I Sigh Over Dubai

This item appears on page 31 of the July 2019 issue.

Many of you were inspired to write an “I Sigh Over Dubai” essay. The United Arab Emirates must make quite an impression! ITN staff judged all the entries, and that of DAVID FOXLOW of Sarasota, Florida, won 1st Prize, a 2-year extension to his subscription to ITN (or he can pass his prize along to a friend). In second place, winning a year’s extension, is CAROL M. BECKMAN of Old Bridge, New Jersey.

In our ongoing series of essay contests exclusively for ITN subscribers, the next topic is “Georgia on My Mind.” If you have been to the country of Georgia, write an essay in no more than 300 words. Paint verbal pictures of things you saw. Give examples of how it felt to be there, of the local culture. Share any insights you gained or meaningful encounters you had that may leave us uplifted.

Email your essay to editor@intltravelnews.com or send it to Essay Contest, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is August 31, 2019. A prize will be given for the winning essay, which will appear in ITN.

Now here are this month’s winning essays.

For our visit to Dubai in late November 2001, we wanted to focus on “old Dubai.” The city was already on a construction juggernaut, but in the Bur Dubai area we were close to Dubai Creek, the wide inlet flowing in from the Persian Gulf, which bustled with fleets of traditional wooden boats and whirling seagulls.

Strolling the stone-and-mud buildings of the Shindagha Heritage Village, we tested the cooling properties of square wind towers (we did feel a breeze!) and watched lines of white-robed men dancing with thin canes to the beat of hide-bound drums.

Later, we stepped gingerly down the sloping embankment onto one of the many abras, narrow wooden boats that crossed the surprisingly choppy expanse over to the Deira side. My daughter and I were the only female passengers among these gliding taxis, but we never felt uncomfortable.

Driving out toward Jebel Ali, near the camel race course, we observed a procession of camels being ridden by young boy trainees and a few adult men. It was a remarkable scene — a camel train on the flat, desolate terrain, with the modern city, punctuated by the sharp points of the Emirates Towers, looming hazily on the horizon.

At that time, these dual towers were the tallest buildings in Dubai. They and other newish buildings ran along Sheikh Zayed Road, made lovely by a manicured green median.

But just one block over, we came upon a parallel road composed entirely of rundown block buildings, haphazard power lines, ugly gray sand and a single dead tree. Dubai was growing, but we couldn’t help but wonder at the sheer amount of energy that would be needed to cool this new world of steel and glass, when a few strategically placed wind towers had once done the job so well.

Carol M. Beckman
Old Bridge, NJ

When I reminisce about Dubai, I think about bright lights, construction cranes, 24/7 traffic and craning my neck to see the tops of skyscrapers.

More substantive were the ethnic neighborhoods, where family restaurants and food kiosks abound. It’s where I had my first falafel, and we ate an entire meal with our hands, without utensils. The vendors at spice and textile stalls practiced sales skills honed over hundreds of years. I saw locals driving up to a modest storefront tea shop to order and receive their tea — in ceramic cups! — in their cars.

I think about the quiet respite of the Dubai Museum, where for about $3 you could walk through history and culture guided by inside dioramas and outside exhibits, a rack of complimentary Korans greeting you upon exiting.

And I still remember my birthday, when we greeted the dawn from the Burj Khalifa skyscraper and later that day experienced an amazing Sunday brunch atop the Marriott Marquis. We were served a series of small plates that included quail eggs, were entertained by two stunning belly dancers and had breathtaking views of the waterfront, all complimentary because we showed up at the inaugural for that venue.

And, like it was yesterday, I recall how we drove out of town and into a desert landscape through rolling dunes and stark vistas. We continued past laborers waiting for transport buses to an unpaved road one hour south and into a secluded resort preserve protected in perpetuity by a sheikh.

The rooms there were enhanced tents, and oryx and camels roamed free. We learned about falconry and, from the security of an infinity pool, looked out over visitors on camels and the reddest sand this traveler has ever seen. This is where my wife put me to shame with her horseback skills.

David Foxlow
Sarasota, FL