978 views 2 comments

Spices & Abras Sailing on the Creeks of Dubai

by on December 29, 2014

Rose petals in the foreground

We took an abra on a warm morning across the Dubai creek, from Bur Dubai to Deira with my friend, Lara of A Life on a Plate. We met up with Sally of My Custard Pie later and enjoyed a nice enough lunch on the Creek.


An abra (Arabic: عبرةabra) is a traditional boat made of wood.

Abras are used to ferry people across theDubai Creek in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. They travel between the water station at Shindagha/Al Ghubaiba on theBur Dubai side, and the water station at Al Sabkha on the Deira side. The abras depart every few minutes. The fare is 1 dirham, which is paid to the ferry driver.[1]

Talk about excited. I was, very much considering that most of the Dubai I’d seen – malls, hotels, high streets was too glassy and glitzy…and yes, too glam for me :).


Nice and beautiful as it was, I felt as though Dubai had no soul till we came out, far from the maddening crowd. This area had charm and character – soul if you must.


Something about old wooden boats lining the banks, and people making their way up and down leisurely.


On the Bur Dubai side we walked across a quiet souk, purchased a headtie for my son, and boarded the abra.


The ride was nice – abras going back and forth, bobbing gently on the waters. In no time, we were across -alighting in Deira where we caught a glimpse of the old souk (souq), and then came right back.

We walked across wide passages, with shops and stalls on either side, with Mediterranean-style lights and artifacts.


Turkish curly-toed slippers,…


…fabric, throw pillows, blankets and more.

Men stood calling, speaking Yoruba and other ‘Africanese‘. Well, how else do you describe ‘Hakuna Matata’ spoken in conversation? I was only a little shocked when one of the men said ‘Bawo ni?’My children were more surprised…especially as they too have just began to speak Yoruba.


Of course, all this was nice to see but I was on the look out for spices. Sure it wasn’t the main spice souk but I knew there would be some small stalls and I wasn’t wrong.

In huge bags, we discovered dried limes and turmeric, star anise, loads of dried flower blossoms from safflower (?) threads to hibiscus flowers aka Zobo, lavender blossoms, rose petals and more beautifully arranged with peaked tops.


There was incense and other mixes. Funny enough, I didn’t get to smell the spices at first – thanks to the intensity of the burning incense. We walked into the store though, to see more and that was much better – lots of different things – nuts, honeys, tea mixes, dried fruit to see and smell.


I ended up getting rose petals, rose buds and an amazingly scented tea mix.


I’m looking forward to more trips to the souks – and the discovery of more spices.

And further ahead – no specific day or time yet, I’m looking forward to walking the cobbled streets of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.


This visit to this part of Dubai redeemed it for me. I was beginning to get homesick…

Next post? Camel milk gelato . Wait for it 🙂

Have you been to Dubai before? Any and all tips and things to see welcome