x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A tinge of sadness in Dubai Creek

The barring of long-haul dhow traffic to Dubai Creek has created fears that it will lead to the community disappearing for good.

Dhow workers mingle during their lunch break yesterday.
Dhow workers mingle during their lunch break yesterday.

DUBAI // It is one of the most evocative sights in Dubai and one of the few remaining links to the city's history: dhows laden with cargo bobbing on their moorings as bands of workers haul the crates off the boats and onto the wharf in the baking midday sun. The bustling trading scene in Dubai Creek harks back to the city's seafaring, mercantile past.

That is why news that long-haul dhow traffic will soon be barred from the Creek and redirected to Al Hamriya Port has unsettled not only the boat owners but also Dubai as a whole. A community may well disappear, and with it one of Dubai's most popular, and authentic, tourist destinations. "If the boats go then so do I and my restaurant," said Ashraf Dhaha, 37, manager of the bustling Baniyas eatery. "It is very sad for the whole community that gather here. It is still a popular meeting place now, but I can't see what these people will do and where they will go if the boats aren't allowed to dock."

At the creekside restaurant yesterday, for example, 30 workers from North Africa and the Gulf relaxed and shared tales of the sea while watching an old Bollywood movie on a television set. Although Mohammad Etony, manager of the Ted Lapidus clothing store 50 metres from the harbour, said he did not expect the new regulation to seriously affect his business, he thought that it would sap the soul from the area.

"There are many reasons why people come to the Deira creekside, so I think it will continue to be a popular destination," he said. "But as a resident of Dubai I am disappointed by the decision because there are so few historical sites in the city and we must look to preserve those links to the past that we have. Dubai is a modern city, but traditional sights such as the dhows give it a sense of character."

Dhows are one of the enduring images of the city that tourists take away with them. Dorothy Henderson, 46, from Scotland, said the dhows on the Creek had been at the top of her list of recommended sights. "The dhow harbour is all part of the charm of Dubai, the fusion of old and new that makes it such a popular place," she said. "If it goes then Dubai will certainly be a less attractive place to visit. Tourists want to see the heritage of a place to see how life has changed over the centuries. It is a real shame, and I think the authorities should brace themselves for a dip in tourism numbers."

Because of security concerns, Dubai Customs plans to relocate all dhow shipping to Al Hamriya Port, close to the Palm Deira development, because it is difficult to monitor the dhow cargo in Dubai Creek. Moreover, the UN has recently introduced strict regulations for trade with Iran, one of the most popular destination for the dhows. tbrooks@thenational.ae