira. Dusty, hot, crowded Deira. A two-hour ride from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and a couple of wrong turns later found us in the heart of the old town, once an important hub but now forgotten for Dubai's trendier attractions.

It was early afternoon when we stepped out of the car outside the Gold Souq and soon our shirts were clinging to our backs. For a nine-year-old boy who wilts at the slightest hint of humidity, Calvin was holding up pretty well, spurred on by my husband's promise of an abra ride down Dubai Creek that evening.

Strolling under the latticed arches of the souq and ducking into the gold shops proved delightful. We checked out the precious wares while sipping sweet lemonade, Calvin quizzing the attendants on gems and stones and their prices.

A couple of hours later we made our way to the spice souq, a cavern full of shadows and slanting dust-filled sunbeams. A few shops were open, their heavy wooden doors flanked with sacks brimming with fragrant cinnamon and pepper. I stopped to buy saffron from an elderly Iranian shopkeeper, forking over Dh25 for a five-gram box. Calvin was fascinated with the purchase, holding the tiny plastic case up to the light to watch the orange stamens glow like fire.

As the sun began to go down, we walked on towards the main abra station where we were joined by throngs of people headed to Dubai for the evening. The turnstile operator quickly pocketed the three Dh1 coins Calvin held out to him and we were hustled along the bench in the middle of the boat and found seats at the very end, our feet inches from the water. Calvin, without preamble, stuck his arm into the creek and nearly fell in, as he tends to around any body of water. Wedging him firmly between us, we watched the seagulls as they accompanied us on the five-minute ride to Bur Dubai.

From the abra station it was a short walk to Dubai Museum (entrance Dh3 for adults; free for children), housed in the stately Al Fahidi Fort (built in 1787). Calvin particularly liked the pearl-diving exhibits and the beautifully constructed village, complete with lifesize camels. On our way out, we bought a set of pretty "Emirati" nesting dolls for Dh25 at the gift shop.

Famished from all the walking and sightseeing, we feasted on crisp potato-stuffed dosas and hot tea at Saravanaa Bhavan, a south Indian restaurant in the market that lies several streets deep beyond the creek. Later, we strolled back to the water's edge, Calvin feeding the birds with bits of dosa he had brought along and impatient for the abra ride back to Deira. We gave in, and he whooped with joy as we hopped on to a waiting boat. Once again, we had to save him from a thorough wetting, but not before his cap and one of his sandals floated away to freedom.